Both Johnsons are among the best ski jumpers in the world. Alissa is ranked ninth among the top women who compete, about 141 spots higher than her brother sits in the men’s rankings. But only 16-year-old Anders is preparing to compete for the U.S. Winter Olympic team this week in the Alps north of Turin. Not because Alissa can’t fly far. But because women ski jumpers aren’t allowed in the Olympics, for reasons older than the hills.
Because the IOC is worried about jostling the jumpers’ girlie parts.
To anyone acquainted with the history of women’s sports, the thudding excuses the women ski jumpers are given for their exclusion from the Games are sadly, ridiculously familiar. Gian-Franco Kasper, head of the International Ski Federation, has said, “Ski jumping is just too dangerous for women. Don’t forget, [the landing] it’s like jumping down from, let’s say, about two meters to the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.”
The international federation will take another vote this spring on whether women should jump in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. And Alissa said, “So far, we’ve been told every excuse in the book. That it’s too ‘dangerous’ for girls. That there aren’t enough of us. That we’re not good enough. That it would damage our ovaries and uterus and we won’t be able to have children, even though that’s not true. It’s so outdated, it’s kind of funny in a way. And then it’s not.”
Never mind that women are already competing as ski jumpers professionally, never mind that these world-class jumpers are available for examination to find out if this is true, never mind that ski jumping does not actually result in a hard landing if done right, never mind that Olympic officials seem not to mind that women lugers are crashing at an unusually high rate on the Torino track, never mind that women already compete in slalom, moguls, freestyle skiing, skeleton, luge, bobsled, speedskating, snowboarding, and all kinds of sports that result in crashes, injuries and the potential for being impaled with the sharp edges of your equipment.
These excuses have been used for years and years and years to keep women out of sports. It was bullshit then, and it’s bullshit now. The IOC is particularly slow to adapt, too — they didn’t allow women’s marathons into the Summer Games until 1984, 17 years after Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon in 1967 — though she never disclosed she was a woman (since the application didn’t ask), and a race official tried to forcibly remove her from the race when she was found out (see the pics in the link for some ugly rage). Switzer finished the race (though she was afraid of being assaulted again by officials), and her uterus didn’t fall out. Neither have the uteruses of the millions of other women who’ve finished marathons or competed in other sports (the Boston Marathon was opened to women in 1972 — with the backing of the same official who’d tried to eject Switzer — twelve years before the Olympics would allow women to run the same distance).
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