Gymnastics has historically been a showcase for a certain kind of femininity: We reward girl athletes who are small, pretty and compliant, who smile disarmingly and don’t complain, while winning...Biles, the reigning U.S. national champion and arguably the greatest gymnast of all time, shows that it doesn’t have to be like this, after all.
Of the few iconic women, sponsors and fans, to a certain degree, want them to be perfect — or at least quiet. Women’s moral behavior deeply influences our perception of their professional achievements. Women literally cannot afford to make the messy mistakes we see in the long arc of a lot of a storied male athletes’ careers, and they rarely get the payoffs.
Flanagan’s leadership style doesn’t fit the “girl boss” leadership archetypes that are flourishing in pop culture, the Ivanka Trump feminism, with its shallow claims of support for women, that yields no results. (Ms. Trump’s kind of feminism may attract cheers at races, but it does not win them.) Flanagan does not just talk about elevating women; she elevates them. And they win.