A survey conducted by World Athletics makes a disturbing revelation about female athletes in the Tokyo Olympics. According to the survey, they faced 87% of online abuse during the games. Most of the comments targeted at them were sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and xenophobic and were extremely high compared to their male counterparts.
The organisation carried this out to study the level of abuse female athletes faced during this time. Keeping the inferences in mind, the World Athletics Safeguarding Policy will be launched to address the plaguing issue of internet safety and make more rigid rules to combat online abuse. Not only that, the organisation aims to work closely with social media platforms to achieve its goals.
The period chosen for the survey was between July 15 and August 9, starting a week before the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony and ending a day after the Closing Ceremony. A total of 2,40,707 tweets were analysed, consisting of 23,521 images, GIFs and videos and other texts that indicated abuse of any kind. "132 targeted discriminatory posts from 119 authors, with 23 of 161 tracked athletes receiving targeted abuse. Out of the 23 athletes who received abuse, 16 were women, with 115 of the 132 identified abusive posts directed at female athletes," said the survey.
It also added that 63% of the abuse was faced by black female athletes, where the two most common categories were sexist and racist abuses. Many posts included doping accusations, homophobic and transphobic comments too. One of the instances was a serious erotic fixation with a female athlete that added to the triggering content online.
As 65% of the posts online were deemed gravely abusive, World Athletics has demanded intervention from the social media platform in question to flag such posts and prevent them from happening again. "Our goal is to shift the process from being victim-led to a proactive and preventative approach, making athlete's online experience safe, less threatening and less toxic," Signify Group CEO Jonathan Hirshler said. This same company is involved in the database part of the study.
Was Tokyo Olympics Inclusive Enough?
Tokyo Olympics 2021 was considered essential for many reasons. The New York Times reported that almost 49% of 11,000 participating athletes were female, making this the first gender-equal event ever in the Olympics history. Not only that, the Tokyo Olympics broke barriers, with more than 160 LGBTQIA+ athletes making up a significant chunk of the participants.
While the claims exist, several instances and the inferences mentioned above do not paint a good picture. The Norwegian women's beach handball team were fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms at a European championship ahead of the Olympics. It raised significant concerns about moral policing as several people protested against the bizarre move on social media. Germany's women gymnastics team went viral for wearing unitards during qualification to fight against the blatant sexualisation in global sports.
Female athletes around the world are victims of sexualisation. More than their capabilities, they are scrutinised under the 'male gaze' as they are expected to stick to the 'feminine' ideals on the sports field. Compared to the previous years, Tokyo Olympics giving women the' fundamental' right to wear anything is a step in the right direction. However, there is still room for improvement.
They want to make athletics a safe and diverse space without prejudice and sexism that only thrives with talent. In light of this, the World Athletics organisation is committing itself to remove hate speech and other kinds of misconduct prevailing on social media. This will ensure that social media platforms block people who make abusive posts and report severe cases to the concerned authorities.
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