What Aspects Have Changed for Black Female Athletes?

If there’s a group of athletes that have been discriminated against again and again is black female athletes. The gender divide seems stricter in sports, but the lack of adjustment to black women’s necessities is alarming, especially before the Olympics.

Swim Caps for Natural Black Hair Are Not Allowed

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) concluded that Soul Cap, a black-owned brand designed to support swimmers with afros and long thick hair, will be banned from use in the Tokyo Olympics. Their reason is that the caps “don’t fit the natural form of the head,” which makes many people wondering who’s head is “normal” and who’s head isn’t.

Are Black Athletes More Severely Punished?

The Olympics expect athletes to represent high morals and be good role models for audiences, which is precisely what Sha’Carri Richardson, the fastest woman in the US, was doing.

She has become an icon for little girls who see her as a skilled, stylish, and Sapphic black woman who breaks records.

Sha’Carri was on top of the world until everything fell apart: she tested positive for marihuana. The World Anti-Doping Code strictly prohibits the use of all-natural and synthetic cannabinoids such as those found in cannabis and cannabis products, natural and synthetics THCs, and synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the effects of THC. Other athletes such as the US’ golden boy Michael Phelps has even had his run-ins with weed-related suspensions. Nevertheless, he was still able to perform in the Olympics.

Due to her positive test, Sha’Carri has been suspended for 30 days, which means she’ll miss her Olympic opportunity in Tokyo, and her scores have been nullified.


Dehumanization of Black Women in Sports

The Olympics banned Caster Semenya, Christine Mboma, and Beatrice Masilingi from their respective races because they have naturally high testosterone levels for women. Natural meaning biological, meaning that they aren’t breaking any rules by using steroids or other performance enhancers.

They were banned because they were born with something they’d have to take drugs to change, which is ironic. After all, drugs are banned from the Olympics.

The stories of Semenya, Mboma, Masilingi and even Sha’Carri all come back to one thing: fear. As YouTuber Shanspeare explains in a video regarding the discrimination in the Olympics: “Not fear of their talent or their impact, but fear that stems from the deliberate act of arousing public panic.”

Racist Attacks on Serena Williams

In September of 2018, Mark Knight, a cartoonist for the Australian tabloid Herald Sun, released a drawing of Serena Williams at the US Open with a pronounced mouth reminiscent of minstrel depictions. Serena is portrayed to be irate inconsolable, and violent. In the cartoon, Knight emphasizes Serena’s blackness.

While decorated by wins and awards, Serena’s career has also been accompanied by removing her womanhood. People view Serena as a man. This assumption stems from the tennis player’s physical appearance. She is part of the black women community who have been historically masculinized due to their relation or lack thereof to white beauty standards. Additionally, Serena is also muscular and powerful, which intimidated men. She is not in line with what people consider timid and submissive.

All these black female athletes don’t fit into the eurocentric ideal of what a woman should look and behave like. Nevertheless, each of them is just as capable as any other athlete participating in the Olympics. The spirit of the sport shouldn’t perpetuate stereotypes. Instead, adjusting its rules for minorities should be the first step.

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