But for once, I'm not just all about the hot women. (Though many, many of them are hot. I've seen hot Ukrainian fencers, Aussie swimmers, Kiwi soccer players, Spanish basketball players, Dutch field hockey players, you name it. Need more examples? The incomparable Dorothy Snarker provides a few.)
So in watching these Olympics, glorying in all these amazing female athletes, it strikes me that much of what makes them so attractive – their abilities, their strength, their power – is precisely what is killing women's gymnastics for me. Those women and girls are extremely powerful; they're all muscle. They perform astonishing feats of athleticism and agility. But they have to do it wearing sparkly makeup and hair ribbons, while prancing around and performing these goofy dance moves in between their tumbling skills, and it makes me insane. Obviously, the floor exercise is the worst offender. What's the deal with the music? The men don't have music in their floor exercise. It's got to go. I know that it's called "artistic" gymnastics, and you're never going to be rid of some of this stuff. But a lot of it just feels so archaic and unnecessary next to other women's sports, and even next to men's gymnastics. There's this pervading sense of forced femininity that just bugs me. The men have to do some of the annoying little toe-pointy, arm-flappy moves too, but not nearly as many. For them, it's mostly about the power. I just don't see why it can't be that way for the women too. Why not add the high bar? From the looks of some of their uneven-bar routines, the women have advanced strength- and skill-wise to a point where they could compete in that discipline. Pommel horse and rings, not so much, but high bar seems attainable. Right? Am I crazy?
Don't get me wrong; I still enjoy watching the gymnastics. I was absolutely thrilled for Nastia Liukin (Side note: best name ever, right? Nasty!), and I don't want to belittle their skills in any way. Because they're badass; they're just hampered by the system they compete in. But this isn't 1984 anymore. The phrase "female athlete" doesn't make people think of Mary Lou Retton, it makes us think of Venus Williams. Mia Hamm. Dara Torres. Diana Taurasi. Annika Sorenstam. And yes, Misty May and Kerri Walsh. OK, those two wear bikinis, which I know has some impact on the decision to put all of their matches on NBC, prime time. (I know I'm crossing my fingers for another celebration like '04.) But I like to think that it also has something to do with the fact that they beat the crap out of the volleyball and have laid waste to nearly every opponent in their path for four years solid.