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

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

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£35-45K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer / Web ...

Recruitment Genius: .NET Web / Software Developer - ASP.NET

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Small and agile digital marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Accountant

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A national firm of chartered ce...

Recruitment Genius: Full Time and Part Time Digital Designer - North Kent

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful web design/deve...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A man enjoys the  

If you really want to legalise cannabis, then why on earth would you go and get high in a park?

Peter Reynolds
 

No wonder 1,000 women a year are getting abortions because of extreme morning sickness. When I was suffering, my doctor said it would 'cure' me

Jo Crosby
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders