Gender Equality and the Tokyo Games

 In Featured, Pastor Jeff's Blog

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27

At the first modern Olympic games, held in Athens in 1896, there wasn’t a single female competitor. That changed in 1900 at the Games in Paris, the first Olympics to have female athletes. And the percentage of female athletes has steadily grown:


1900 Games in Paris – 2.2%
1964 Games in Tokyo – 13.2%
1984 Games in Los Angeles – 23%
2016 Games in Rio – 45%

The 2020 Tokyo Games mark a turning point as the most gender-equal Olympics, with women accounting for nearly 49% of the 11,090 athletes.

That’s worth celebrating! But before we could uncork the champaign we were hit with “The Bikini Controversy”. In case you missed it, the Norwegian Women’s beach volleyball team was fined for not wearing bikini bottoms during a match. They dared to wear spandex shorts instead. Never mind that the Men’s beach volleyball teams are allowed to wear shorts that are “not too baggy and 10 centimeters above the kneecap”.

There’s still a lot of work to be done in the realm of gender equality. And the Church has a role to play. Not just because we believe that men and women are created equally in the image of God, but because the Church has subtly and not-so-subtly marginalized women, barring them from leadership roles, telling them what they can and cannot do with their bodies and insisting upon submission and silence. Some denominations still do.

We can do better. And we must. Because the body of humanity isn’t whole until all people enjoy equality.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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