They say clothes make the man, but does clothes make the female athlete?
It has been a hot button issue throughout different women’s sports for the past century. Women have been relegated at one time or another to wear skirts in tennis, golf, and baseball. Now the AIBA is trying out skirts in women’s boxing. According to an article on BBC Sports, during last year’s World Championships, the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) presented competitors with skirts, rather than the usual shorts, which it wanted to “phase in for international competitions”. The AIBA explained that the skirts will help distinguish between the male and female fighters. Only two nations, Poland and Romania, decided to wear the skirts.
Why is it important to make the distinction? Do they think the audiences are ignorant?
As much as their explanation makes absolutely no sense; other sports organizations see wearing skirts as a way to “feminize” the women athletes. Sports has come a long way since a century ago to make sure that the female athletes are protected first, and the freedom of what to wear while competing.
The first thing an athlete’s uniform needs to do is protect. Wearing feminine outfits in certain sports can cause certain injuries, as seen in Women’s Baseball in the 40’s. Sliding caused serious ground rashes to legs when wearing skirts. The Lingerie Football League has less protective clothing that the NFL, yet they play just as hard. Although boxing doesn’t have that much danger in wearing skirts, women should feel free to wear what the guys do either way.
The biggest reason why I think these outfits are being pushed by sports organizations is simple marketing. Sports organization are still struggling with how to market female athletes. The most extreme case of this is the Lingerie Football League. Although the women are talented, the outfits make them more sexual objects, which take away from them being respected as athletes. MMA has seemed to lead the way in showing that fighters themselves are the way to sell a fight. Sports organization needs to take MMA’s lead and not see them as female athletes, but just athletes. They play just as hard, and if there is any confusion between a female athlete and a male athlete in terms of ability and action, then they have done their job right.
It’s not an outfit that makes or breaks women sports. It’s what work they do to prove that they deserve every right as a woman to compete in a sport they love. However, the biggest respect you can give a female in sports is to not treat them as a woman, but to treat them as an athlete.
Since posting this editorial – I have had several fighters comment that they don’t mind wearing skirts and actually prefer it. My editorial above by no means disrespect to anyone from wearing a skirt if they so please. The idea that a sport organization uses the skirt as a way to distinguish between male and female ends of the sport is at issue. I am sorry for any confusion.