Number of female Olympians increases across the globe
In countries where women lack political representation, where education is segregated by sex, and it is illegal for women to drive, there is hope that the times could be changing.
This year for the first time ever, every country participating in the Olympics had female representation, including the conservative Islamic state of Saudi Arabia.
This year’s female representation exemplifies the progress the world is beginning to make for both sexes, even though it has taken over 100 years for this Olympic development to occur.
1896 was the first international modern Olympics, but 1900 marks the first time there was female participation, although there were only 22 women in total. Every subsequent Olympic game, women were included in additional sports and as an overall presence. Even the U.S. had more women than men on the Olympic team this year.
Although the International Olympic Committee founder, Pierre de Coubertin, regarded the female Olympian presence in 1912, as “impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic and incorrect,” the current president of the IOC, Count Jacques Rogge, declared a different statement at the 2012 opening ceremony.
“The IOC has been striving to ensure a greater gender balance at the Olympic Games, and today’s news can be seen as an encouraging evolution.”
The basis for gender discrimination is invalid, and it appears the world is being probed to come to its senses due to the bans the IOC would potentially put on countries that failed to allow female competitors.
Saudi Arabia, Burnei and Qatar are the three countries that had never allowed female Olympians before. They may have only allowed women this year due to the possibility of the IOC banning them from competition.
“A big inspiration for participation in the Olympic Games is being one of the first women for Saudi Arabia to be going,” said 19-year-old Sarah Attar, one of the two Saudi Arabian women participants, in a statement given by The New York Times. “It’s such a huge honor, and I hope that it can really make some strides for women over there to get more involved in sport.”
Kuwait is another country with emerging developments of female Olympic presence. 17-year old Faye Sultan became the first female Kuwaiti Olympic swimmer this year.
“We are proud for Kuwaiti women to be in the Olympics. … I wish that more women participate more in the Olympics in different kinds of games — all kinds of games actually,” said Talal Yousef, a Kuwaiti native visiting Greensboro.
Although this development seems like a monumental moment in history for women around the world, some people may not consider it as celebratory of an occasion as others.
“You have to be careful not to overestimate the meaning of increased female participation,” said Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies major Maria Barry. “It does not necessarily mean that countries who are allowing women to participate in the Olympics have done anything to their domestic policies, when they have only changed the life of that woman, and that’s not good enough.”
Although we need to be wary of international ideas of gender equality being exaggerated, it does not change the fact that the road is being paved for a future full of more equal opportunities.
Between more women in decision-making positions within the IOC, to Saudi Arabian women being allowed run for office by 2015, times could truly be changing.