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Progress toward equality at Olympics, but more needed

It's been pointed out that of the United States' medals won at the London Olympics, the majority were earned by women.

Of the 104 total medals won by the U.S., women earned 58 of them. They won 29 of the 46 golds.

Those numbers barely even touch upon the remarkable individual performances that made the numbers possible.

Gabby Douglas became the first woman of color to win an Olympic all-around gymnastics title, and the soccer team won nailbiter after nailbiter until it had gold. The women's 400-meter relay team put in a captivating world-record performance, capped by Carmelita Jeter pointing the baton at the clock, half out of surprise and half as if to say, "Look what we just did!"

It can be hard to know what to make of the medal totals. A lot of factors go into who gets what medal, and all you can ask is for athletes to try their best. In that light, American women -- who outnumbered men on the U.S. team -- were amazing.

These Olympics were billed, in part, as a games of equality. For the first time, every participating country brought women to the games.

But it's important not to feel satisfied, because for how much progress has been made, there is so much more to go.

And the fight for progress shouldn't stop until a time when someone like Douglas isn't criticized for how her hair looked, as she was after she won gold.

And it shouldn't stop until people consider South African Caster Semenya a runner, full stop, not that it's unfair or strange for her to run with women because she isn't feminine enough.

Women, like men, come in many shapes and sizes and appearances, and those women are capable of performing some remarkable feats.

But you might not know that if you watched the much-discussed video from NBC titled "Bodies in Motion." It intended to show Olympic women in action, but it was mostly a series of thin women participating in acceptably feminine sports wearing acceptably feminine outfits.

What it didn't show were boxers, wrestlers, weightlifters, or women with unconventionally feminine body types. I suppose NBC never heard of Claressa Shields or Holley Mangold.

And the fight for progress shouldn't stop until people consider all women with the same esteem. Over and over again, it's been shown that women are not taken as seriously, as athletes, as men are -- both socially and structurally.

Early on in the games, U.S. wrestler Kelsey Campbell explained that she got into the sport on a dare. She thought she could handle high school wrestling, and a few of her guy friends said she couldn't last more than two weeks.

Campbell ended up lasting the whole season, even though she had people betting against her and a coach who "in the beginning didn't really even want me in the room."

Luckily, the coach changed his mind and told her about a women's state tournament, where she reached the final with a series of pins.

"I still wasn't really that good. But that was when I realized I have some potential in this sport," she said. "I could do this. This could be my sport."

But while she found her way to the Olympics, it shouldn't have to be that hard or circuitous for a woman to get into a sport if she wants to.

But wrestling isn't the only sport where women need to be taken seriously and supported on equal terms.

In cycling, the large majority of television and news coverage, as well as sponsorship dollars, go toward men's teams. More than a few cyclists have spoken about it, including British cyclist Elizabeth Armitstead.

After she took silver in an exciting road race, Armitstead spoke about the overwhelming and frustrating sexism she's experienced in her career. She's 23. The progress shouldn't stop until Armitstead doesn't feel the need to do that.

Nor should it stop until Saudi judoka Wojdan Shaherkani, who was told she couldn't compete while wearing a hijab until a collection of organizations told her something else, has the option of making that decision on her own.

Women shouldn't be forever compared with men. They shouldn't have to be the same. They shouldn't have to be anything or do anything in particular, and that's the point.

With true equality, women would have the same options, conditions for success, support and respect that every person deserves. They'd have freedom of choice.

It doesn't happen overnight, but it doesn't happen on its own. And that's why, after the medals were tallied and the curtain fell on the London Games, the athletes could rest. The rest of us shouldn't.