Fairness fades away as Laurel Hubbard lifts the ‘Oppression Olympics’ gold medal

OPINION: Kiwis love an underdog. It is a point of pride for our small nation to see ourselves punching above our weight on the world stage. The sports-mad among us love the mana that the All Blacks command all over the world and that we are known not only for our sporting prowess, but for being good sports too.

We don’t like unfairness, or bad sports. Perhaps that’s why the Aussie under-arm bowl and George Gregan’s “four more years, boys” taunt linger in our collective consciousness.

There is potential that another sporting travesty will begin to haunt us should 42-year-old transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the women’s category despite considerable unfair biological advantage. No amount of willful blindness will prevent the injustice being broadcast on the world stage.

To be fair, Hubbard is only doing what the rules allow. Our condemnation should not be directed at one individual, but rather at the governing bodies that have failed to protect women’s sport against the unreasonable demands of lobby groups. The pressure generated by trans activists has been immense and sporting organisations are far from the only ones to have been captured.

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These same activists are often the first to compete in the ‘Oppression Olympics’. They measure everyone by how privileged they supposedly are and it is always a race to the bottom; the most oppressed wins, the most privileged gets shouted at.

However, they like to shift the goalposts to keep us all on our toes, so some oppressions carry more weight than others. That is why despite being brown where Hubbard is white, living in a shelter while Hubbard’s father is a wealthy ex-politician, and being a female survivor of sexual abuse, Samoan Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers can manage only a silver medal in these Oppression Olympics. Laurel Hubbard is transgender, so that is the oppression trump card — cue the New Zealand national anthem.

An underdog that will no doubt endear herself to Kiwis should she not be robbed of a spot at the Olympics this year, 19-year-old weightlifter Stowers spent five years living at Samoa Victim Support Group’s (SVSG) Campus of Hope.

SVSG began a partnership with the Samoa Weightlifting Federation in 2015 where some of the young female survivors of violence took up the sport as part of their rehabilitation. Stowers thrived with weightlifting as her focus and at just 17 years-old she became Commonwealth Games champion.

The Samoan Observer called her “a ray of hope for young girls and women who might be going through what she had to overcome”.

A true battler and a worthy champion, the truth is she likely only managed her Commonwealth gold medal because Hubbard sustained an injury. Had Hubbard competed it is probable that Stowers would have collected silver, as was the case some months later at the Pacific Games in July 2019.

At the Pacific Games, organising committee chairman Loau Solamalemalo Keneti Sio expressed the frustration many felt, he was reported saying, “We all know that it is not fair to the women lifters but that is a reality we face in the world of sports. The rules have changed and we cannot deviate from these rules.”

Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi echoed this sentiment saying, “I questioned the legitimacy of allowing transgender to lift with women. It is not easy for the female athletes to train all year long to compete and yet we allow these stupid things to happen.”

At the same Pacific Games, American Samoan fielded fa’afafine footballer Jaiyah Saelua in the men’s team in a display of true support for accepting those who present outside of “normal” gender roles.

I am tentatively optimistic that tides may be changing though, as a number of young women in the US have launched civil action in regards to transwomen competing in women’s sport.

World Rugby has just concluded a conference dedicated to reviewing its own policies in this area. Reassuringly, the conference was attended by advocates for women including Nicola Williams of Fair Play For Women and Dr Emma Hilton. While we are still awaiting the outcome of the conference, the shift towards listening to women has been noticed.

However, the tide is unlikely to turn fast enough for the Tokyo Olympics and should Feagaiga Stowers​ and Laurel Hubbard both qualify, I know I will be cheering for the underdog.

* Ani O’Brien is the spokeswoman for Speak Up for Women New Zealand

Originally published at https://www.stuff.co.nz.