Parsing the sexism behind crashing women Olympic athletes
BY Heather Mac Donald February 21, 2014 6:10PM
In a preview of the U.S. military’s planned integration of females into combat positions, Olympic female skiers and snowboarders wiped out in disproportionate numbers at the Extreme Park in Sochi.
Unlike traditional ski runs, which vary in difficulty according to whether they are designed for males or females, the course for highflying snowboarders and freestyle skiers was largely unisex: Females were expected to navigate the same jumps as the males. The result was an avalanche of female falls and injuries: Of the 22 accidents that either forced athletes out of the competition or required medical attention on the final run, 16 involved female skiers, reported the New York Times, even though far fewer females than males actually essayed the course.
For the Times, this state of affairs presented both a puzzle and a dilemma. The “question” why females crashed more is a “difficult one,” claimed the paper’s male sports reporter. Really? As a purely factual matter, the answer is simple: Females have less strength and muscular control than males, making them less able to navigate the greater physical challenges of the extreme course.
How to properly respond to the female crash tally, however, is difficult.
Ordinarily, anything bad happening to females is a sure sign that they are being victimized by sexism. So the default feminist reaction to the female wipe-outs is to blame the course designers. Kim Lamarre, a Canadian bronze medalist in slope style skiing, was happy to oblige: “Most of the courses are built for the big show, for the men,” she told the Times. “I think they could do more to make it safer for women.”
Uh-oh! Gender-studies red flag! “Making it safer for women,” as in: recognizing female difference and adopting a chivalric attitude toward the female sex? Big, big problem.
The Olympics’ history of “trying to protect women from the perils of some sports” by creating easier ski courses is “sexist, perhaps,” agonized the Times’ reporter. And yet, the “equality” at Extreme Park came at the “possible detriment of the female participants.”
The true feminist will blithely have it both ways, indifferent to the contradiction: The unisex course was sexist because it injured women and trying to protect women from injury was sexist.
Likewise, feminists toggle at will between the position that there should be gender quotas for women in political positions, say, because females bring a special sensibility to political problems, and the position that men and women are identical in every way and thus that any disparities in outcomes — whether in advanced math and physics attainment or in the predilection for public debate — must be the result of sexism.
As injuries build up for female combat soldiers, expect to see the same confused thinking. The Army will be blamed for not doing enough to protect females while also being pressured to pretend that females are the absolute equal of men and thus need no protection.
Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor to City Journal, a publication of the Manhattan Institute. National Review Online
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