Whether you’re an internationally renowned gymnast or just someone who has seen a gym, the important thing to remember is that all women really are equal.
That means that EVEN winning three Olympic gold medals, twice captaining a team to all-around Olympic victory, and generally being considered one of the greatest American gymnasts of all time will not help you avoid the lecherous and demeaning comments of old men. It certainly didn’t help Aly Raisman.
While presenting an award for most “gentlemanly conduct” at the National Hockey League Awards last night (there is not enough irony left in the world for this), 65 year-old hockey star Marcel Dionne asked the audience to turn their attention away from Raisman’s accomplishments to her legs.
23 year-old Raisman, who is a life-long hockey fanatic, began by describing Hall of Fame-r Dionne as “one of the old greats”. Dionne responded, “Thank you, thank you!” And continued, “And I am excited to be on stage with three-time Olympic gold medalist Look at those legs!” Then Dionne bent down on his knee and dramatically gestured his arm towards Raisman’s legs while the crowd cheered and Raisman laughed uncomfortably.
Now, Aly Raisman’s legs look like they were designed by NASA. And it’s true that Raisman was wearing a sequined mini dress that was literally designed to reveal the gymnast’s legs. So what’s the problem?
We have an @Aly_Raisman sighting at the #NHLAwards. And yes. Old is legendary. pic.twitter.com/KiwXVTbNxM— Renato Mazariegos (@RPMSports18) June 22, 2017
Let’s examine what Dionne did wrong here.
He took a moment when an extremely accomplished athlete was speaking as an opportunity to invite tens of thousands of people to judge her body, as if to suggest that her breathtaking athletic career could be summed up by the sexiness of her body parts
He pronounced the word “Olympic” really weird
If anyone should get an award for this exchange it is Aly Raisman, who acted graciously throughout despite being an avowed advocate against body judgment.
The part of this story that really does not make sense is that giving men awards for being “gentlemen” has not had any measurable effect on the way men treat women. No doubt there is a man somewhere who can heroically look into this phenomenon and give us a long explanation.
Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny.