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.