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Articles > Sports & Fitness August, 09, 2012

Even when they go for gold, women can’t win

Ellie Slee
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I’ve just read Andrew M. Brown’s article Women’s judo: it’s disturbing to watch these girls beat each other up on the Telegraph Online. Brown only gives us a couple of paragraphs, but never have two paragraphs made me want to tear my own eyes out more.

Womens Olympic Judo 2012

Photo by Syromaniac

Here we are, ninety nine years on from Emily Davidson chucking herself under the King’s horse in the name of women’s suffrage, and still the Daily Telegraph’s Comment editor thinks its OK to question whether or not women’s judo is ‘perfectly wholesome’, at the risk of sounding, in his own words, ‘appallingly sexist.’

Interesting. What is it about judo that isn’t ‘perfectly wholesome’? Less blood than boxing. Less chance of death than horse riding. On paper, there’s nothing objectionable about it at all. It couldn’t possibly be – could it? – that the issue Brown takes is with women competing?

Amazingly, that is exactly what Brown takes issue with. In fact, he bizarrely chooses to liken women’s judo to a nightclub cat fight, calling it ‘unsettling’, and wondering whether the competitors’ ‘soft limbs’ would be ‘battered black and blue with bruises’.

Well, Andrew, I hate to break it to you, but first things first: just because they’re girls doesn’t mean they adhere to a pillowy Renaissance ideal of beauty. One quick glance at Kayla Harrison (US Gold medallist) and Gemma Gibbons (UK Silver) tells you all you need to know: they train every day. Their bodies are temples. World class judo temples. And even though they have vaginas, I would happily bet my life savings on them beating you and your penis in a fight.

Secondly, the ‘pure, naked, fierce, animalistic aggression’ displayed in the match, that ‘one doesn’t naturally associate with women’ is the essence of the Olympic games. I assume you’ve seen the Olympics before? Let me give you a run down: every Olympic athlete wants to win. It’s important to them. It’s all they’ve wanted, all their lives. The hopes of their country ride on their shoulders. I think it would be more unnatural if the girls had ignored the fundamental rules of their sport and gone gently on one another, don’t you?

I know it wasn’t the ‘bit of pretend wrestling’ that you were hoping for. I’m sure Nuts magazine were gutted when they noted the lack of a KY jelly-filled paddling pool, too. Seriously, though: your wording is offensive to all women. What is it about our ability to endure pain in other areas – childbirth, for example – that makes it impossible for us to compete in a full contact sport? Would you expect any of the boxers competing to have a ‘pretend’ fight with one another? No. Of course you wouldn’t.

In the vast majority of Olympic sports, the body is pushed and strained to unprecedented levels, and the women competing are, physically, in a league of their own. It is completely unfair to liken world-class judokas to brawling drunks outside of Yates’s Wine Lodge.

Finally; what Olympic sport would you like to see your daughters competing in? Something girlier, I daresay. Maybe you’d like them to be gymnasts, coercing their bodies into looking pre-pubescent long into their late teens, wearing sparkly, pubis skimming leotards, with glitter in their ponytails and so much makeup that it looks like they’ve fallen into a prostitute’s handbag. Would that be a wholesome enough choice for your girls, Andrew?

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  1. REvans

    I was agreeing with you until you started bashing on the Gymnastics, you went to the same depth as him. Poor show.

  2. Dan Gould

    Well written, couldn’t agree more