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Women athletes being called fat. Really sexist

Mel 2012/08/06 02:05:16
Female athletes unfairly criticized over weight

BY CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD, POSTMEDIA OLYMPIC TEAM JULY 29, 2012

christie blatchford postmedia olympic team nbsp july 29 2012 nbsp

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Swimmer Leisel Jones (L) and teammate Stephanie Rice of Australia talk during a training session at the main pool of the Aquatics Centre before the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games in London July 24, 2012.
Swimmer Leisel Jones (L) and teammate Stephanie Rice of Australia talk during a training session at the main pool of the Aquatics Centre before the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games in London July 24, 2012.

Photograph by: David Gray , Reuters

LONDON — As it turns out, the age-old question is not the needy and insecure, "Do I look fat in this?" but rather the misogynist, "Does she look fat in that?"

The London Olympics are just a couple of days old, but already Aussie swimmer Leisel Jones and the Brazilian women's soccer team (and two months before that, the British beach volleyball women) have had their weight and fitness publicly called into question.

Jones, who is merely eight times an Olympic medallist and the reigning Olympic champion in the 100-metre breaststroke, has borne the brunt of it, if only because she was centred out individually, where with the Brazilians, who were called "a bit heavy" by the coach of the Cameroon team they coincidentally had just crushed 5-0, it was the lot of them.

Last week, as the 26-year-old was on the cusp of her fourth Games — her country's first swimmer to compete at so many Olympics — and on the eve of what may be her last hurrah as an athlete, a writer with the Melbourne Herald Sun, essentially a hometown rag as Jones trained in Melbourne for years before moving to Brisbane, noted, "It was her appearance that had tongues wagging as much as her bid for history" and that she "appears heavier than at previous meets".

Lest anyone miss the point, the paper ran accompanying before-and-after shots of the young woman and, in a nifty mix of timeless mean and new mean, duly conducted an online poll to determine if its readers considered Jones was too fat.

(Yes, there's nothing like asking the pale and lumpen folk who sit on their beams 18 hours a day, hunched over a computer, what fitness ought to look like.)

That set off such a furious backlash that the paper was forced to retreat and take down its poll as people rushed to the swimmer's defence, and though she says the brouhaha has merely inspired her, that's hardly the point.

With online polls and comments, mind, it just as easily could have gone the other way, as an innocent little item in London's Daily Mail showed in May, when a publicity stunt for the Games featured the nation's beach volleyball female Olympians, in the bra tops and bikinis women in the sport still favour.

That story made no mention of weight, pro or con, but the accompanying pictures revealed athletes with some of the bumps and imperfections of their more ordinary sisters. And that time, it was the online public (see earlier reference to pale and lumpen folk hunched over computers) that reacted with horror at the sight of muffin tops et al.

There's nothing like anonymity to bring out the woman-hater in us all.

Sunday, Jones got a bit of revenge on the Sun Herald, which had suggested perhaps she was in town for a spot of holidaying, the inference doughnut-eating, by qualifying in fifth spot for her event semifinal.

Afterwards, fresh from the pool in the bowels of the Aquatics Centre where the press meet the athletes, she stood wet, bare-faced, lightly freckled and, it must be said, pretty damn gorgeous.

She said, "I swim in the pool, I don't swim in the papers". She said that she's "been around this game for 12 years" and that though nothing really surprises her any more, it was "pretty hurtful to have comments like that coming from someone from my own country." She said the criticism was "the best thing that happened to me: You put me under pressure and I'll show you what I can do.

"So thanks to the journalist who decided to write not-so-nice comments about me, because you've never made me feel so loved in my life, so thank you."

All's well that ends well, you say? Another happy Olympic tale?

It would not be so even if Jones were to win gold in Monday's final (it would be her fourth medal of that colour), an unlikely prospect given the tough field.

First, much as the temptation at these events is always to long for the sentimental result, Jones would not be swimming to gold on behalf of all the wounded fat little children of the world or those who once were. That's because she ain't fat: She weighs about 150 pounds, or about what the average woman in the U.K. and the U.S. weighs.

Secondly, calling someone fat isn't criticism, not in any meaningful sense. It's small and unnecessary, period. You want to criticize a world-class athlete, talk about her sport, her technique or her training — not her makeup (synchronized swimming excepted, of course).

Thirdly, the appearance insult (ask any woman on television what sort of mail she gets compared with her male colleagues) is the insult of first and last resort with women.

Finally, despite the feeling at London that things are moving ahead — for the first time in Olympic history, all countries are fielding male and female athletes, even if those who were sent at gunpoint arrive here with hijabs and minders — it's smoke and mirrors.

As the inimitable Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders sang in Hymn to Her, some things change; some stay the same.

cblatchford@postmedia.com


Read more:http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Female+athletes+unfairly+c...
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  • Alexander T Steward 2012/08/31 20:13:09
  • Keeping It Real 2012/08/06 05:35:23
    Keeping It Real
    +2
    Is the same said about men athletes?
  • Mel Keeping... 2012/08/06 22:04:58
    Mel
    +2
    There are no reports of this happening towards any of the male athletes
  • Keeping... Mel 2012/08/06 23:35:35
    Keeping It Real
    +2
    Then in that case yes
  • Jo 2012/08/06 02:13:33
    Jo
    +2
    this unquestionably horrible, but its not an example of sexism; A sexist person is one who has attitudes or behaviors based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles, or one who discriminates against someone based on thier sex. It has nothing to do with calling someone fat.
  • Mel Jo 2012/08/06 21:41:59
    Mel
    +1
    But were any weight comments made at the males? NO
  • Jo Mel 2012/08/06 21:57:51
    Jo
    +1
    how do you know for sure?
  • Mel Jo 2012/08/08 01:32:29
    Mel
    +1
    I did some research, and checked all media sources.
  • Jo Mel 2012/08/08 05:51:35
    Jo
    +1
    then you have point; if they're excluding men in that comment, then thats sexist. but just calling a woman fat, as despicable as it is, isnt sexist.
  • Mel Jo 2012/08/08 09:16:54
    Mel
    +2
    It's at least insulting to say the least. They should be ashamed
  • Jo Mel 2012/08/08 16:18:29
    Jo
    +2
    oh its definetly insulting, and theres no excuse for it.
  • Mel Jo 2012/08/08 17:01:48
    Mel
    BTW if I keep raving your statements, there's a $5 service charge.
  • Jo Mel 2012/08/08 20:12:23
    Jo
    +2
    then dont rave them--I'm not asking for them:)
  • Mel Jo 2012/08/08 20:34:42
    Mel
    +2
    Raved that will be $10. *LOL*
  • Jo Mel 2012/08/09 01:29:50
  • Mel Jo 2012/08/09 06:28:53
    Mel
    +1
    $20 I take cheques.
  • Jo Mel 2012/08/09 08:10:00
  • Mel Jo 2012/08/09 17:29:18
    Mel
    +1
    Raved again $25 please. *LOL*
  • Jo Mel 2012/08/09 20:06:40
    Jo
    +1
    we need to find you something to occupy your time. LOL!
  • Mel Jo 2012/08/11 21:41:54
    Mel
    +1
    You're right. BTW that will be $30
  • 3052457 2012/08/06 02:11:56
  • Tee Quake 2012/08/06 02:09:51
    Tee Quake
    +2
    Nonsense. I have heard plenty of comments about male athletes appearing FAT. Except that is okay. There's some prejudice here and it smells like it comes from radical feminists looking for another outlet to spew their hatred.
  • Mel Tee Quake 2012/08/06 02:26:54
    Mel
    +1
    This is all over the news. TROLL
  • Mel 2012/08/06 02:06:03
    Mel
    +2
    Very sexist

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