iGIANT Youth Ambassadors Respond: Gender in Gymnastics

If you’re keeping up with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, congregating the world’s most decorated athletes in their respective sport, many unprecedented matters have arisen among gymnastics’ historically top competitors. From mental health prioritization, to the International Gymnastics Federation’s (FIG) 2-per-country rule, and the urgency for one-touch warm-ups, many contradicting stances are taken from viewers around the world on the esteemed sporting events — versus the international rules.


iGIANT’s Youth Ambassadors (YAs) contributed their input on the following article, "Why women gymnasts compete to music in their floor routines but men don't,” which discusses the differences between men's and women's gymnastic exercises. More specifically, the disparity in individual floor routines (i.e. use of music, varying styles and elements, and expectations in each) is highlighted, which has raised questions throughout the history of the sport. Shared throughout, many of our YAs were able to pinpoint the outmoded standards between gender in gymnastics — unanimously thought to be one of the most physically and mentally taxing sports.



One of our YAs touched upon the expectations and constructs that presently differentiate the competition in women’s and men’s games:


“The expectation that female gymnasts should continue to adhere to the rules of a sport made to fit preconceived gender roles from decades ago should spark absolute outrage. Women are required to perform to recorded music to highlight grace and beauty, unlike men’s routines, which are accompanied by silence, emphasizing strength. Both male and female gymnasts should be measured based on the same standards and females especially should not have to feel limited solely due to their gender.”


With the modern use of music in only women’s gymnastics, a practice executed for a considerable timeline of the sport’s history, a few of our other YAs expressed that the “requirement of music seems antiquated,” falling to closely dovetail with what is most vital for our athletes.


“As we more closely look at the influence of sex in athletics and the Olympic games in recent years, many preexisting structures and rules have been built on the foundation of gender norms that modern society tends to deviate from. With the transition to women also adapting strength as the core focus of their routines, the requirement of music seems antiquated. By establishing a choice for athletes of all genders to perform in music or in silence, the rules of gymnastics can more closely align with the performance and priorities of the athletes.”


“I believe that whether or not somebody wants to use music during their floor routine it should be completely up to them, no matter what gender or sex they are. It came to me as quite a shock that there was an actual rule that did not allow men to perform with music and vice-versa with women, what could this possibly be except the gender bias of women being fragile/delicate, and men being strong. I truly do hope that people can decide if they should perform with or without music; after all, music does not discriminate between people, so why should we?”


With all due consideration, the evolution of gymnastics has been questionable for fervent viewers on the sport’s equality; taken from a general perspective, two of our YAs concluded the following:


“The gymnastics world has evolved considerably from just a simplistic activity in Greek civilization to an Olympus-recognized sport yet the impartial bias against women remains consistent. The expectation of grace and femininity is an idea mentioned in the article and it’s also one that I’ve experienced throughout my life whether it’s to yield to a debate rather than standing my ground or to solely be less loud. These double standards (grasp of music, certain techniques, etc.) in the gymnastics world confines women instead of aiding them to reach their full capacity, but it is up to us to inspire change and break the shackles.”

“The fact that Biles is demonstrating skills that normal men gymnasts cannot do proves that there really isn’t a set limit as to what men and women can accomplish. Like [Georgia Cervin] said, I agree that these expectations based on gender should be eliminated to make gymnastics a more inclusive and ‘progressive’ sport.”


Interested in reading more about the matter? Review the article that our Youth Ambassadors referred to when providing their standpoints on the Olympics’ gendered standards here: https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/31/us/gymnastics-music-male-female-olympics/index.html

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