Written by Desireé Buitenbos
Imagine a society where gender roles are completely reversed.
Millions would sit down, watch and drink only to major sporting events dominated by cunt-power. Female athletes would be celebrated for their strength, courage and determination. Big bucks would be invested into the future of female sports, while men wouldn’t get the same encouragement, thus diminishing all potential to prove their might to the world.
There is something wrong with this image. The principles that define this society are wrong. They are unfair and unequal. But they are a woman’s reality.
I’m sure we all know that male dominance often defines how women live their lives. More recently, the latter issue has been brought to Canadian courts in the form of female ski jumpers and their continued struggle to participate in the Winter Olympics; male ski jumpers have been taking part in this event since 1924.
One of the world’s best ski jumpers Katie Willis and other athletes (both men and women) began their struggle in 2006 to get the lady’s winter sport on the Olympic map. They brought their claim to the International Olympic Committee, but were rejected on the grounds that the sport didn’t meet the standards for induction into the games. According to the IOC, a sport must have had at least two world championships and international participation to be accepted.
Since 2006, Willis and partners have followed a long winding path toward fulfilling the IOC’s criteria. They have been recognized by the International Ski Federation, which held its first women’s ski jumping world championships this year and is further planning to hold a women’s team event in 2011. The International Ski Federation even made a personal plea to the IOC to acknowledge the sport, but President Jacques Rogge declined the proposal for fear that it would “dilute” the medals’ value. This, however, simply can’t be true as figures indicate female ski jumpers outnumber women in bobsleigh, luge, ski-cross and snowboard cross, all of which are already in the Games.
In 2008, the jumpers attempted to sue the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC), arguing that their exclusion from the sport was unethical and in conflict with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. After a lengthy court battle, the verdict came out this month and Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon ruled that neither VANOC nor the Canadian civil rights laws have the power to change the consensus of the international committee.
“There is something distasteful about a Canadian governmental activity subject to the Charter being delivered in a way that puts into effect a discriminatory decision made by others,” said Justice Fenlon in her 42-page ruling. “Many of the men the plaintiffs have trained with and competed against as peers will be Olympians; the plaintiffs will be denied this opportunity for no reason other than their sex.”
Of course, Fenlons’ small condolence doesn’t change whether or not the ladies can participate. Ultimately, their dreams are crushed. While there is news that the female ski jumpers might make an appeal, I doubt the ending will be a happy one.
Canada does not like to muddle in international affairs or cause controversy because we are simply too polite. It should anger Canadians to know that the IOC is a testosterone-filled boardroom where one woman stands in the middle of fourteen men. According to the IOC website, the first woman co-opted as a member happened as recently as 1981. Since then, there have been 21 female IOC members. None have ever been president in the committee’s 115 years. Currently, 16 women are active members out of 107. Clearly, these statistics and the recent developments surrounding Willis and friends are supremely unjust and unfair. But we’re being Canadian about it—brushing our beliefs under the carpet in favour of the world. We did this in Beijing 2008, we’ve done it in Afghanistan and now, we’re doing it again on our home soil.
As a woman, it frightens me to know that my own government won’t stand up for me when I have clearly been wronged. It should frighten you too. This is our society. This is our reality.