It’s been dubbed an example of the massive cultural divide between Western and Islamic women, and has been causing a stir throughout the world.
So, what is this huge issue that has sent the world’s media into a tizzy? Four words: the Egyptian volleyball team.
For the first time in Egypt’s history, a female team has made it to the Olympic volleyball tournament. But it’s not this historical significance that’s got people talking, instead it’s that the two players – Doaa El-Ghobashy and Nada Meawad – opted against the itsy, bitsy, teeny weeny bikinis sported by the vast majority of players and instead wore a modest uniform that upheld both their culture and their love of volleyball.
In doing so, the hijab-wearing athletes (well, only El-Ghobashy wore the hijab) have apparently highlighted a culture divide… but have they really?
Uniform diversity was altered ahead of the London 2012 Olympic games as a part of an effort to be more culturally sensitive.
“I have worn the hijab for 10 years,” Elghobasy told the Associated Press. “It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them.”
While media like the Daily Mail suggested the different attires highlighted a cultural divide, the issue is far greater. This isn’t about culture, it’s about how female athletes are treated.
Sexism At The Olympics
Throughout the Rio Olympics female athletes haven’t been talked about for their ability but rather what their make-up, their hairstyles and their outfits are like. Worse still, some of the females were compared to male sportsman.
This sexism comes in spite of the fact that more women are competing in Rio 2016 than in any other Olympics. Forty-five per cent of all competitors are women. That’s 10,444 female athletes.
However, when super-gymnast Simone Biles brought in the gold for her USA team, she was compared to a basketball player with People magazine calling her “the Michael Jordan of gymnastics”.
When Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú broke a world record and won gold at the 400-metre race, NBC panned to her husband, who is also her trainer, and claimed he was responsible for her success.
Worse still, when American trap shooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein, who’s married to Chicago Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, won her second bronze medal, US media referred to her as the wife of the sports star rather than highlighting her own worthy merits.
Such sexism has led The Guardian’s Lindy West to write “How to talk about female Olympians without being a regressive creep – a handy guide”.
Here’s some snippets:
DO write about female athletes the way you write about male athletes.
DON’T refer to women in terms of men they know.
DO write about gender when it’s relevant, such as when you’re discussing gender discrimination.
Hear, hear! Let’s celebrate the likes Doaa El-Ghobashy and Nada Meawad for making history. Let’s celebrate all the competing women for being incredible athletes.