Why Do We Have to Split All Olympic Sports by Sex?

Men and women are different. You don’t have to take that from me, ask any standup comedian in the 90’s. Beyond personality though, nature has designed the bodies of men and women differently. And that’s because each has a biological role to play in our society. Both men’s and women’s bodies are beautiful in that sense. Both can do different things well. But there are some things that both should be able to do about equally. Which sort of makes you wonder: Why do we have to split all Olympic sports by sex?

Now the emphasis above is on “all” because there are many Olympic sports where it makes perfect sense to split the competition into a men’s and a women’s division. Weightlifting is an obvious choice. There are some amazing female weightlifters that can lift far more than I can (see below). But they would still not be very competitive if grouped with men. So here having two divisions makes sense. We can celebrate the physical accomplishments of both sexes and be equally amazed by both.

But there are a number of sports where splitting by sex doesn’t seem to have any ties to a physical difference between the sexes that would get in the way of fair competition. Shooting sports are probably the best example. Is there anything about the male or female form that would make one more suited for firing an air rifle? This is what the competition looks like:

Once again, the people in these competitions are tremendously talented and are far better at what they are doing here than I would ever be, whether that’s the male or female Olympic shooters. But that’s the whole point. Why would this be a sport we feel the need to separate by sex? Why not let the best compete against the best regardless of sex? The same argument could be made for archery (though draw strength does factor in more in that event).

Surprisingly, this used to be the case. For a number of years shooting events were “mixed” or “open”. Somewhat ironically, it was the success of Margaret Thompson Murdoch in the 1976 games (an open competition) that prompted the creation of separate women’s events. Perhaps the men wanted to make sure they wouldn’t be shown up again?

A counter argument to eliminating the men’s and women’s separate events may be that if we lumped the competitions in a sport like shooting, it might mean that one sex may not be as well represented for reasons other than talent, be those political or sociological.  And that may well be the case.

We contend that as long as women are being allowed to compete there is no crisis at hand that need be dealt with immediately. But we encourage further consideration into when we should have competition “by sex”, and when it should be allowed to be pure competition.

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