Olympic dreams and the challenge of being a woman

Olympic dreams and the challenge of being a woman

Submitted by alvin on Sat, 2016-08-27 10:06 Last week, when the whole nation was celebrating PV Sindhu’s silver medal in the Olympics, all of a sudden a question erupted in my mind and I slowly drifted from celebration mode to musing mode. Why was the victory being seen as the victory of women and not as victory of an Indian athlete? Why do we attach the women tag to every achievement or failure if women are involved? Are we not supposed to have a gender-neutral approach here as well?The achievement of PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar were hailed as women power all over media and social networking sites. They became poster girls for all those “stop female feticide” ads on social media. Indian athletes, male or female, must have faced politics in the selection process, corruption, lack of facilities, and good coaching before reaching Rio. And I am sure these achievers, if given a choice, would definitely like to be recognised as the best players in their field, and not just as the best female players. But there is something more to this women tag. Along with all those difficulties mentioned above, female players have to face a bigger disadvantage – “being a woman”. She has to fight the taboo - a battle which is not easy to conquer. For many girls, the battle starts at home, later moves to school, relatives, and society and so on. We can’t forget the fact that we live in a society where the length of the skirt of a tennis player gets discussed more often. So, celebrating their achievement as ‘women power’ doesn’t sound all that bad. In fact, this women tag is helping in breaking the stigma. These 'women' have become inspiration for many young girls to take up their favorite sports. No, I am not making a general statement here. If Haryana, with its skewed sex ratio, has some world-class women wrestlers, it is because of the achievement of Phogat sisters. They paved the way for other wrestlers. Many women players from Haryana are making news in wrestling, which is traditionally considered as a man’s game. And if Manipur has many women boxers today, the credit should go to Mary Kom, who has inspired many girls.I have witnessed the same phenomenon in Hyderabad too. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have many young badminton and tennis players. Yes, agreed Hyderabad has a very good badminton academy. But the success of Saina Nehwal was the inspiration for many young girls. Now, the success of PV Sindhu will ignite many more future talents. The same holds good for Sania Mirza also. So, in a way highlighting their achievement as a woman's achievement has helped in beating the stigma.If we go beyond India and look at the Middle East countries, where women are treated as second class citizens, the situation is more pathetic. Many Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia, sent their women players to the Olympics for the very first time in 2002. When Attar from Saudi Arabia ran wearing a hijab in the London Olympics, she created history. She was the last person to reach the finish line but received a standing ovation. Saudi Arabia, which had sent 2 women players to the London Olympics, doubled its number this time, as four women athletes represented Saudi at Rio. But no, this doesn’t call for a celebration, because the main reason for sending women to the Olympics is due to the ultimatum given by the IOC to Saudi in 2012. The IOC had warned Saudi Arabia that if they don’t allow women players, then the whole team might lose the chance to feature in the Olympics.Now let us see other countries, which consider themselves as liberated with a modern outlook. I am not sure whether we should heave a sigh of relief or feel bad because this gender bias is not restricted to few countries but it is omnipresent. Olympics, the biggest sports event, itself was full of male chauvinism. And this year the media and the male announcers faced criticism for their sexist views. Many women players’ performance didn’t get the deserved limelight and the achievement of few other women players was attributed to their husbands and male coaches. A new term was coined for all those male announcers who downplayed the achievement of women players – “The Mannouncers”Now that Olympics is over, India will return to its obsession with cricket. And there is a possibility that we might open our eyes to other sports only after 4 years. If that prediction comes true, then we neither have any right to criticise the poor performance of our athletes nor have the right to celebrate those two medals India got. Because all those achievers, who suddenly became “daughters of India”, definitely don’t need our hypocritical support.