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A Clean Sweep For Team Woman – Guest Post by redpesto

August 7, 2012

I am still on blog holiday – honest! But redpesto has kindly penned this post on the Graun’s gold medal performance in the gender olympics. Enjoy!

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While everyone else has been enjoying London 2012 and supporting Team GB, Guardian Woman’s page editor Jane Martinson and other Guardian journalists have been cheering on ‘Team Woman.’ In case you’re wondering who they are, here’s one explanation, by way of a comment on a piece by Martinson about ‘media savvy’ Tory MP Louise Mensch:

What we have here is a fluffy puff piece that at some point merges into a more serious article about representation. For me what it does is expose the fallacy of representation (as if Maggie and Palin weren’t enough). Given that Mensch is part of a government currently inflicting untold levels of suffering upon the female population (according to Jane’s pieces on it, given the monicker I assume you’d disagree but there it is) who is [it] that ‘the women’s blog’ should really be giving time and promotion to? The media isn’t a neutral player here, who you profile has an effect on the success of their agenda (this being the thesis of the article itself!).

I think we see the faultline here yet again between the issues that matter to feminism and a rather more crudely uncritical ‘Team Woman’ approach. Someone out there is a junior MP trying to get a bill in that is far more pro-woman than anything Mensch has ever bothered herself with. That MP may well be a man. Who is on which side here?

The International Olympic Committtee (IOC) is concerned that men and women race in separate events (much to the frustration of transgender and intersex sportspeople), but ‘Team Woman’ is pretty sure biology is all that matters. Even if some bloke goes on a couple of cycle rides, and some other bloke wins a tennis match, for Martinson and the Guardian it’s all about the women.

So at just over halfway through the Games, how is Guardian Team Woman doing? Sadly, Alexandra ‘Lexy’ Topping was disqualified for a tweet (subsequently deleted) complaining that the women’s football tournament started before the Olympics. Others noticed that the men’s football tournament also started before the opening ceremony, in order to ensure that all the matches could fit within the Olympics itself. So for jumping the gun in such an outraged – or rather outrageous – fashion, Topping’s Games was already over.

Despite such a poor start, a bronze medal goes to Jane Martinson for reducing the entire opening ceremony to a headcount of women and an appearance by a group of suffragettes, plus the misleading claim that all countries had sent at least one female competitor – yes, even Saudi Arabia.

In fact, neither Barbados nor Nauru sent any women, but who’s counting (apart from Martinson)? And she clearly missed her chance of a better medal by ignoring the appearance in the opening ceremony of James Bond – usually denounced by feminists as a reactionary misogynist killing machine – as part of how Britain presented itself to the rest of the world. But maybe she was distracted by the appearance of feminist icon Elizabeth Windsor in a cameo role as Queen of the United Kingdom.

The silver controversially goes to Owen Gibson for this on-message argument: ‘British women have dominated the medal haul so far, leading to predictions that they will beat the men in the final tally for the first time.’ Yes, the real medal race is between the boys and the girls – sorry, between the menz and Team Woman – even though they don’t actually compete directly against each other unless they’re astride a horse. Curiously, if you look up the medals for Britain at Beijing 2008, you’ll discover that Team GB’s men didn’t win a single individual track and field gold, whereas Christine Ohuruogu won gold in the women’s 400m. Moreover, one wonders what the Guardian does when one day’s gold medals are all won by men, as happened on Day 6 and Day 9 of London 2012. Short answer: get a kicking.

However, as doubtless anyone on Team Woman at the Guardian will probably tell you, the only reason that men and women compete in separate events, and that the women’s 100m world record (10.49s) doesn’t equal the men’s (9.58s), is of course because of the patriarchy, and the fact that the women wear the wrong sort of clothing. But Team Woman is all about showing up the men as the whiney losers they are, not building a better national squad. No men’s synchronised swimming? That’s just ‘mansplaining.’

Finally, and in a highly unusual move, the gold medal goes to Jane Martinson for this observation on Jessica Ennis’ gold medal-winning performance:

Know this not biggest achievement but having finally seen medal ceremony Jessica Ennis gives hope to shorter #women and girls everywhere

Sports fans may know that there isn’t a single Olympic event where contestants are categorised according to height, rather than by weight in sports such as weightlifitng, boxing or judo. Even when height matters (see basketball), bigger does not always equal better, but it sure helps. And anyone who has ever lined up for a race on a school sports day would know you can’t judge the competition by how big they are – as anyone other than Martinson who watched the men’s (let alone the women’s) 10,000m finals could have told her.

An honourable mention must also go to Martinson for her attempt to tell her son that a female heptathlete is a greater sportsperson than a male 100m runner. Even in Fruit Ninja, apples don’t fight oranges. Someone show that kid some YouTube clips of Daley Thompson and call it a draw with Jessica Ennis before he thinks that the London 2012 slogan is ‘You Go, Girl!’ rather than ‘Inspire a generation.’

But overall, it’s a clean sweep for the Guardian and Team Woman at the London 2012 Olympics! Bravo!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2012 3:45 pm

    great post thanks rp. I noticed a few other ‘teams’ in people’s accounts of the olympics. one was ‘team gay’ – quite a lot of LGBT people were complaining about the lack of out lGBT athletes, and celebrating the ones who are out. and another is ‘team dad’ – Petra Boynton on twitter was saying it was good that Mo Farah was pictured with his wife and kid after his win. I said maybe it is more like ‘team heteronormativity’ depending on your p.o.v….

  2. redpesto permalink
    August 9, 2012 11:55 pm

    Thanks. Incidentally, Nicola Adams’ win is a perfect storm for ‘Team Woman’ – first ever women’s boxing final, she’s British, and she won gold. It really wouldn’t have worked if she’d been from Tajikistan or got silver.

    You can imagine the excitement tonight at Guardian Towers as two women win gold for beating the crap out of their opponents (both contests worth watching, but that’s because I like sport):

    Esther Addley: The martial metaphors, already tiring 13 days into these Games, are inevitably over-exercised when it comes to women’s boxing, but in Adams’s case, talk of punching through glass ceilings and battling her way out of adversity seem particularly apt.

    Alexandra Topping: But if this Olympics has been a triumph for women’s sporting achievement in general, it has been a defining moment for boxing in particular – the Games when women demonstrated that they could not only complete in a sport seen as quintessentially male, but do it with real class. (I’ll give Topping some credit, because her tweets suggest she actually likes sport, but most Games are triumphs of women’s sporting achievement at some level)

    Jane Martinson:See, it’s not just the #women’s blog. Hope @wsff wins the bet that everyone’s talking abt Team GB omen http://gu.com/p/39g83/tw – only that link takes you to…the Owen Gibson article in the Guardian that got the bronze medal in my piece.

    On the other hand, Ian Patel has a better perspective, because he’s actually talking about boxing as a sport and not as means of socking the patriarchy on the jaw: I’m drawn to female boxers as a progressive cultural force, but mostly I’m drawn to them for the same reasons I’m drawn to athletes generally – namely, for their physical execution of the sport itself. Either that, or he’s one of the few Guardian writers (Topping again?) who’s written about women’s boxing because he actually knows something about the sport (compare Zoe Williams; I’d have said Martinson, but she seems to be tweeting about the equestrian events for some reason).

    • August 10, 2012 8:37 am

      In fact the women’s TaeKwonDo gold is an incredible achievement (surely even more so for a 19 yr old?!).

      But yes this harping on about “team woman” is another example – we really didn’t need any more – about how a group originally associated with equality have ‘moved on’. They create tensions and resentments where they didn’t exist before, by assuming that every difference you can see in the behaviour and attainments of the sexes is actually an inequality and needs to be fought.

      Though they do choose these differences very carefully, seeming very quiet on homelessness, suicides, imprisonment and so on. Basically they’re talking simplistic bullshit, but to quote George Carlin: “bullshit is everywhere, bullshit is rampant”. Especially when the Groan publishes such quantities of it.

      Also, Esther Addley on “punching through glass ceilings”: the lesson could easily be that British women are doing better than those of any other country in traditionally male pursuits. Do we think the Graun will take that line? What’s that you say? No?

  3. redpesto permalink
    August 9, 2012 11:58 pm

    PS: Female gold medal winners – the new ‘Sexy A levels’?

  4. redpesto permalink
    August 10, 2012 10:47 pm

    Just for the record: Tanya Gold turns up late to the party (as usual) to add her ha’porth. And I’m sure Gold has written about how much she hates football – but hey, there’s a bandwagon to join, a fee to earn, and a chance to blether for ‘Team Woman.’ (Or as they say in football: file under ‘glory hunter’). You’d think British women have never won gold (or any other) medals in anything before now.

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