You Don't Know How Sexist Gymnastics Is Until You See The Rules Side By Side

by Alexandra Svokos
REUTERS/USA Gymnastics

If you watched the men's gymnastics finals for floor exercise from the Olympics on Sunday, you may have noticed something curious.

Unlike women, men complete their floor exercises with no music playing.

The men also don't dance or wink, and only a few competitors smile after finishing a tumbling pass.

Women's floor exercise, on the other hand, features all of that.

Just do a quick comparison of Laurie Hernandez's floor routine to Max Whitlock's, who won gold in the event on Sunday:

Who else smiled the entire time they watched this? = us watching @lzhernandez02. — NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 10, 2016

(The video of Whitlock's routine here is not from the Olympics. You can find that here.)

Aside from when she's flipping, Hernandez beams throughout the performance. She shimmies around and moves to the music blaring over the speakers.

And Whitlock? He's just doing a bunch of elements in a row.

Men rush from element to element during their floor exercise for two reasons. First, they only have 70 seconds to perform (compared to the 90 seconds for women), so they have to get as many moves in as possible in that short period of time.

Second, men don't have any need to do anything special between elements, like a little dancing.

Women, on the other hand, are required to do something special in addition to the more purely gymnastic elements.

Here are the first two sentences in how USA Gymnastics describes the men's floor exercise:

The entire floor area should be used during the exercise, which consists primarily of tumbling passes performed in different directions. Acrobatic elements forward and backward and acrobatic elements sideward or backward take-off with one-half-turn must be performed during the routine.

Compare that to how USA Gymnastics describes the women's floor exercise:

The floor exercise gives gymnasts the chance to express their personalities through their music choice and choreography. Gymnasts often get energy from the crowd and they usually welcome audience participation in clapping to the beat.

As described by USA Gymnastics, the men's floor exercise is all about doing gymnastics.

The women's floor exercise is all about expressing your personality.

Mind you, NBC commentator Tim Daggett once said of Simone Biles,

She does passes late in the routine that many guys can't do in their opening tumbling run.

But in between those crazy passes, Biles has to bop around and get the crowd on her side.

Aly Raisman's floor exercise is memorable not only for her ridiculous opening pass, but for the crowd clapping to the beat (until they very quickly get off beat) of her Russian mix music.

Because, of course, it's not enough for a woman to be dominant in her field.

A woman has to be dominant in her field while also expressing a dazzling personality and getting people to like her.

A woman can't just be good at what she does. She also has to be likable. She also has to smile through her work.

And if you think for a minute a woman can stop smiling, just ask Gabby Douglas what people will think.

I'm not out here saying music and dancing should be cut from women's gymnastics. The music and dancing makes the floor exercises that much more fun to watch, which helps get these women more of the attention that they deserve.

But I just want to know why men aren't required to do the same.

It's not like men can't dance.

And if you want to make the argument that men don't have time between practices to learn a few dance moves, maybe ask the women how they manage their time and multitask.

Given that the women are already doing it, it shouldn't be too hard to change the rules so men's floor routines are 90 seconds as well.

But we all know, at least in the United States, men have problems dancing in public because dancing is seen as a "feminine" thing to do. So maybe the male gymnasts just can't handle it.

As Cosmopolitan pointed out, male gymnasts don't even have the courage to wear sparkly or metallic uniforms. Head designer for gymnastics outfits Kelly McKeown told Cosmo she's asked them about it. But, she said,

They're like, 'Nope! Don't want that!' They want to be very manly and masculine.

Men's gymnastics is largely ignored in the United States (be honest with me, casual Olympic gymnastics fan, how many male gymnasts can you name off the top of your head?).

That may be because they are far less dominant at the sport than the women (bless you, Márta Károlyi). But maybe that's also because men's gymnastics is so much less fun to watch.

Perhaps if the men dressed themselves up, put on some music and did a shimmy, America would pay more attention to them.

The men should really smile more.

Citations: NBC, USA Gymnastics, The Undefeated, BBC, Cosmopolitan, Vice