Women have yet to find peace from harmful gender ideologies and treatment, so it’s no surprise that sexism and policing women’s bodies plague sports today.
This is displayed in many aspects of competition, especially in the uniforms that female athletes are expected to compete in. Often, women are pushed to compete in body-baring uniforms that reveal more than they’re comfortable with.
In July 2021, the Norwegian women’s handball team was fined 150 euros per athlete for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms and not representing “the ideal presentation of the sport,” officials said.
Similarly, Serena Williams was banned from wearing a full-body suit opposed to a skirt. This was to help with her postpartum blood clotting during the 2018 French Open.
Health concerns aside, William’s decision to bypass wearing a skirt does not harm tennis in any way, just as the Norwegian women team’s refusal to wear bikini bottoms doesn’t ruin the representation of handball.
The absurdity of most women’s uniforms can be identified by simply comparing the standard male uniform to the standard female uniform of the same sport. In track, men wear longer shorts and a tank top, while women typically wear bikini-cut bottoms or short spandex and a cropped tank top.
In tennis, men wear shorts while women wear skirts. In beach volleyball, men wear shorts and women wear bikini bottoms. In gymnastics, the standard uniform for men is a singlet with long pants, while the standard for women is a high-cut leotard.
These patterns and events raise important questions. Are women sports primarily for the male gaze? Is the focus of female athletes more so on their skills or their bodies?
The situation is painfully ironic considering most women are repeatedly told to cover up for most of their lives.
The solution isn’t to make it mandatory for all female athletes to wear extremely covering uniforms, because for every woman who is being criticized for wanting more clothing, there is another woman being shamed for not wearing enough.
The point is to ensure that women are allowed to compete in what they’re comfortable in, without being ridiculed by men.
There are appearance expectations in female athletics that simply don’t exist in men’s sports. It’s not fair and it needs to end now.