Are you getting into the Winter Olympics? I haven’t been following every event (who has?), but I did manage to see quite a bit of speed skating and mogul skiing. (So far, Canada has 5 medals in total – 2 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze. Woo – go Canada!)
Now let’s get on with the latest Featured Feminist profile.
Birthday: November 27, 1984
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan (USA)
Why You Should Care: She’s one of the female skiers who’s actively fighting for gender equality within the sport.
Now, I don’t follow many professional skiers, but Lindsey Van is one I recently started paying special attention to. Why? According to Time:
“Lindsey Van holds the record — among both men and women — for the longest jump off of Whistler, B.C.’s normal ski jump, built for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.”
It’s impressive alone to hold a record, but to compete with both genders and still come out on top? Now that’s something to brag about. You’re the cream of the crop. And clearly she’s ambitious – at just 25 years old, she’s been ski jumping for 19 years! Crazy!
If you’ve been keeping up to date with the news, you’ve probably heard that although Lindsey Van is certainly a qualified skier, she wasn’t a ski-jump competitor in the Vancouver Winter Olympics. And neither was any other woman.
Start the feminist fire – things are gonna get hot!
The International Olympic Committee has kept ski jumping the sole Olympic sport that remains men-only despite numerous women ski jumpers petitioning since 1998.
I’m sure that you’re as curious as I was to learn exactly why women aren’t allowed to compete in ski jumping. There must be a logical reason, right? Wrong! There were lots of excuses, but the ‘funniest’ one I read was a 2005 statement made by Gian Franco Kasper (the FIS president and International Olympic Committee member) who thought that it “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.” Really? Sounds like someone’s been studying medical textbooks from the 1800s. I wonder how he explains how she kicked serious ass and held a record among both women and men.
Watch this MSNBC video to hear from Lindsey herself and other ski jumpers on this issue. You’ll get lots of additional background information on gender discrimination in ski jumping. It’s just 10 minutes and 43 seconds long, but it’s worth watching the whole thing.
Why I Consider Her a Feminist
She’s fighting for what’s right – gender equality. And that’s something to be commended, not condemned. If her skiing achievements don’t floor you, it’s her desire to not only see, but contribute to a change in the world. We can all be armchair feminists and point our fingers at what’s wrong and what needs to be changed, but if we never physically act upon it and voice our opinions, that change may never come about.
Passion is one of the qualities I always look for in my friends and people who I admire. She seems to have it in spades. In sports, there’s a disproportionate number of women compared to men, so it’s especially important to have a frontline woman challenging the status quo. It’s inspiring!
For a dramatic visual that really gets the message across, please check out this 57-second YouTube clip that illustrates how women have to really fight for their right to compete in sports that men already get to compete in:
But for those of you who don’t want to watch it, I’ll summarize its message. Women and men have been allowed to compete in Olympic Winter Games events at different times. Women are only approved to compete at a much-later date:
- Speed Skating: Men (1924) & Women (1960)
- Bobsled: Men (1924) & Women (2002)
- Ski Jumping: Men (1924) & Women (2014?)
The clip ends by saying, “Let’s not just bridge the gap in 2014. Let’s jump over it.” Well said!
But like every strong woman, she has strong opinions. According to Wikipedia, “she alienated many supporters when she characterized the Canadian legal system as ‘weak’ and said the International Olympic Committee was ‘like the Taliban of the Olympics.'”
Whether or not you agree with her on either points shouldn’t make you lose sight of the bigger picture – she’s fighting for gender equality within the sport. That should take precedence. And that’s why I chose her for this Featured Feminist section.
I don’t choose people for this section because they are saints or say politically-correct things to the media. I don’t choose them because they always do the right thing. I choose them because they’re doing some good. Big difference. Everybody can fall, but not everyone can get back up.
Thank you, Lindsey Van, for putting women on the ski-jumping map. And thank you for putting yourself on the line for women’s rights all over the world!