It’s true I don’t label myself as a feminist. I’ve never read any of the “feminist manifestos” out there, I don’t march, and despite the fact that I could have, and some would say should have, I never jumped on the #metoo movement.
Yet I stand for equality for all genders and non-binary humans alike. I don’t hate men, actually with the exception of a few I generally enjoy the company of men. And I acknowledge that every human has their own strengths and weaknesses. Sure most, not all, men can bench more than a woman, but I’ve yet to see a man compete each and every game with a physical ailment. Woman on her period? “Take some Midol and get your ass in the game girl, you’re our top scorer.” Sure a torn ACL is the same no matter how you identify, but when men start having a successful professional career AND push an 8lb watermelon out of their genitalia… that’s when you can earn a gold medal in life.
This is why I’m proud of the woman athletes in 2021, both competing in the Olympics and on the various stages of the world. First it was the Norwegian women’s volleyball team saying why do we have to look like Victoria Secret models to compete? Then came the German gymnastics team competing in full length leotards to desexualize the sport. In many sports world records are being broken by women at the top of their game. Hidilyn Diaz won the first gold medal for the Philippines in 97 years lifting 280lbs, yet another record.
So why do I write? Well truthfully I prefer not to live in an echo chamber, seeing the world as a grey area vs. black and white. With that comes reading both the praise and the criticism alike for Simone Biles. An extraordinary young woman who has won, at the time of some Wikipedia research, a whopping 30 Olympic and World Championship medals. She is the female gymnast with most World all-around titles (5). She sets a new record every time she competes and she’s only 24.
Do you remember 24? I sure as hell do and I was no where close to being as focused as this young woman. Granted I was never really an athlete, and I’ve never won a podium spot in my life. Bear in mind when I went to school participation trophies really weren’t even a thing.
I can’t even fathom the pressure and competition Miss Biles faces on a regular basis. Hell even Olympic judges admit they don’t know how to score her because she sets the bar at impossible levels with her skill and technicality. Not to mention the sponsorship, the “role model” status, being considered the GOAT by the industry. Oh and did I mention she’s a sexual assault survivor and advocate? No it wasn’t some drunken misunderstanding. It was at the hands of her team doctor, a trusted member of her team, who molested many young female athletes for years.
Every time I was raped I could hardly function the next day, but this young athlete went on to dominate the world stage. Her strength, commitment, and dedication pushed through to one win after another. Until it didn’t.
Simone Biles screwed up her vault and dropped out of the all-around gymnastics team for the USA. Her critics want to shame her for giving up at the first sign of weakness, claiming she has “shamed her country”, and “doesn’t understand what it means to be American”.
The reality… she had a case of “the twisties”, google it. What could have led to injury or career ending paralysis, if not life ending injury, Simone stood up and said I need some time. She made the choice to withdraw for her own mental health and wellbeing, and in my belief for the betterment of her team.
In the off chance you’re American and reading this, newsflash Sunisa Lee, another minority American, is bringing home the gold. So American’s didn’t lose their world standing because Simone withdrew. You’re still on top, you can still celebrate, you’re just going to be celebrating a different woman.
No I find Miss Biles an inspiration to athletes, women and men alike. She had the courage to compete despite the repeated assaults. She had the courage to train and dominate across the world stage, despite the pressures from every direction. Most importantly she had the courage to stand up and step away when she need to. You can’t convince me that didn’t take courage. Sure as a team mate you can think “Simone’s got in the bag so we will take home the gold no matter what”, but what about witnessing a career ending injury for her before your next effort? I can only imagine the devastation.
Lets face it, and no offence to Simone, but by removing the GOAT her team mates actually had a chance, and Sunisa Lee delivered. Would that young woman have made it competing against Miss Biles? I watched her performance and she was certainly a contender, but team spirit only goes so far when you’re pitted against one another.
As I’ve said, I’ve never been an athlete. I’ve never even attempted to compete on a world stage, let alone a local one. But I am familiar with being a sexual assault survivor and someone who struggles with mental health on a daily basis. I can only say that the level of pride I hold for Miss Simone Biles, 30 Olympic and World Championship athlete at 24 years old, is immeasurable. This young will go on to do incredible things whether she competes again or not. She is breaking barriers for athletes, survivors, and mental health awareness across the world. Critics of this spectacular woman be damned, she is the GOAT of all that she touches. Some would say she has the Midas Touch. Regardless of whether I will ever be at her level, ever in my life, she is a woman the world is looking up to right now and I, like so many others, bow at her might. Good luck Simone wherever life takes you, and to those who are paying attention… learn something from this incredible young woman, she exceeds all expectations and we should all be grateful for that.