Surprise! Sexism and racism were alive and well at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. From Sha’Carri Richardson’s ridiculous suspension to the ban on swim caps for natural hair, these acts aren’t surprising but they are disappointing. In spite of the roadblocks, our #FeministFuture shone brightly as women and nonbinary athletes crushed it on the field, the floor, and the court.
Even though not every one of our favorite athletes received a medal, there was no shortage of inspiration, here are some of our favorite feminist moments:
Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles: Mental Health is Health
Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles are two athletes known for their ability to win. But this Olympics it wasn’t just about winning gold. Too often Black women are labeled brave, strong, or courageous, reinforcing the harmful narrative they are indestructible. Osaka and Biles both prioritized their mental health. This was an act of resistance and we’re applauding them for following their own happiness, listening to their bodies, and most importantly rejecting the idea that they have to put themselves at risk for the consumption of others. They both deserved gold for this.
Non-Binary Skateboarder Alana Smith: Unapologetically Themselves
Since the Tony Hawk days, skateboarding presented like it was exclusively for cis-hetero dudes. Not this Olympics! We were stoked to see American skateboarder and first-time Olympian Alana Smith, who identifies as non-binary, at the Tokyo Games. Don’t get us wrong, there’s definitely still a long way to go. Smith was misgendered by broadcasters and competed in the event labeled women’s street skateboarding. Even though they didn’t win, Smith said “out of everything I’ve done, I wanted to walk out of this knowing I UNAPOLOGETICALLY was myself and was genuinely smiling. The feeling in my heart says I did that.” Can’t wait to see them at the next Olympics.
Gymnast Luciana Alvarado: Black Lives Matter Tribute
Gymnastics was probably one of our favorite events and Luciana Alvarado definitely was one reason why. The Costa Rican gymnast was finishing up her floor routine and surprised the audience at the end of her routine by dropping down to one knee and putting her fist in the air. Choreographed herself, Alvarado’s routine smartly subverted the Olympics’ rules against protesting. When asked about her choice, she said “Because we’re all the same… We’re all beautiful and amazing.”
Runner Allyson Felix: Creates Child-care Fund
It’s no secret that parenting is a challenge but especially when you’re an Olympic athlete. Initially, the Olympics decided athletes who breastfeed were not allowed to bring their children with them. In late June this was overturned after several high-profile athletes voiced their disappointment. However, runner and medalist Allyson Felix took this one step further. Felix announced she was creating a $200,000 child-care fund for athletes who are parents. While universal child care is still the goal, Felix’s activism is definitely making a difference.
Norwegian Women’s Beach Handball Team: Dress Code Protest
Did you know that this year handball players’ bikini briefs could not exceed 10 centimeters at the sides? US EITHER. This sexist dress code did not go unnoticed by the Norwegian Women’s Beach Handball team who protested the rule by wearing shorts at their bronze-medal match. For violating this rule, the team was fined 1,500 euros. And this isn’t new. Apparently, the team has been asking for different uniforms for the past 15 years. Here’s to women being able to wear whatever they want. Period.
Tonight marks the end of the Olympics and these athletes have made us proud, reminding us winning isn’t everything. Each of these moments reminded us of the power of culture to move the needle; these athletes are doing their part to bring us all closer to racial, economic, and gender justice.
Whether it was simply showing up as their full selves or using their platform to ignite conversations and spark culture change, these athletes were there for more than just a medal. As the Olympics come to a close, let’s celebrate!