"Part 2! However, I do find gymnastics to be incredibly empowering to women, don't get me wrong! As a follower of the sport, the respect I have for those athletes is never ending. That is why I chose to use it for a psychology final! Your opinion would be greatly appreciated :)"
Hello! :) I do understand what you are talking about. Artistic Gymnastics as a sport is judged by the Code of Points, which is updated every Olympic cycle, or every four years by the FIG, or Federation Internationale de Gymnastique. The CoP itself only addresses appearance on the topic of appropriate attire such as leotards, the no jewelry except for stud earrings rule, etc. Nowhere in the CoP is there a section on makeup or a gymnast’s personal appearance, meaning that a gymnast’s score cannot and will not be influenced because of those reasons. Judges are there to judge gymnastics, not a gymnast’s hairstyle, body shape, or makeup.
The public, however, is another issue. Humans judge on appearance first; that’s just the way we’re wired. They see your face before they see you perform and, unfortunately, that means a lot when the vast majority of the public does not know the intricacies of gymnastics or how to judge it. Because of that, they go back to the one thing they know how to judge: their appearance. They may not know that gymnast x performed better than gymnast y, but they DO know that gymnast x is prettier and has better makeup and a prettier leotard design than gymnast y, so that is what they will fall back on. Even if gymnast y did better, it’s common for the public to say something along the lines of, “Well, at least gymnast x LOOKS better.”
Of course, with all female athletes, the gymnasts are “supposed” to look good. It doesn’t matter to the public that they’re performing the hardest skills in the most difficult sport in the world at the Olympic games; they have to look exceptionally beautiful and perfect while doing so. An example of this would be when Gabrielle Douglas won the Women’s Individual All Around at the Olympics, and the internet suddenly exploded with horrible comments about her hair. Gabrielle Douglas is African American, and was chastised by many for the texture of her hair, the style it was in, and that she wasn’t wearing a wig or a weave. Her accomplishment of being the first African American woman to win an Olympic AA title, a HUGE accomplishment, didn’t matter; her HAIR did.
Even the fans that know gymnastics criticize gymnast’s looks. Shawn Johnson, the winner of the silver medal in the 2008 AA, claimed that Nastia Liukin only won the gold medal in the same competition because of her body type. Johnson is short and muscular, while Nastia is tall for a gymnast and willowy. We still make fun of the Chinese team’s habit of always wearing blue eyeshadow. We have whole blogs dedicated to leotards we do and don’t like. We have confessions blogs where people send in hate confessions about certain gymnasts’ body types, say certain gymnasts look better with or without bangs, etc. We even hold up Mustafina’s Olympic makeup like it’s the holy grail. Even Mckayla Maroney said that the gymnasts definitely “compete” with each other when it comes to whose makeup and leotard is better.
Female athletes are held to a standard of perfection that nobody can achieve. I agree with you that we must try our hardest to reach this standard, and even as we do so, we are still judged and deemed “unworthy.” There is no way to satisfy every single person, so the athlete is really put in between a rock and a hard place. Female athletes do not get nearly as much recognition for the extreme feats they accomplish as they deserve, and it’s all because they have to not only compete in their sport, but also for the audience’s attraction.