Watching women compete in the 2016 Olympic Games has been more incredible than I imagined.
The U.S. rarely sees women compete like this. Because, you know, football (and other sports).
I get tired of the glory we collectively bestow on men’s sports (the big four) while we leave women behind except once every few years for the Olympic Games and perhaps the World Cup. Unless you’re a die-hard fan of a specific sport, you’re probably not seeking out track and field or marathon coverage except every fourth summer. Or even coverage of our two most favorite sports from the Olympics, swimming and gymnastics. Apparently no one cares outside of the Olympics except the athlete’s mothers. That’s an exaggeration, I know, but it feels true enough. Again, because football. And baseball. And basketball. And hockey.
Imagine, if you are a man reading this, that you see sports and 98 percent of the athletes you see are not like you. Not your gender. Think about what that’s like to have most people, when talking about sports, talking about people who are not like you. You feel a little outcast even if you enjoy the sport, too. You feel a little less than because people don’t usually get very excited about someone like you unless there’s five rings involved.
I firmly believe we can find a way to relate to most people, but for the history of the world, (white, heterosexual) men have been the standard and the expectation. They are the norm.
But these Games. Women are standing out. Katie Ledecky, obviously. Simone Biles. Emma Coburn. Jenny Simpson. Michelle Carter. Abbey D’Agostino. Kate Grace. Molly Huddle. Shalane Flanagan. Desiree Linden. Amy Cragg. Gwen Jorgenson.
Women are showing the world what we are capable of. I cannot put into words how much that means to me. They are like me. They have periods and deal with the hormones. And with the Olympics, I don’t have to fight to see women excelling in sport. That’s the key difference here. Women are doing incredible things all the time, but it’s much harder to find than sports featuring men.
Hey, I’ve enjoyed watching the men at the Olympics, too. I’ve teared up watching the men, especially Evan Jager win a silver medal in the steeplechase and when Kerron Clement smiled on top of the podium. But I sobbed watching Jenny Simpson get an Olympic medal, and I cried and laughed simultaneously when Kate Grace made the 800m final.
I’m grateful my favorite sports have women on par with men, where they should be, rather than placing them to the sidelines in short skirts with their boobs hanging out of a crop top.
So I’m not excited about hearing about and occasionally seeing a bunch of spandex-clad men running about and hitting one another and playing a game for about 11 minutes during a four-hour spectacle. Look, I don’t seek out football to watch, but it’s really hard to avoid altogether unless you live in the bottom of a pond. I’m not excited about glorifying men when women don’t get the same glory or reception. I can’t take it anymore.
I want to see Jenny’s raw power and raw scream. I want to see Emma’s strength and grace as she hurdles. I want to see the grit of our marathoners. I want more of this all the time.