Women v. Men in the Olympics

August 10, 2012 | Sarah

As I stated a couple of weeks ago, I do not watch the Olympics. However, you can’t go anywhere on the Internet without reading about the different competitions, the athletes involved and all the stories of triumph and failure. Yesterday I saw an article called “We Thought Female Athletes Were Catching Up to Men, but They’re Not.” The writer started with the assumption that women should now be caught up to men in terms of matching the records set at the Olympics. As he began to delve deeper into the topic, he saw that this was not the case. Results from a 2010 study showed:

Running. Swimming. Rowing. Kayaking. Short distance, long distance. Accomplished in teams or attempted alone.These are such diverse events, requiring different parts of the body and diverse types of talent. And yet they all share something: Their women’s speed world records are all about 90 percent of their men’s speed world records, in both short, middle and long distances.

Women are performing on average at 90% of men’s capacity in these Olympic sports. The rest of the article tries to find out why this ratio exists, citing studies that women are not as involved in high school athletics as men and taking a “wild shot” that there may be biological factors involved, such as oxygen use. The last section of the article asks the question “So, will women ever catch up to men?” and sees no physical reason for this so-called gender equality.

Australian Sally Pearson celebrates her gold medal and Olympic record in the women's 100m hurdles.

I see a major problem with this article: the lack of acknowledgment that men and women are physically different. The author does not see the difference between men and women’s performances as anything but a social issue. However, the differences are so much greater than that. I’ve already covered this issue on the NeW blog about a young women noting her physical limitations in the Marine Corp. These physical differences does not make one gender better than the other, but does account for differences in physical ability and needs. For instance, women need slightly more sleep per night than men. Men are supposedly unable to pick up objects that women can (watch this hilarious video for proof).

The records that women are setting in these Olympic games are impressive, and should be celebrated by both genders. However, to play down these achievements by saying they haven’t gone far enough is to make a mockery of their hard work and dedication.

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