Female Olympians Are Finally Being Recognized as Women, Not ‘Ladies’

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The 2022 Winter Olympics are modernizing the way they’re addressing female athletes with a seemingly small move for those taking part in figure skating.

Ahead of the Olympic Games in Beijing, which began last week, the International Skating Union announced that it would be rebranding “ladies” figure skating as “women’s” figure skating. The name change stemmed from the International Olympic Committee conducting a gender equity review in 2018, which recommended that “international sport federations use equivalent terminology when referring to men’s and women’s events,” reports NBC News.

Ashley Wagner, a 2014 Olympian and correspondent for Peacock’s Olympic Ice show, told the network: “The equivalent of ‘ladies’ would be ‘gentlemen,’ and the ‘men’s’ event has been the ‘men’s’ event for as long as I know. Bringing in that element of gender equality — no matter how small and superfluous. … It’s a big moment.”

Echoing those sentiments, 2021 U.S. champion and Team USA competitor Mariah Bell said she found the move “awesome.” “Ladies are great, but women are empowered and mature,” she says. Alongside Bell, Team USA is composed of five other American athletes including Alysa Liu, Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, Jason Brown, and Vincent Zhou. 

Olympic figure skating has seen a lot of changes over the years, so it is objectively surprising that “ladies” has only been done away with now, in 2022. As the Advocate noted in a report in 2018, the term “ladies” managed to hold on “throughout suffrage, second- and third-wave feminism, and the record-breaking Women’s Marches.” That said, International Skating Union’s Communications and Media Coordinator Selina Vanier told the outlet at the time that “the ISU was founded in 1892 and since then, the term 'ladies' was included in the ISU Constitution and Regulations.”

“Since then, the term has not been changed and in order for it to change, a proposal has to be made to the ISU Congress [consisting of all ISU Members] who would have to vote in favor of the change,” she wrote then.

Well, as it turns out: The times they are a-changin’.

Tags: olympics, trends

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Rose Low

Rose Low is a writer based in New York, with a background in social media strategy and reporting. She has a Masters from NYU and a love for romantic comedies. See Full Bio

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