Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Wandering Uterus Strikes Again posts about the reasons why women are not allowed to ski jump in the Olympic games and links to this:

To anyone acquainted with the history of women's sports, the thudding excuses the women ski jumpers are given for their exclusion from the Games are sadly, ridiculously familiar. Gian-Franco Kasper, head of the International Ski Federation, has said, "Ski jumping is just too dangerous for women. Don't forget, [the landing] it's like jumping down from, let's say, about two meters to the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."

Forget that women ski jumpers have already been competing at high levels for a few years. Or that no one seems to worry about saving boys from the supposed horrors of the sport.

The international federation will take another vote this spring on whether women should jump in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. And Alissa said, "So far, we've been told every excuse in the book. That it's too 'dangerous' for girls. That there aren't enough of us. That we're not good enough. That it would damage our ovaries and uterus and we won't be able to have children, even though that's not true. It's so outdated, it's kind of funny in a way. And then it's not."

That's it, in a nutshell. History has countless numbers of these stories about the fragility of the female reproductive system. Once it was believed that higher education would damage the uterus, that women were too weak to both study and menstruate, and that menstruating was more important. And hysteria was assumed to be caused by a wandering uterus.

Now the uterus has wandered so far out that it is more at risk in ski jumping than the testicles and the penis which actually are located on the outside of the body.

That was the rant. But analyzing this little news item is also interesting. For example, the argument that there would be very few female ski jumpers capable of participating in the Olympics is probably true, but then banning them would all but guarantee that there would never be any more. And why not have the women who want to jump do it with men if there aren't enough women to compete separately?

Or consider the general use of health arguments to stop women from taking part in ski jumping or in boxing. These always assume that men's bodies are perfectly fine with the activity under investigation, even if we have clear evidence that this is just not true. Boxers die, sometimes, and more often they get brain damage. I'm sure that old ski jumpers often suffer from bad knees. Anyone who has watched interviews with old athletes on television can see for themselves that sports on the highest level are not necessarily good for the bones and muscles later in life.

No, the argument is not about true health concerns. It is about denying women the same rights to wreck their bodies as men are given, and the explanation for this denial hinges on women's reproductive systems which somehow are seen as common property even in sports, to be put under protective laws.

Atrios linked to the post. In the attached comments thread several people made the point that this particular unfairness is unimportant and not worth talking about. Of course it is, in terms of the numbers of women who are affected by the competition ban. It would be better for us to go and liberate all those women toiling under horrible circumstances in Africa. But then discussing the most recent political rumor in Washington, D.C., is surely also very trivial in the grand scheme of things, and that is what usually goes on in the comments threads.

The point about this article and the response I mentioned is that women's issues are still viewed through the trivial-lens which screens out the underlying reason for these news and in fact turns on the very same idea: Women's issues are always too trivial to really matter.