Patriarchy and Performance: Olympic Gymnastics is SO UNFAIR

I know I am not the only one watching all the Olympics, and especially all the gymnastics all the time this week. And I am sure I can’t be the only one who has noticed the disparity of expectation in gymnastics, specifically floor exercises.

Men: Complete the elements. Be powerful. Stay in the lines.

Women: Complete the elements. Be powerful but not too powerful. Or rather be powerful but don’t make it look like that. Be effortless, graceful, fun, flirty, whatever feminine personality trait you are going to work, work that with the elements. And be beautiful. And smile. And have your wrists right, and please do it all to music. And stay in the lines.


I’m going to own you, but also be adorable. I am just that good.

Here is the thing about being a woman in the world, we can’t just do the thing, we have to perform the thing. When my husband takes the girls to the grocery store, he gets told he is a wonderful dad. He gets told he is brave by strangers, just for completing the basic parenting element that is taking the children with you to the grocery store. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that is harder than a triple double flippy tuck. (I believe that is the technical name.) But COME ON! I don’t get points for just doing the element. It has to be effortless, no yelling, everyone smiling, and I have to look cute while doing it if I want the points.

And the ease. The ease these ladies are expected to exhibit while slinging their bodies into the air at twice their height and then sticking the landing is just ridiculous. How come men are allowed to grunt? How come they are allowed to make noise as the air is pushed out of their lungs because their feet hit the floor with a force that would probably shatter my weak 30 something ankles. The ladies, they have to smile. SMILE. Silently WHAT THE HECK? HOW IS THAT EVEN HUMANLY POSSIBLE?


Even their hair is perfect.

But ease is a necessary part of being a lady. I know because making things look easy is not really something I excel at. Every, single, time I express my struggle, I get at least one person telling me that I need to just quit complaining, that I need to suck it up. My life isn’t that hard. Um, Y’ALL! My life is allowed to be hard and I may grunt a little bit at the sheer force of the landing on any given day okay? Okay. Don’t deduct points because I can’t say “Fine! We are great! Everything is JUST GREAT!”


Also, there is a disparity as always, with clothing expectations. Can we just talk about how unfair that is? Men get to do their thing in pants. Pants! Women have to wear sparkly leotards that they have glued to their hinies so nothing rides up their butt on national television. Because even if Simone Biles can do things with her body that literally no one else in the world can do, you know if she picked a wedge that would be the only news worthy thing for the next twenty-four hours. I taught high school for nine years and every single day I had to make sure nothing was too tight, too loose, too short, too low, too whatever man. I seriously doubt my khaki and polo everyday friends (button down if they are getting fancy) have ever thought about most of this? NO! Not even on the radar.


Wedgie not likely.


Wedgie guaranteed.

How many extra points does Gabby Douglas get for the most incredible lipstick in the entire olympic games? Or Simone Biles for not poking her eye out while applying glittery lower eye liner? How much does it up the difficulty level, because that junk is HARD!! How many extra points in life do I get for putting on make up most non-house days? And for correctly negotiating water proof mascara necessary situations in my life? I have literally preached one time in my whole life, and I have already thought way, WAY more about my make up than the pastor who gets up their almost every week. I want a little credit! I want two bonus tenths.


I need to know what color this is.


I am as likely to ever be able to get my eyeliner like this as I am to ever stick on of her landings. This eyeliner alone needs a gold medal.

And on top of all of this. All of it, women have to do their routines to music. Dance! Dance! Perform perform perform! Point your toes! Flick your wrists! Make this look fun! Entertain us! It would be one thing if we just got BONUS for doing all of these things, but we get punished if we don’t hit these ridiculous standards. And I guess that would be fine too, but these things aren’t even on the list of things that most men are expected to do! The world does not ask them to smile while also defying gravity.

I could not be prouder of the women gymnasts this go round. I am so glad my girls are growing up in a world where they can look up to them. But I hope my girls will be allowed to navigate the world in pants if they want to, and not get punished for it.


Smash the Patriarchy? Oh, they are ready.




15 thoughts on “Patriarchy and Performance: Olympic Gymnastics is SO UNFAIR

  1. And can we also just mention the disparity in what the beach volleyball players wear?! The men wear long shorts and tank tops but the women are expected to do all that jumping, diving, spiking, etc in itty-bitty teeny tiny little bikini like things!

  2. I got told I was brave by the queen of patronising ladies in Next for being there in the sale a few years ago, just because I’m in a wheelchair 😄

  3. Exactly what I say about gymnastics every four years. I’ve gotten so I only watch the men’s. How warped is that?

    • I’ve only ever watched the women’s, and then I watched the men’s for like 5 min, and was thinking, What? They don’t have to do that arms up and smile thing at the dismount? They get to pump their arms when they’ve done well, instead of just making their smile subtly wider? They make it look so hard, like they haven’t actually mastered the skills yet. I can’t watch this anymore, this isn’t real gymnastics.

  4. I totally agree with you. The men’s side of gymnastics is so different to the women’s an considering both disciplines are meant to be ‘Artistic’ why do men get to throw their arms up in the air and literally scream when they’ve done well, but women have to present and then be happy?

    I’ve uploaded a couple of blog posts (more to come!) about Rio 2016 and would really appreciate it if you could take a look!

      • Its an opinion… you don’t have to share it. Plus don’t tell me that I have no idea how gymnastics works when I’ve clearly stated a point that is factual. A comment like that was totally uncalled and the GYMternet doesn’t need people like you to make petty digs like that. Bye 🙂

  5. Pingback: What I’m Into (Jul Aug 2016 – the late edition) | Tanya Marlow - Thorns and Gold

  6. Nope. Not even close. My sister has done gymnastics for almost her entire life and I have gone to almost every single one of her meets and I think I know a thing or too about the sport. The difference between men’s floor routines and women’s floor routines is purely based on strength and overall physique. Women’s floor routines are based around incorporating gymnastics with dancing and performances, it has been like that for ever and there is nothing wrong with it. And the tight leotards? Really? Should all women just not wear bikinis anymore or any kind of tight outfit? Again, part of the sport.

    Also have you SEEN men’s swimming? Can you imagine trying to fit all of your junk in that tiny ass speedo?

    I have also wrestled for most of my life and I can tell you wearing singlets gives me MASSIVE wedgies just like leotards do. I don’t know when sports began centered around wearing skin tight clothing but I kinda like it. Don’t get me wrong I can totallly see where your coming from if you don’t like it but wearing the skin tight clothes helps keep in sweat and make you feel more agile.

    Btw, each American leotard for our Olympic team costs around $5,000- $8,000

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