Though campaigns have helped win women athletes recognition and the ability to compete in dangerous and traditionally masculine sports (such as ski jumping), women athletes continue to face pressure to hyper-feminize their appearance during and outside of competition.
The latest example of this is the ridiculous move by the Amateur International Boxing Association to force women boxers to compete wearing skirts. Sociological Images has analysis and some pictures of the proposed uniforms.
AIBA asked boxers to trial the skirts, which they said would allow spectators to distinguish them from men, but at last week’s European Championships in Rotterdam only two nations – Poland and Romania – had taken on the alternative outfits[…]
“By wearing skirts, in my opinion, it gives a good impression, a womanly impression,” Poland coach Leszek Piotrowski told BBC Sport. “Wearing shorts is not a good way for women boxers to dress.”
But women boxers are speaking out against the proposed attire. Irish boxing 3-time world champion Katie Taylor told the BBC: “It’s a disgrace that they’re forcing some of the women to wear those mini-skirts. We should be able to wear shorts, just like the men…I won’t be wearing a mini-skirt. I don’t even wear mini-skirts on a night out, so I definitely won’t be wearing mini-skirts in the ring.”
The Toronto Star interviewed Canadian women boxers who echoed Taylor’s sentiments. Mandy Bujold said, “It’s kind of downgrading what we’re doing,” said Bujold. “Why make it different? They’re trying to make us closer to the men’s boxing and saying there’s no differences, but ever since we got into the Olympics they’re changing everything.”
Bujold also pointed out that regulations force women boxers to enter the ring before putting on their headgear “so people will recognize us more.”
In a previous post I wrote about the pressure on women like Caster Semenya to “prove” their femininity, saying:
“Preparing for the 1960 Olympics, US women’s track coach Ed Temple declared he wanted a team of “foxes, not oxes.” And that attitude is clearly persisting today as many women professional athletes report feeling pressured to act and look feminine outside of sport in order to compensate for their “masculine” strength.”
Earlier this year The Badminton World Federation attempted to make a similar change, saying forcing women to wear a skirt would improve public interest in the sport (the new dress code was eventually rejected).
Regardless of whether they’re boxing or figure skating, these women are elite athletes. They’re there to show their strength and compete, not to provide a fantasy for male viewers. But sports associations, especially for the more “masculine” sports seem to think that instead of standing up for their woman participants, they should throw them under the bus by forcing them to compete in impractical outfits.
Don’t even get me started on lingerie football…
Photo via Flickr by nikorimages (Creative Commons)