Russian gymnast Angelina Melnikova, the 2017 European champion on floor and a member of Russia’s silver medal-winning Rio Olympic team, recently posted several pictures of herself wearing a t-shirt that reads, “Everybody Should Be A Feminist.” At a time when grandmothers are wearing pink “pussy hats,” this hardly seems like an extreme statement.
But the Russian Olympic Committee felt the need to unpack Melnikova’s Instagram post. In a tweet, they wrote, “She may be a feminist but still, [she’s] pretty and talented.”
(Melnikova herself denied being a feminist underneath one of the photos of herself wearing the offending “feminist” shirt.)
According to the Russian gymnastics site Gymnovosti, the term “feminist” doesn’t enjoy the widespread acceptance in Russia as it does in the U.S. and other places, hence the ROC’s attempt to reassure fans that Melnikova is still talented and beautiful despite wearing the F-word across her chest. Someone needs to inform the ROC that Beyoncé performed onstage underneath a giant, lit up iteration of the word so I think we can probably say that “feminist” no longer strictly suggests bra burnings, hairy armpits, and radical politics. And if “feminist” is good enough for Beyoncé, it should definitely work for 16-year-old Russian gymnasts.