Is Sexism Still Rife In Sport? Er, Looks Like It…

27 June 2012 by

Imagine training for years to secure a spot at the Olympics, only to end up neck and neck on the finish line with one of your rivals? This sort of a tiebreaker is normally settled by a coin toss or a runoff but when this happened to American Track and Field sprinters Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh last Saturday, Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter, Justin Gatlin suggested that the girls mud wrestle. Well, his exact words were, ‘I’m voting for a jell-o wrestling match, red jell-o. That’s my favourite.’

With this one comment, he has not only trivialised the situation but has amplified the issue of sexism in sport. Although, Justin Gatlin was clearly joking when he made the comment on ESPN’s SportsCenter, it still serves as an example of how differently the world of sports treats women. Can you imagine a female athlete making a similar comment about two men? Not likely. Men’s athletic events are esteemed at such a high value that there would be no joking about which athlete would make it through.

This year’s Olympics will also be the first time that women’s boxing will be allowed. However, the women’s tournament will only last five days and showcase 36 fighters in three weight classes, compared to the 250 fighters in 10 weight classes that the men’s competition will see.

And this isn’t the last example of sexism in sport, it was reported this week that 20-year-old Dalma Malhas, a Saudi Arabian horsewoman, is now not going to compete in the Olympics. Considering that any physical education is forbidden in girls’ state schools over there, and that a rule banning private gyms for women has been in place since 2009, it hasn’t been such a surprise.

Grazia HQ find it shocking that women are still being treated as second-class citizens when it comes to sport when they put in the same hours, the same effort and the same training. One small comment like Justin Gatlin just highlights the bigger problem.

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Javier Zamora (Wed Jun 27 20:18:50 BST 2012): oh grow up...there are bigger issues in track and field to address rather than this nonsense. Clearly Gatlin made a joke and our nation has become so "hostile" even making a face at someone can put you in court. Aside from that by today's ridiculous laws, people are so insecure and selfish. "Let he without sinning cast the first stone..."
D.j. Hicks (Wed Jun 27 20:54:36 BST 2012): Wow lol he was just joking. If it was two guys you could say they should fist fight for the spot or something. The only reason they are talking about this is because they have nothing else to talk about.
David Harold Pulliam (Wed Jun 27 21:18:24 BST 2012): I respect the sport, it's not sexism. Just sexy women who run fast and if I had a wish jell-o wrestling would be my answer too but for my own pleasure. Men and white men are always seen as looking down on people. Realizing and seeing a women as a women is not a crime til you take advantage of it. No one takes advantage of her, she is a well accomplished athlete. And the whole sport equality thing is stupid sometimes, colleges and conferences sometimes suffer because of a stupid no more men sports than women sports. The NCAA and USA equality thing is nice but come on, stop being so sensitive. What did Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh say about it?
Phil Hasenkamp (Wed Jun 27 23:02:01 BST 2012): He was obviously joking and all writers who think otherwise are hypersensitive douchebags who need to retake rhetorical analysis in college.