Posted by: kyranixon15 | February 14, 2014

Women in Olympic Sports

With the Olympic season underway, I thought it was appropriate to bring up the fact that this year’s Sochi Winter Olympics has highlighted a milestone for women in sports: This is the first year ever that women have been allowed to compete in ski jumping. Although this is tremendous news for women, it also has made me wonder why this hadn’t occurred sooner. Considering that the sport of ski jumping has been included in the Olympics since 1924, you would think that women would have been allowed to compete with the men way before the year 2014, when gender essentializing is starting to ease up. However, I think this goes to show that gender stereotypes are still very prevalent even in the 21st century. The article “Women’s ski jumping ready for a Sochi takeoff” hints at the fact that women were originally not allowed to compete because of the dangers associated with the sport and females’ smaller body size. However, professional female ski jumper Lindsey Van, states that the concept of women being excluded runs deeper than that. She states that because ski jumping is considered a traditionally male-dominated sport, they didn’t want women running with the boys and they didn’t know what to do with a woman in an extreme sport.

I think the concept of female athletes illustrates the idea of the double bind perfectly. Women are expected to be feminine and delicate, yet tough and firm at the same time. When a woman chooses to emphasize her competitiveness by competing in a sport, she is then seen as too masculine or rugged. This judgment doesn’t sit well with me because a woman should be able to participate in sports, while still maintaining her feminine qualities. Just because a woman competes in sports does not make her any less of a woman. She should be judged based on her athleticism skills, not simply just because she is a female. This also made me wonder if maybe the glass ceiling isn’t just used as an example for the corporate world, but can also translate to sports. I think there has been a glass ceiling present in sports too because women have had to fight their way to the top even to be able to participate in the Olympics in general. I also believe that family plays a role in why women have been underrepresented in the Olympics. Social Role Theory states that women have their place as the homemakers and child caretakers. Training for the Olympics requires you to be away from the home for most of your year in training, so when a woman chooses to devote her time to her Olympic ambitions instead of a family and home life, she can be looked down on. All in all, just because ski jumping is considered one of the more dangerous sports in the Olympics, that shouldn’t be an excuse for why women were excluded for so long. I absolutely commend the fact that this year marks a first in Olympic sports for female athletes, but at the same time, should we be so keen to congratulate something that should have happened so much sooner in history? What are your thoughts?


  1. I LOVE the Olympics so I really enjoyed reading this article. I liked reading about Lindsey Van and the role she played in getting women’s ski jumping to be an Olympic sport. I think another big part as to why women’s ski jumping hasn’t been an Olympic sport in the past is ambition. I’ve done some reading on Lindsey Van and she’s been injured numerous times due to ski jumping; it’s obviously a very dangerous sport and requires someone with a special sense of ambition to try and master this sport. I feel that many times the women fighting for women’s ski jumping to become an Olympic sport were called “too ambitious” for trying to compete in such a difficult sport. Since it was also considered to be a male sport, they were also probably labelled as “too ambitious” for trying to make a male sport a female sport as well, much like Hillary Clinton has been labelled “too ambitious” for her political work.

    I think an interesting point they bring up is how they need to separate themselves from men. I think that’s also something we should take into consideration when we’re studying leadership. We shouldn’t try to compare women’s accomplishments to men’s, but rather celebrate the powerful women in leadership and try to empower others.

  2. I agree that this is the perfect example of a double-bind. So women are supposed to be poised and delicate, yet rough and willing to jump huge distances pretty much flying through the air? Well, we surely can now.

    The Washington Post wrote a similar article about women’s ski jumping finally making its Olympic debut. The article states:

    “Ski jumping is a breathtaking sport — almost dreamlike in the way the athletes take flight, their skis in a V-shape as their arms lift away from their bodies to extend their surface-area against the wind, like human kites. And watching from just beyond the finish area Tuesday, it was impossible to pinpoint anything about the takeoff, flight or landing that suggested one gender or the other was better suited to it.”

    Regardless of gender, it is clear that ski jumping is difficult and quite extreme, but perhaps it took so long to finally make it to the Olympics because men were afraid. With women’s stereotypically smaller figure and lighter frame, maybe they would end up jumping higher and breaking records previously set by men, and you know men would NOT be happy with that. This is just another example that gender bias and competition is still alive, and this is only a small step in the right direction.

  3. I actually laughed out loud at the line – ‘Van said she heard more blunt arguments against women’s ski jumping, including that “it would damage our reproductive systems” and that “our uteruses would fall out.”’

    How utterly ridiculous does someone have to be to think that ski jumping would make our uteruses fall out? This article is a great find. I had no idea that women weren’t competing in the event until now. You would think if women’s hockey was an Olympic Sport, ski jumping would be as well.

    I also think it’s interesting how they want to separate themselves from men in the sport. When asked the question if they will jump as far as men, it was awkward for them. They know that women and men will approach the sport differently, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be able to compete. This is where my issue with genderizing comes into play. Yes, women should definitely be allowed to compete, it might be dangerous, but if men can do it, so can women. That being said, why do we have to be compared to men in the results? Of course they will jump different distances because they are different in their body type.

    Regardless, this was a great find and I’m thrilled women are able to compete in ski jump this year!

  4. I am a huge Olympics fan myself and was so excited when I found out that women would be able to compete in ski jumping. At the same time, I was a little irritated that it has taken so long to get to this point. The fact that women, in 2014, are just now allowed to compete in ski jumping in the the Olympics reiterates the fact that women are still striving for equality in the world.

    Here is a commercial I have seen many times advertising women’s ski jumping for Sochi 2014. Sarah Hendrickson is the ski jumper who is advertised. While she is jumping, the quote from Amelia Earhart, in the background, says…

    ” Women must try to do things as men strive. When they fail, their failures must be but a challenge to others.”

    This quote is an important one to remember in a world where some aspects are still not equal between men and women.

  5. It’s interesting to consider athletics as a field in which women can become leaders. So often we think of leadership as CEOs or the business or community positions. However, I believe that women in sports can be influential on the perception of the strength of women leaders. In previous classes, I have learned that physically fit people are seen as better leaders. Is it strange to assume that maybe athletes are a natural fit to change the perception of women leaders because they have this factor going for them? Venus Williams is an interesting woman to research because she was a leader on the tennis court and then she began her own business and other ventures.

  6. My roommate and I were discussing this a few days ago. We were unaware that women could not compete in this sport and we couldn’t understand why they weren’t allowed to. I think most of us find it irritating that it has taken women so long to each this point in the Olympics when it is 2014. I wonder if there are any other sports, whether it be winter or summer that women are still not allowed to compete in. If women are tough enough to play hockey then I think women should be able to compete in any sport that a man does.

  7. I have been watch the Olympics religiously and I was so excited when it came out that women would compete in the ski jumping this year. I suppose they did not let women compete in this event because of the stereotype “women are fragile” and it may be too dangerous. If we’re being honest, it’s dangerous for everyone not just women. I also wonder if it just wasn’t really an event where enough women were interested in competing. You have to have enough people to hold an event and make a certain trial before being in an event. I agree with everyone else though if there is a man’s sport in it then there should be a women’s if enough show interest.

  8. Your comment about the glass ceiling in sports reminded me of the movie “A League of Their Own”, which is a movie about the first women’s baseball team. While not about the Olympics, I think it does say something to the glass ceiling. Women did not start playing baseball until 1943 and the men were off at war. The business men feared losing money with their players in the Men’s League being gone and started the women’s league. These women did everything the men did, and they did it in skirts!

    This was a long time ago, though. I think all sports should have the option for either gender to play. I even expected such to already be done by now. Women’s baseball, later renamed softball, became an option over 70 years ago now! I think that the women should definitely have the option to compete.

  9. I think the idea of women athletes and the double bind is a really interesting thing to talk about, and it’s definitely relevant during the winter olympics. Women athletes are no exception to gender roles that society so firmly believes. In fact, they often struggle with the fact that they need to “water down” their masculine traits so that they are more appealing to the general public. Yes, some female athletes are both feminine and good at sports and that’s great. However, many of them have really masculine personalities and qualities because that’s just who they are and they shouldn’t be condemned for that. When they’re portrayed in the media, they’re often expected to show their more feminine qualities, even if that’s not how they really are, in order to be more accepted by the general public. These are some of the strongest and most talented women in America, yet they try to make themselves look more delicate so they are approved of. The people want to see a woman who is sporty but still woman-like. However, men are able to be portrayed as strong, athletic, and masculine because it is more fitting to the stereotype as a male. Maybe this idea of social expectations is what kept women from participating in the ski jumping competitions because it wasn’t seen as feminine as ice skating, or other sports like that. I’m not sure I have a good answer as to why I think they are just now gaining the right to participate in ski jumping, but I’m sure glad they’re making history this year! This is definitely a step in the right direction as far as breaking the social expectations of society. This article makes me want to follow the Olympics more closely!

  10. I totally agree this fits with the double bind. I was listening to an interview with Lindsey Vaughn in the winter Olympics compared with interviews with Alex Bilodeau and Ted Ligety. In the interview with Lindsey, she was asked about her dating and her olympic experience outside of the actual competition. It reminded me of what I watched today when the woman interviewer was asking Sarah Palin about her breast implants. We place women, even these world class athletes in the box of dating, fashion, and frivolity. What’s sad is that the Olympics is a place where we traditionally see progressive movements and a place where a lot of politics and social issues are brought to light (example equal rights in Sochi!) and yet our gender roles are pervasive even still.

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