Grace Dent: Snowboarder Jenny Jones gave such a brilliant display of young womanhood that I’m glad Britain didn’t boycott Sochi

This is a femininity we rarely see on screen. It’s only really allowed during the Olympics

Share

During the women’s Slopestyle snowboarding runs on Sunday my sang froid over Sochi 2014 melted slightly. Not wholly. Over the past 12 months I would gladly have supported David Cameron, Helen Grant MP and various BBC commentators in telling Putin to shove his “gays will be tolerated, just leave our kids alone” mantra where the winter sun does not set.

Let’s boycott Sochi entirely, I thought. Pull all Team GB out. Confiscate their skis. Take away those sweepy-sweep implements for that ice-rink polishing game that only 12 women in Gretna understand. What a Sochi boycott might solve or accomplish I had no solid answer to, aside from my base, non-cerebral belief that in the face of blatant homophobia - or anti-semitism, or racism  - it is always better to deliver a crisp clear “F*** you”, than an “Ooh, you are awful”.

However, preventing Jenny Jones from snowboarding for Great Britain as she did this weekend would not – I’m quite sure  – deter the likes of gutter-dwelling numbskull Katya Zigunova – seen on Channel 4’s excellent documentary Hunted –  from staging one of her homophobic “safaris”. The ones where Katya lures gay men to be beaten and violated by thugs.

Katya’s ideas of gender, sexuality and “normality” are medieval. Her beliefs about what a woman’s life is limited to or what a “real man” should be is formed by thousands of years of closed minds and religious bigotry. The fact that, into this knuckle-dragging mess, the BBC sent one of our national-treasure lesbians – Clare Balding - to be one of the lynchpins of proceedings vibrated with a rather delicious irony.

And as I watched Jenny Jones and the other women compete I thought that we may have lost face in the battle against homophobia –  as I write there has been no volte face from Sochi’s mayor Anatoly Packhomov over his ‘there are no homosexual citizens in Sochi’ comedy routine – but there are gains for civilisation in other forms. Because when Jones and women like her take the world’s stage dressed in clothes so padded that no outline of their figures or elements of their flesh can be seen, they fly in the face of everything we know to be crucial about women in the pubic eye.

They are sexless, risk-loving and, crucially, fully-clothed. These are fearless, wantonly prize-driven, stubbornly danger-loving women who have often eschewed marriage and maternal instincts for a greater purpose that really only they understand. This is a femininity we rarely see on screen. We allow it really only during the Olympics and then with the quashing of the flame we’re satisfied once again by Miley Cyrus “pushing the boundaries” of what a woman can be by appearing nude or simulating sex with a PVC-clad dwarf.

I enjoyed the interview on Radio 4 with Jones’s mother yesterday as she admitted that Jenny hadn’t even told her parents that she’d started snowboarding until the point she was competing and winning prizes. Jones simply went on holiday to a ski resort and never came back. Her mother  brims with pride about her daughter’s lifestyle now, but I empathised with the idea of a young woman who dreamed far outside of the box of what her gender should achieve and felt no-body would really comprehend.

Jones will go down in the record books as the first British athlete to win a medal on snow in 90 years of Winter Olympic history. At 33, she is the oldest Slopestyle competitor, having supported herself through this long journey by working in a doughnut shop, a bar and a cardboard factory. Jones has weathered a serious back injury and ligament damage only to return again and again because she just loves mountains, cold weather and the feeling of being slightly superhuman.

We could have stopped her visiting Sochi as a two-fingers aloft to the homophobes, but in that minor gain would have come at the expense of seeds of goodness. Of course we could always still boycott the curling. It’s just housework and squealing anyway. No wonder it’s popular with women.

Read more:
BBC receives more than 300 complaints over Jenny Jones snowboarding commentary
That’s our Jenny Jones - the first British snow angel

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness