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women and the London 2012 Summer Olympics

I have to admit that I've always loved watching the Olympics. I love the idea of so many people from so many places competing in  events and doing the things that they've worked so hard for. And when I was a very little girl, I could imagine that with enough work and dedication on my part, I, too, would be part of the next Olympics! Of course, there was no foundation for this thinking since I was not actually actively participating in any kind of training or sport; the point was that every 4 years (because these very thoughts crossed my mind every time the Olympics came around), I could be inspired to dream this little dream.

As a social scientists, it's harder now to watch the Olympic games without thinking about the many issues of gender and inequality that surround them. That being said, I have to admit that the spectacle of the Olympic Games continues to hold a special place in my heart. I was especially excited about the London 2012 games-- not because I am finally a competitor (I've accepted that I will never be an Olympic athlete)-- but because by almost all accounts, it was the "women's Olympics," meaning that for the first time in the history of the Games, all countries participating in the games had female athletes in their teams. Female athletes also won a record number of medals. US female athletes won 56% of overall medals for Team USA and 66% of the gold medals for the country. Of course, this doesn't mean we finally made it. There were still plenty of instances of sexism and gender inequality. For example, some female athletes representing their countries still could not train and practice in their home countries. Then, there is this video. When it first came out, there was enough outcry that NBC pulled it. Rather than let my comments color your views, I'd like you to watch the video and see what you think.

So what do you think? Is it somewhat "porny" and "creepy" as some people have suggested? Or does it really just celebrate female athletes as it claims to do? Before you answer, you may want to compare the above video with the fantastic slideshow of female athletes in this Huffington Post article.

Finally, I should point out that other controversies arose during the London games as well. The most troubling was media's controversial coverage and treatment of gymnast Gabby Douglas that lead to charges of racism. A small uproar also ensued when the public learned that Team USA's uniforms, designed by American fashion icon Ralph Lauren, were manufactured in China. But rather than letting such controversies destroy my love for the Olympics, I prefer to view them as "teaching moments"...and voila, a blog post is born.


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