I’ve never been a sports fan. I was one of those kids who learned that a really good book could get me through professional baseball and hockey games in New York City, one of the most exciting sports cities in the country. I wasn’t easily impressed then. It took me more than a decade to actually sit up, pay attention and ask questions at baseball and hockey games and to appreciate them…once or twice a year. I have a nagging suspicion that I could have liked sports as a girl if I saw any professional athlete on the field who looked like me and who was equally and popularly celebrated for her athleticism in our culture as Yankees or Rangers players are in New York. I didn’t, and I got the message – only boys play real sports that are appreciated and worthwhile.
But I’ve always loved watching the summer Olympics solely for the reason that it’s one of the few times that I can see a diversity of female athletes competing during prime time television and getting the public attention they deserve. In no other Olympic summer games have women been so visible and spectacular than they have been in London. Aside from the Olympics every two years, we still don’t see American women athletes getting roughly the same airtime, enthusiasm and support as male athletes. Unless it’s professional women’s tennis, golf or basketball and even that’s sporadic and ignored by the majority of American sports fans. (It should also be noted that the Olympics isn’t perfect either and plays gender police in controlling the femininity of athletes in addition to its inherent nationalism.)
We’re at the end of the 2012 Olympic games in London and now’s a good time to celebrate how women have kicked ass and taken names. I’m focusing on the positive because for every sexist NY Times article on Lolo Jones or nice-girl-turns-mean narrative of Missy Franklin, women athletes have shown critics how great they are by setting world records and winning more medals for team U.S.A. than the men, whom they outnumber. (Click here for a list of athletes on team U.S.A. and their medals.)
This non-exhaustive list is a few of my favorite moments of women’s achievements in the 2012 games.
- 17 year-old Claressa Shields beat Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova, 19-12, in the women’s Olympic middleweight final. She is the first woman to win gold in boxing.
- U.S. Women’s Soccer team defeats Japan, 2-1, to win the gold!
- Gabby Douglas becomes the first African-American woman to win double gold as all-around champion and team gymnastics.
- Afghan athlete Tahmina Kohistani competed and represented her country for the first time.
- Kayla Harrison won the first gold medal in judo for the United States.