One step forwards, one step back

Keeping an eye on international news, it was heartening to see recently the IOC’s announcement that from Tokyo 2020, there will be mixed gender events in a number of events at the Olympic Games. This follows on from events in a handful of other sports, most prominently tennis, where mixed doubles are a regular part of major tournaments.

As is often the case with these mixed events, there are some issues still. The binary nature of gender continues to lie at the centre of their categorisation of the teams, excluding or complicating life for people with non-standard genders or born intersex. Some sports fans will query the importance of these events by comparison with existing, single-sex competitions.

Mixed runners
It would be good to encourage participation regardless of gender, and helps to normalise pursuing this career for women and girls. 

However, it is at least an acknowledgement by the Games’ governing body that opening up the sports to a more diverse and equal playing field is a positive move. Hopefully in promoting and encouraging these events we will see greater long-term normalisation of people competing in the same events on the basis of ability rather than being boxed into categories and segregated events.

Sadly, it seems the world of academia is lagging somewhat behind in normalising a more even society, after news that a university in Belgium sent out an unbelievably sexist statement to students set for graduation. These women were actively encouraged to wear dresses with ‘a nice revealing neckline’ as these were considered more aesthetically pleasing.

Much as I am quick to condemn and criticise the world of sports for being behind the times and outdated in its values, sometimes it surprises me in a positive way. The world of academia has many problems of its own in terms of gender balance and representation, but it doesn’t often produce shock stories such as this one, at least in the public sphere. It just goes to show how widely we must cast our efforts to combat everyday sexism.




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