Two women made history at the 2012 Olympics for being the first-ever female Saudi Arabians to compete in the Games.
But one of those young women, Wojdan Shakerkai, who competed in judo (and lost), has paid dearly for being a trailblazer: the 16-year-old girl has been lambasted as a “prostitute” by misogynists back home.
The young woman from Mecca was only allowed to compete in the Olympics after she and her father submitted to an agreement that she would wear “correct and approved clothing” that “sticks to Islamic principles” — i.e. a special head scarf approved both by Saudi Arabian officials and the Olympic committee. But that wasn’t enough for anonymous assholes hiding behind fake Twitter accounts: Her father Ali Seraj Shaherkani, a judo referee, told CNN, “After the competition, I returned home, I read on Twitter that somebody said bad words about my daughter. Three people on Twitter accused her of being a prostitute.”
Shaherkani reported these anonymous Twitter feeds to the country’s Ministry of Interior and is hoping for their harsh punishment. “In [our] religion, if anyone accuses a woman of being a prostitute, he has to prove it or receive lashes for punishment,” he told CNN.
While I obviously don’t believe anyone should be whipped for calling mean names, I can’t blame Shaherkani for wanting to stand up for his daughter. Saudi Arabia was one of three countries (Qatar and Brunei are the others) that allowed women to compete in the Olympics for the first-time ever; the 2012 Olympics were also the first-time ever that women’s boxing was a sport. These victories for feminism and human rights should be celebrated!
And yet … there are still those misogynists who will slut-shame history-making competitors like Shakerkai or trash athletic women as “pathetic” and unwomanly.
The small glimmer of hope I have inside is that there are more people in the world like Wojdan Shakerkai, ambitious and groundbreaking, and her father, supportive and proud, than there are the bad ones. Said her papa to CNN, in a quote that brought tears to my eyes, “I want everyone to respect my daughter.”