The talk of Twitter last night was a blog post from Telegraph journalist Andrew M Brown, who wrote of his feelings when watching Gemma Gibbons win her Olympic silver in Judo yesterday. Pride? Admiration? Nope. None of that.
I found myself wondering: is women fighting each other violently a perfectly wholesome spectator sport? This wasn’t a bit of pretend wrestling. Gemma and her American opponent, Kayla Harrison, were properly grappling with each other, throwing each other with full force onto the mat. They both showed pure, naked, fierce, animalistic aggression of a sort that one doesn’t naturally associate with women – or girls for that matter. Quite honestly my initial reaction was one of shock. I felt rather as I would if I’d bumped into two drunken women bashing ten bells out of each other outside a Yates Wine Lodge on a Friday night – a bit unsettled.
I’m not sure Brown really understands the nature of Judo and the skill involved. It’s fast paced for sure, but has to be approached with control and finesse to make sure that you overcome your opponent but don’t cause them any serious injury. Hardly the sort of savage free-for-all he was talking about.
If he had suggested that, somehow, seeing competitors of a certain race made him feel uneasy, he’d probably have been saved from himself by his editor. Making misogynistic and sexist comments is apparently ok, though. I know it’s the Telegraph, but surely there are some standards. Or maybe posting this drivel arose out of losing some sort of office game and he had to pay a forfeit. It’s about the only excuse.
Brown went on to say that he “couldn’t help wondering about their soft skin being battered with bruises.” I couldn’t help thinking that every single sport involves some pain and possibly bruising at some point. Even other physical dancing. Ballroom dancing is probably ladylike enough for Mr Brown, but we’re always hearing of injuries from all the contestants, male and female on Strictly Come Dancing every year.
Maybe Brown lives in a wee bubble where women do what they do in Jane Austen novels, play the piano and pick flowers. Or a Disney movie, maybe, where they get the forest animals or enchanted household items to do the housework. Even the privileged women of previous centuries had to give birth practically every year, no mean physical feat. For poorer women, life involved a lot of hard physical labour, because not only did they have to give birth every year, they also had to work the fields, feed their families and do all the domestic tasks. The Industrial Revolution swapped tough rural poverty for hellish working lives in the factories for men, women and children.
Brown would do well to remember that the Olympics are taking place in Stratford of the 21st century, not Stepford of the 1970s.