Women Around The World Run For Their Lives, But Does Anyone Care About Female Athletes?

Illustration for article titled Women Around The World Run For Their Lives, But Does Anyone Care About Female Athletes?

The only woman on Afghanistan's Olympic team is a runner, reports National Geographic. She does the 1500 meters in 4:50, which is great, but probably not good enough (3:50 is the record). Still! Afghanistan has never won an Olympic medal, and the country was banned from the Sydney games due to Taliban rule. Mahboba Ahdyar (pictured), 19, is Muslim, so she trains in a headscarf and loose-fitting track suit. If officials try to make her compete in something different, she says she just won't run. Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, where girls as young as 12 are often forced to drop out of school and get married for economic reasons, running is a way to keep hope alive."Girls who run tend to stay in school longer and, if they train hard enough, might make a good living one day as a pro athlete," reports the Washington Post. But over at a blog called WIMN (Women in Media and News), there's a post about the coverage of women's sports in the Chicago Tribune. That is, the lack of.


An editor from the Tribune explains: "I don't believe that, in the reality of limited and ever-shrinking resources, it's the right thing for us to simply say, "everything's the same and gets exactly the same treatment." We just can't do that. I believe we cover all sports as the news dictates - in fan interest, in accomplishment (an outstanding team that dominates, for example) and in uniqueness... But we're not in the promotion business." Still, it's true that when high schools, colleges and professional sports teams get covered, it's more often than not the men's team being covered.

As a non-sporting person, I took a moment to think of all the female sports figures I know as compared to the male sports stars. As a kid, I took gymnastics, but it seemed obvious — even from the Olympic athletes I saw on TV — that it was not a sport for adults. It was something to be left behind as you aged. Meanwhile, my brother, who was into baseball, could actually look up to Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez — have their posters on his wall and dream of that future. Considering that under Taliban rule, women could not play outdoors and sports were out of the question, it's amazing that Mahboba is headed to the Olympic games, even if she doesn't really stand a chance of getting a medal. But we live in a world where a man who plays basketball can land the cover of Vogue while female teams don't get equal newspaper coverage. For all the soccer players, softball players, runners, basketball players and other sporty ladies out there, I have to ask: Does being a female athlete mean taking an extra leap of faith?

Not Enough Coverage Of Women's Sports? Blame "The Market," Trib Sports Editor Says [WIMN]
Afghan Girl Braves Taliban, Jeers In Olympic Quest [Guardian]
VIDEO: Afghan Woman's Olympic Dream [National Geographic]
When Girls Gotta Run . . . [Washington Post]



@ClockOnTheStove: Archetype did say "as highly as men". In figure skating, women are regarded as a step above. To wit, the women's events (still condescendingly called "ladies", whereas the men are just men) usually close most championships, and is the climax of the Winter Olympics. In America, and now, Japan, where most skating money is made, the female athletes get vastly more sponsorship dollars and attention.

But don't take this as a model of progress for female athletes. Rather, figure skating is a judged sport with a basis in aesthetics. And to be looked at, to be admired for beauty, is seen in many modern cultures as a female thing. When females make an effort to look good and submit themselves to inspection, they are to be vaunted. When males do it, well, cue the fag jokes.

I still love figure skating, though. Aspiring to move beautifully and musically is something I appreciate in any gender. And skating, at the elite level, has extremely tough athletic requirements.

P.S. At the current figure skating championships, held in Sweden, the men's free skate is actually the last event. Why? Because the Swedish male skaters have a better medal shot than the females. Nationalism can trump sexism.