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Fit is a Feminist Issue, Friday Link Round Up #101

This week’s link round up looks at some puzzles and problems related to sports. Enjoy and let us know what you think in the comments below!

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🔴 The Rules of Race Walking When I taught philosophy of sport, one of the puzzles that students love concerns the role of rules in establishing what a sport is. And one of the funniest cases is the case of race walking.

“This has nothing to do with physics, but racewalking. Here are the rules. Walk so that one foot is always on the ground, and keep your front legs straight. In short, do a funny walk really fast. There’s also something funny about the rules, though. The judges who determine whether or not a competitor is indeed walking are only allowed to stand stationary at the side of the course and judge by eye whether the competitors appear to be walking. You would think that for a sport whose definition is so technical, they’d appeal to all possible technology to enforce the rules.”

It’s worth clicking through and watching the video.

🔴 Are women’s abilities in sports systematically underestimated? That’s the question two University of Guelph faculty are collaborating on in a new research project, funded through @EallianceSport. Learn more about Dr. Sandeep Mishra and Dr. Jing Wan’s project here.

“The purpose of our research project is to investigate whether there is a systematic underestimation of women athletes’ abilities, and if so, how this underestimation manifests. We predict that people hold implicit, unconscious beliefs about gender and athleticism, which will colour their perceptions of athletic performance. We further predict that people’s subjective perception of an athlete’s skill will be more heavily influenced by gender stereotypes, rather than factual information (e.g., objective speed of a kicked ball).”

-Dr. Jing Wan

Photo by Julia Larson on

🔴What if everything we know about gymnastics is wrong? Can high-level gymnastics training be done humanely? Chellsie Memmel, a former Olympian who made a comeback at 31, and other gymnasts everywhere are done with inhumane coaching — and the idea that they have to peak in their teens.

🔴 Is Sport Sexist? Why do men’s and women’s gymnastics have so little in common? Just two events. “Each event is designed to show off the gender’s natural qualities. An opportunity for the flexible and graceful sequined-wearing female to sparkle and the biceps-bulging male to test his strength and power. Peacocking for both sexes, just through different means. While women compete in four apparatus (vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor), men have six events (floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars and high bar).” And it’s not just gymnastics, what about cross country, speed skating, and track cycling? In those sports men and women compete in different distance events. And then there’s tennis!

Here’s an abstract for a paper in the journal Philosophy of Sport, Is it defensible for women to play fewer sets than men in grand slam tennis? “Is it defensible for women to play fewer sets than men in grand slam tennis? Lacking in the philosophy of sport is discussion of the gendered numbers of sets played in Grand Slam tennis. We argue that the practice is indefensible. It can be upheld only through false beliefs about women or repressive femininity ideals. It treats male tennis players unfairly in forcing them to play more sets because of their sex. Its ideological consequences are pernicious, since it reinforces the respective identifications of the female and male with physical limitation and heroism. Both sexes have compelling reason to reject the practice.”

Do you really think Serena Williams couldn’t play another set? Really?

2020 Women’s ASB Classic: Day 7
Serena Williams, 2020, Getty Images