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Sport Appeal, Not Sex Appeal: Insanely Sexist Memes We Still Can’t Get Over

·4 min read

With the Tokyo Games in full swing, social media is awash with images of athletes as they compete and score medals. But, among the numerous posts are ones that are worth much more than an eye roll.

Misogyny is so deeply ingrained that many men cannot praise women for their achievements unless they simultaneously also degrade another woman in the process.
Misogyny is so deeply ingrained that many men cannot praise women for their achievements unless they simultaneously also degrade another woman in the process.

Mirabai Chanu made India proud by winning the silver medal in weightlifting in the women’s 49kgs category. But apparently, someone somewhere felt the need to compare her to an image of Anushka Sharma. The point of comparison here is a little sketchy, is it the clothes? Do sports women not sit in restaurants and eat? Trying to find logic in this would be akin to finding a glass needle in a haystack.

It just goes to show that many men cannot praise women for their achievements unless they simultaneously also degrade another woman in the process. Misogyny is so deeply ingrained that this behaviour shows up not just in everyday life but also in online spaces.

What makes a female athlete more worthy of respect compared to any other women?
What makes a female athlete more worthy of respect compared to any other women?

It’s an interesting juxtaposition we see here where men somehow have forgotten that they are the primary set of the population that sexualizes women. When a woman tries to monetize this objectification or gain popularity from it, they are suddenly seen as immoral or something that they should not be proud of.

It was Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud who coined the term ‘Madonna-Whore complex’ which refers to the division of women into two neat categories. One is “nurturing and self-sacrificing, while the other is seen as sexual or degraded.

In this case, the female athlete is deemed worthy of respect, placed on a pedestal because she is an achiever who is representing the country. While the other is just a woman living her life and is somehow considered not as “respectable”.

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This also extends to women in the army, women in science and tech who have been compared to women in cinema or fashion, industries which may not have the same ‘self-sacrificing or patriotic’ aspect as the former.

Misogyny is not just limited to athletes.
Misogyny is not just limited to athletes.

The bottom line here is that these women are competing in a world-class event, or fighting in the army or just existing as human beings and the last thing they need is validation from sexist strangers.

Who defines real feminism?

Another common meme format shows female athletes competing in one panel and women in the other panel indulging in mundane activities like putting on makeup with the text, This is what real feminism looks like - implying that participating in athletics somehow makes you more of a feminist.

All we want to know is why a sexist meme maker is trying to define what is and isn’t real feminism. For women in a country like India, who have to fight tooth and nail against patriarchy to be “allowed” to do anything from leaving the house to get an education, simply the acting of existing is a feminist act for most.

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And of course, if the comparison games weren’t enough, we also have anons on the interwebs telling world-class athletes that they’re wasting their “prime fertile years” as if we didn’t have enough uncles and aunties saying that in real life.

We’re just left wondering when these kinds of pointless memes and arguments will be targeted towards male competitors. [Our guess is probably never.] Until then, here’s a quick laugh for all of us who are tired of it.

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(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)

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