Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Skirts at Sporting Events?

A few weeks back I came across this article, criticizing recent rules changes in the Badminton World Federation requiring female players to wear skirts or dresses. Previously, the decision to wear skirts or shorts was left up to the players. The BWF offered up some pretty lame justifications, claiming that they wanted to 'improve the presentation of players'...meaning, put hot chicks in skirts and see if we can get more spectators involved. It's silly, pointless, and transparently sexist. But it's also badminton, which nobody gives a fuck about. So I just rolled my eyes and moved on.

Today I found out that a similar debate is happening in the Olympic Boxing arena. Apparently the Olympic dress code authority is seriously considering forcing female boxers to wear skirts in the ring. The 2012 London Olympics is the first time female boxers will be participating, since they were rejected in 2005 for failing to 'reach standards of medical safety and universality', whatever that means. The International Amateur Boxing Association apparently is under the impression that 'wearing skirts would help the women stand out from the men’s competitions'. Read, 'if we're going to give you your own Olympic event we at least want the viewers to know you're female'. Again, it's incredibly silly, pointless and quite possibly sexist. Seriously, why is this even being discussed? Who actually thinks that because the boxers are female, they ought to be beating the shit out of each other in skirts instead of pants?

Sure, in the past dress codes for female athletes primarily consisted of skirts and dresses. In the past, women also couldn't expose their wrists or ankles without being considered immodest. Alternate dress codes for women have largely fallen by the wayside...except for some cases, like beach volleyball, where female players are required to wear bikinis. Which does seem to work well for them, in spite of several complaints from players who feel the uniform violates their cultural traditions of modesty. It does so well in fact that in 2004 the president of FIFA encouraged female soccer players to emulate the beach volleyball dress code to increase the popularity of women's soccer. Apparently he did not grasp why such statements might have upset the players themselves.

People who run tournaments need spectators, so they need to create a spectacle...and sex sells. For sports that are relatively new or reaching new audiences, like female boxing and badminton, it almost makes sense that they would be doing anything they could to get more viewers. Except in this case they're doing it by diminishing the very athletes people would be paying to see. Can you imagine spending your entire life training to be good at something, and then being told 'that's great and all, but wear this skirt so people will want to watch you'?

Now I enjoy checking out hot chicks in short skirts as much as the next person, but making skirts mandatory is just impractical. Making skirts mandatory specifically to capitalize on the sexy physique of your athletes is just disrespectful. But there are ways around this! Female tennis players are not required to wear skirts. They have the choice to wear skirts, pants, dresses...whatever they like, but most female tennis players choose to wear skirts. Why? Most likely because it increases their popularity and fan support, which means they make more money from endorsement deals. See, the players can benefit from being sexy too...but it should always be their choice to do so.

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