The New York Times – For Women at Games, Messages Are Mixed
By JERÉ LONGMAN
Published: April 25, 2012
If Saudi Arabia treated women any more dismissively, it could host the Masters.
After signaling that Saudi women may be allowed to compete in the Olympics for the first time at the London Games, Saudi officials retreated. The only possibility remaining, it seems, is that a few Saudi women might gain entry as unofficial participants. They must walk behind men at home, but apparently cannot walk behind the Saudi flag in London.
“Saudi Arabia has pretty much decided to play hedgehog, head pulled in, spikes out,” said Christoph Wilcke, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, who wrote a scathing report about the discrimination against female athletes in the ultraconservative Islamic kingdom, where even physical education classes and sports club memberships are prohibited. “They are irked by all this attention.”
As the London Games approach, all sorts of mixed messages are being sent about women, some by women themselves, having more to do with what they will wear and how they will behave and how they should be controlled than about how they will perform in competition.
In a recent profile of the beach volleyball player Zara Dampney, The London Evening Standard noted, “She’s got one of the most talked-about bottoms in British Olympic sport but can’t understand the fascination with it.”
Officials of the International Amateur Boxing Association, noted fashion mavens, had a brilliant idea over the past year, a fistic version of “Project Runway.”
They suggested that women try wearing skirts in competition, urging pleats to feminize the punches. The man in charge of the association — they are always men — said he had received complaints that spectators could not tell women from men beneath the protective headgear. Instead of referring these spectators to optometrists, he referred the boxers to the Ring Magazine spring collection.
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Published April 25th, 2012