column, Roger Brigham wrote an extensive review of the IOC Women and Sport conference, including the comments from FGG delegates Martha Ehrenfeld and Shamey Cramer:
By all accounts, the fifth World Conference on Women and Sport, held last week in Los Angeles under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee, was an energizing and empowering event, doing much to advance the fight for gender equality in the highest levels of sport and issuing 10 specific points for the IOC to address. Prominent sports icons such as swimmers Donna De Varona and Diana Nyad, former IOC Vice President Anita DeFrantz, and tennis star Billie Jean King joined with 800 fellow sports leaders from 140 countries to talk about the need for women to speak out and step up into policy-making leadership positions.
And yet ...
"There were so many lesbians in that room, so why did nobody bring up homophobia?" Martha Ehrenfeld, Team San Francisco delegate to the Federation of Gay Games, told the Bay Area Reporter. "There wasn't any discussion about homophobia."
There were discussions about policies to include transgender women in Olympic sports, destined to be a rising topic with the advent of women's boxing and rugby. There were discussions about the perceptions surrounding gender presentation and expression, about uniform rules allowing women boxers to wear skirts as part of their uniforms if teams desire.
But the word "lesbian" went unuttered, as did any mention of the pervasive discrimination and inhospitable work environments that lesbian athletes and coaches face – and not just from heterosexist men. Consider that it has been less than a year since Nigerian women's soccer coach Eucharia Uche called lesbians in soccer "a dirty issue" and declared that she had driven all lesbians off of her World Cup team. The international soccer federation has promised, after public outcry, to conduct an investigation, but a positive statement on the right to respect and inclusion of lesbians in sports in the conference's closing platform would have sent a strong statement to the very sports federations the IOC is supposed to be influencing and added teeth to whatever steps the soccer federation finally takes.
The focus of this conference was on broader, more fundamental issues. The event ended with the issuance of a 10-point statement called the Los Angeles Declaration. Chief among the specific steps it asks the IOC to take are reviewing, revising, and enforcing its requirements on the number of women included in leadership roles for its member organizations; asking the international sports federations to review their policies to ensure gender participation equality; working more with organizations, especially the United Nations, that promote the welfare of girls and women with the ultimate goals of gender equality and empowerment of females; and increase outreach to government agencies.
"The Olympics is getting close to 50-50 participation," Ehrenfeld said, "but at the committee level it is very low, about 17 percent. Quotas can be a very effective tool, but the Olympic committees, which are mostly men, have to vote them in, and they aren't likely to vote in something that will replace them."
Ehrenfeld and Shamey Cramer, FGG officer for ceremonies, represented the Gay Games at the conference.
"Having seen the IOC up close and in action for the first time on the administrative side," Cramer said, "I can tell you this: they are no more immune to the individual personalities of their governing body than the FGG or GLISA (the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association) are. I applaud Anita DeFrantz and the IOC's Women and Sports Commission, which she chairs, for enlightening so many of their own rank and file to some critical issues facing not only Olympic athletes, but those who are marginalized around the world because of race, gender or gender preference and/or identity."
"I believe Martha and I were able to make solid inroads, not only with the IOC, but many other organizations that are making a difference," he added. "Hopefully, these connections will be able to benefit the work being done by our partners in Cleveland and Akron for Gay Games 9 in 2014. Sport is as unifying a force as music, and I was proud to represent the organization that for 30 years has stood for the use of sport to eradicate homophobia, racism and sexism around the globe."
The Friday and Saturday morning sessions were devoted to broad topics presented to the entire assembly. Actress Geena Davis, who discovered sports in her mid-30s when she prepared for her role in the movie A League of Their Own, talked about how sports helped her overcome self-consciousness about her height.
"Learning to play was about so much more than just gaining a skill and a technical ability. Learning to play affected how I saw myself," she said. "Playing sports dramatically improved my self-image and quieted that relentless voice in my brain that told me, 'You're not good enough, you're not good enough.'"
Afternoons were devoted to topic-specific workshops.
"A really fascinating workshop was about medical matters and intersex issues," Ehrenfeld said. "A presenter from a medical school said one in 2,000 tested women has a Y chromosome (in addition to two X chromosomes). But in female Olympic athletes, it is one in 200, and there's no information out there about why or if that extra chromosome makes you a stronger athlete."
Alan Abrahamson, a University of Southern California professor and member of the IOC Press Commission, led a discussion on "Women, Sport and the Media." Ehrenfeld said the speakers noted that women watch the Olympics as much as men do, but are drawn not so much by the coverage of the competition events, but by the background features presented on the athletes themselves. Participants were urged to call up local sports editors and news directors to ask for coverage of the women's sports events they want to know about.
Nyad shared her personal ordeals in sports, including being raped by a swim coach in her youth, and chided the IOC for taking so long to achieve gender parity, including resistance to adding women's Nordic ski jumping in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
"How long did it take us to persuade the body of Olympic organizers that the marathon doesn't damage the female genitals?" Nyad asked. "For 100 years, women have powerfully and gracefully been flying off mountaintops with the exact same power and grace as the men. It's taken them 100 years, and now 2014 in Sochi they will be flying in the Olympic Games at last."
Read the full column HERE.
Read all our coverage of this conference HERE.
|7-9 September 2012|
Brussels Gay Sports will offer a weekend of fun and fairplay in the capital of Europe, with volleyball, swimming, badminton, and tennis, as well as fitness and hiking.
Learn more HERE.
|26-28 October 2012|
The success of the first edition of the QueergamesBern proved the need for an LGBT multisport event in Switzerland. This year will be even bigger, with badminton, bowling, running, walking, floorball.
Learn more HERE.
|17-20 January 2013|
Sin City Shootout
The 7th Sin City Shootout will feature softball, ice hockey, tennis, wrestling, basketball, dodgeball, bodybuilding and basketball.
Learn more HERE.
|13-16 June 2013|
IGLFA Euro Cup
After this year's edition in Budapest at the EuroGames, the IGLFA Euro Cup heads to Dublin for 2013, hosted by the Dublin Devils and the Dublin Phoenix Tigers.
Learn more HERE.