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Jessie Willms is an audience growth editor at The Globe and Mail.

Starting from age four, when I refused to run after the ball during soccer and my dad thought T-ball might be a better fit, I have played softball – or some form of it – every summer. I’m not the greatest player on the field, but rec sports have been a constant part of my life.

In my teens, I played fast-pitch softball and later joined rec-league co-ed softball and slow-pitch teams. In 2019, I played for five teams, biking across Toronto some summer nights to play multiple games. This year, it’s been a relief to participate in a safe outdoor activity. But while I do love playing softball, I can’t say it doesn’t have a downside.

Take, for instance, an incident a few weeks ago, when a player from the opposing team apologized for a relatively hard-hit grounder he sent my way. “Didn’t mean to hit it at you,” he said, even though I was clearly a person on the field with a glove, playing the game like I knew what I was doing.

And it’s not the first comment to irk me. Men asking if I understand the rules (as if I haven’t played for decades). Men – and it is universally men – explaining a play (as if I haven’t seen every play over my many seasons). Men referring to women on the team as “girls” (as if we are not in our thirties). Never have I heard men apologize to other men for a hard-hit ball or compliment them for understanding the basics of a sport they paid money to play.

These tiny comments, which amount to casual misogyny, underline the dominance of men in sport, and reinforce that, even on a co-ed team where the stakes could not be lower, we cannot be equals. Who are sports for? Too often the answer is: men.

So it comes as no surprise that in Tokyo, it’s not just athletics on display. Sexism, that pervasive force of minor (my rec league complaints) and major grievances, is all too apparent.

If you need convincing, a refresher of recent events: Ahead of the Games, Norway’s women’s beach handball team was fined by the European Handball Federation for not wearing bikini bottoms, opting instead for shorts (nearly identical to the men’s). Caster Semenya couldn’t defend her 800-meter medal in Tokyo because her naturally elevated levels of testosterone exceeded the limits placed on female athletes. Some Muslim women in sport still face hijab bans or are forced to uncover to participate. Some breastfeeding athletes couldn’t bring their kids, who literally depend on them to sustain life, to Tokyo. Paralympian Olivia Breen reported her frustration after an official at the English Championships (just before the Games) said her shorts were “too short and inappropriate.”

Too short, not short enough. Too covered, not covered enough. Too feminine, not feminine enough. These ever-shifting “rules,” set by sports federations led largely by men, reinforce the notion that women – and their bodies – exist for male judgment.

As Hannah Smith wrote in the Independent in 2016 during the Rio Olympics, “women’s bodies, and the way those bodies are dressed, is still seen as public property, or more accurately the property of the patriarchy.”

Policing the attire of female athletes, of course, is nothing new. As Vanessa Friedman writes in The New York Times, there have long been attempts “to make it more female or less; to hide the body because it may be too enticing for men to see or to show it off to entice men to pay to see it; to play down the idea of power and raise the idea of clichéd femininity.”

Now, consider the position of non-white female athletes. “When news of the Norwegian beach handball drama broke on social media, thousands of people commented about how awful the situation was. And it is horrible,” writes Shireen Ahmed in TRT World. “The thought of a woman’s bodily agency being compromised should be enough to enrage the public. But for Muslim and racialized women, exclusion and forced uncovering have been a reality for a very long time.”

Sexism in sport also shows up in the unequal billing of major events. According to UNESCO, women make up 40 per cent of all participants in sport. But for the intervals between Olympics, women’s sports are virtually ignored. On average, women’s sports garner just four per cent of print and broadcast coverage. These Games, where 49 per cent of competitors are women, offer a rare moment when attention is paid to female athletes and their accomplishments.

At least some progress has been made. During qualifiers, Germany’s gymnastics team wore full-body unitards (similar to the male uniform), in a bid to push back against the sexualization of their bodies. In badminton, women wore loose-fitting attire, including skorts and leggings, while Iran’s Soraya Aghaei Hajiagha wore a dress, leggings and a hijab in her match. (The International Olympic Committee also released guidelines for “gender-equal and fair representation” at the Games. The suggestions include giving equal exposure to male and female athletes, highlighting diversity and focusing on athletic prowess over looks. The document, while welcome, is the very least the governing body of a billion-dollar event could possibly do in the push for gender equity.)

Watching female athletes push back to wear what they want is gratifying. And it should be recognized as a step in the right direction – but as only that: a tiny bit of progress. After all, for men, it’s not even a point of consideration – nor should it be. What athletes wear has virtually nothing to do with their abilities.

Of course, sexism in sport won’t be solved entirely with a neutral perspective on women’s bodies or their attire. It won’t close the pay gap or equalize coverage of male and female events. But allowing female athletes to be the arbiters of their own dress is the least sports entities can do to return ownership of their own bodies to women. Then maybe we can finally talk more about their talent and not what they wore.

What else we’re thinking about:

Back in March, 2020, I set a goal to learn to drive by my thirtieth birthday in June. Then came COVID-19, and the cancellation of many plans. And while I don’t even want to own a car for environmental reasons, not having it as an occasional option makes some things (moving furniture, accessing nature) harder. So I was thrilled when Ask Umbra, the excellent advice column from the Grist, said learning to drive isn’t necessarily the climate crime I had imagined. Umbra explains, as many experts have, that climate change won’t be solved by individual action. Instead, “It will be solved by hundreds of millions of people forcing the government and other institutions to dismantle fossil fuel infrastructure and replace it with cleaner, more equitably distributed alternatives.” So yes, I am going to get my driver’s license. Now can someone explain which pedal is the brake?

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This is the weekly Amplify newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web or someone forwarded this e-mail newsletter to you, you can sign up for Amplify and all Globe newsletters here.