Tokyo 2020, Tokyoolympics, Simone Biles, Olympic Athletes, Simone Biles, Women Athletes, Mental Health, Simon Biles, Mental Health, Tokyo Olympics, Larry Nassar, Elizabeth Daniels, Aliphine Tuliamuk

Tokyo 2020, Tokyoolympics

At Tokyo Olympics, women athletes say 'enough'

Women athletes are competing in record numbers, rejecting sexist policies and a culture of silence many no longer view as the price of competition.

1/8/2021 1:24:00 AM

Women are competing in record numbers and rejecting a culture of silence many no longer view as the price of competition. Tokyo2020 TokyoOlympics

Women athletes are competing in record numbers, rejecting sexist policies and a culture of silence many no longer view as the price of competition.

"This Olympic Games I wanted it to be for myself. I came in and felt like I was still doing it for other people," Biles said. "I have to put my pride aside. I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being."

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As women of color, Biles and Osaka face the dual pressures of racism and sexism, competing in a space largely defined by men and against women who are predominantly white. Daniels says the stereotypes and discrimination they've endured make their decisions to speak out even more notable, given the intense scrutiny women athletes of color face.

Naomi Osaka lost in the third round to Marketa Vondrousova on Tuesday.Candice Williams, a licensed professional counselor in the Ohio State University's athletics department, says women at the Tokyo Games are showing what it practically means to prioritize the self.

“They are saying, ‘Even if it's a U.S. Open, even if it's the Olympics, the weight of gold is not worth my mental health,’” she says.These decisions are remarkable because of the ethos of elite athleticism.“You do learn to silence the body, because you have to overcome the body saying, ‘I can't do this. This is too much. I need to stop,’” Daniels says. "Athletes are trained to suppress their own needs in a really fundamental way. And we're seeing this shift with these athletes … saying, ‘You know what, my well-being has to matter.’”

The German athletes who rejected sexist uniforms, she says, argued something similar.“They're saying, ‘This is actually my body,’ using their voice, having agency and making decisions about themselves and their well-being in a very distinct way,” she says.

Women call out sexist uniformsBiles may be the highest-profile athlete to speak about mental health during the Games, but many women athletes call out policies they view as harmful, restrictive and damaging to individual women and their sports.This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.

Update your settings here to see it.The Norwegian women's beach handball team incurred a fine during the 2021 European Beach Handball Championships for refusing to play in bikini bottoms, opting instead for shorts. The German gymnastics team competes in full-body unitards, which debuted in competition this year. They were not punished since their outfits comply with the wardrobe rules, though they break with convention.

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Show of support:Pink offers to pay fine against Norwegian team for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottomsThe German Gymnastics Federation said the uniform choice is a statement against "sexualization," and German gymnast Elisabeth Seitz wrote on Instagram that "every gymnast should be able to decide in which type of suit she feels most comfortable – and then do gymnastics.”

The Women's Sports Foundation argues that "athletes should be afforded maximum flexibility in the choice of uniform fabric and styles."German artistic gymnast Pauline Schaefer-Betz performs her floor exercise routine in the Tokyo Olympics on July 25, 2021.

Gender researchers say sexist uniform policies reflect the broader sexualization of girls and women, which suggests a woman's appearance is more important than her strength, power or function.Gender stereotypes:Destroying girls, killing boys"Attention to appearance starts when girls are infants, where you put them in a dress, even though they can't crawl very well. From the very beginning, it's how do you look as opposed to how can you move," says Christia Spears Brown, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky who studies how children develop gender and ethnic stereotypes.

Sexist uniform policies may be driven in part by the myth that sex sells women's sports and that highlighting women's bodies, attractiveness or sexual appeal will draw viewers in and make women's sports more palatable to male audiences. This myth has been debunked by sports media scholar

Mary Jo Kane, who conducted research that found sexualized images of female athletes offended women and older men. It was the images of women demonstrating athletic ability that captivated them.Her research found sexualized images of female athletes did not increase young men's interest in women's sports.

"It's part of the entrenched gender stereotypes that prioritize women's appearance over anything else – the rest of their humanity. And the uniforms are mapping onto that stereotype," Daniels says. "These stereotypes have persisted over time and have not been really interrogated deeply enough to shift the behaviors."

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Sexualization – whether at the Olympics or on the cover of Sports Illustrated – overshadows women's achievement in sports and can lead to, including lower self-esteem and unhealthy body image.Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition:"The implications of that for mental health and relationships, and ideas about the self, are pretty profound," Brown says.

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