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Like many people, I have grown up watching gymnastics on TV, and I’ve always admired the strength and agility of the girls and young women. My attention was especially triggered by the latest controversy regarding the sexual abuse of the American Women’s Olympic team. Most of them were teenagers, not even through puberty, and I didn’t give any thought to their uniforms. It didn’t cross my mind that their choice of uniforms had anything to do with the abuse, and it still doesn’t.
But about a year ago, I saw a floor performance that made me very uncomfortable. The gymnast was a full-blown, mature-bodied woman, and her routine was sexy and (I thought) provocative. I watched the whole routine with a level of perplexity and discomfort, not understanding my reaction. Ever since then, I have questioned the appropriateness of woman’s gymnastic uniforms, and still don’t feel resolved about it.
A couple of years ago, some women from the German gymnastics team decided to make a change in their uniforms to a full body suit:
Per reports, the German Gymnastics Association (DTB) said the outfit change — which Sarah Voss started, followed by her teammates Kim Bui and Elisabeth Seitz — was done to take a stand against sexualization in the sport.
‘We hope gymnasts uncomfortable in the usual outfits will feel emboldened to follow our example,’ Voss told the BBC.
According to BBC, Bui, 32, initially performed in a leotard on Wednesday for the qualifying round. But after seeing Voss, 21, debut a full-body suit, both Bui and Seitz, 27, swapped outfits for the women’s all-around final on Friday.
Of course, the outfits still show nearly every nook, curve, and cranny, but the women are almost fully covered.
But not everyone is happy with changing women’s uniforms:
It’s 2021, but the policing of female athletes’ bodies is a practice that continues to thrive.
The Norwegian women’s beach handball team is in a battle with the sport’s governing bodies to wear less-revealing uniforms. After the team’s repeated complaints about the required bikini bottoms were reportedly ignored, they wore shorts during a recent game in protest and were fined 150 euros (around $175) per player.
Other women’s sports are having these conversations, too.
I realize that opinions about the exposure of women’s bodies depends on the setting: is she in a full bathing suit on the beach? A bikini thong at the pool? Does it matter how old or young she is? Does it matter if she’s appearing as a performer, or a movie star at a movie premiere?
I was intrigued by a candid and well-written article composed by a teenager for her school newspaper:
In the 20th century, efforts were made towards the feminist movement that highlighted how differently women are viewed and treated in the sporting community compared to men. Some athletes claim they were rejected from certain sporting opportunities because their bodies didn’t look ‘efficient enough.’ Doing so goes against Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which states, ‘No person in the United States shall, based on sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.’
Sports should be open to and equal for everyone. All genders should be viewed based on their athletic ability, not appearance or a strict dress code like the one females are obligated to follow. These dress codes currently being enforced should be optional; females should be able to compete in what they feel most comfortable in.
A woman should have the opportunity to choose what coverage and modesty that she wants to adhere to. These decisions should be made by the athlete.
Now there’s a word that has most definitely gone out of fashion: modesty. Does anyone care about dressing modestly anymore?
Or am I too old-fashioned and must accept that just about “anything goes”?Published in