During these Olympic Games in London, there has been a lot of discussion regarding covered female athletes.
Much has been seen and heard of Wojdan Shaherkani and Sattar Attar, and their historic roles as the first to female athletes to represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have had to adhere to regulations of proper covering from their country. They have competed in full- if altered, hijab.
There are other athletes getting much publicity for their choice of clothing as well.
This week, Tunisian runner Habiba Ghribi, won a Silver medal in the 3000m steeple chase event.
She is the first woman to ever win a medal for Tunisia. Ghribi is Muslim and does not wear hijab.
Her glory and new found celebrity have also had an effect on Tunisia’s political climate.Ghribi is unabashedly proud of her accomplishments and interested in ameliorating the status of women in Tunisia in their proposed Constitution. Currently it states that women are “complementary” rather than “equal” to men.
Her competitive attire has been used by various political parties as a central argument. More orthodox Muslims from the Ennahda Party have stated that by running “virtually naked” she is offending them and the country.
“We should strip the nationality of she who has dishonoured Tunisia with her nudity and debauchery..” proclaimed an angry man via facebook.
Her running outfit consists of a fitted athletics top and running shorts. Tunisia does not require athletes representing their country to adhere to a specific uniform while competing.
Ibrahim Kassas, an independent MP from the Al Aridha party retorted: “The underpants of Habiba Ghribi have honoured us,What have Ennahda MP’s underpants done for us?”
As interesting as it sounds, the discussion involving Ghribi’s outfit (not underpants but Olympic sanctioned uniform for athletic events) is offensive from all sides.
To use her outfit and not her obvious brilliance, exploits this athlete and reduces her accomplishments.
Habiba Ghribi may have chosen to wear a hijab or pants while competing. She did not. The situation of her countrywomen wouldn’t necessarily have improved because of it. She is a Tunisian, a women and a medalist nonetheless.
Tunisian politicians are using a situation of pride and joy for the people to bolster their own agendas.
Feminist groups are interested in improving the status of women in Tunisia at risk with the new proposed text for possible Constitution. It would destroy the essence of women’s equality currently protected by Tunisia’s Code of Personal Status (CSP).
Ghribi has been competing for over a decade ago and has been dedicated to better her position Internationally. Her achievements have nothing to do with clothing. They are a choice to represent her homeland and provide inspiration for thousands of young women, while pushing . her physical limits to excel.
The Arab Spring ignited in Tunisia in 2010. Much work has been done and will continue to be done including cementing a place for women in the social and political sphere. To reduce the rebuilding of women’s position in society by using the “underpants” of a decorated athlete is unfair.
If Ghribi wants to propel a movement based on her dedication, she has enough confidence, courage and strength to stand in the face of adversaries and with comrades and do it herself- with or without “underwear”.
“This medal is for all the Tunisian people, for Tunisian women, for the new Tunisia”- Habiba Ghribi, London Olympics 2012
-Shireen Ahmed * with notes from http://www.france24.com/en/20120808-tunisia-runner-ghribi-women-rights-equality-compliment-constitution-ennahda-olympic-games