Forcing Female Athletes To Wear Skimpy Outfits Makes A Mockery Of All Their Work

Over the past few years, you've no doubt heard of the cultural backlash that surrounds school dress codes.

As time goes on, an increasing number of students, parents, and teachers have decried these dress codes for targeting the attire of female students and implicitly holding them responsible for the disruptive behavior of male students, who have significantly more leeway in what they're allowed to wear.

However, it seems that the opposite problem exists in the wide world of sports. Rather than being told to cover up their bodies for a flimsy reason, female athletes can find themselves being expected to dress less modestly than they're comfortable with.

And considering how much they had to work and sacrifice to even participate in international competitions, the consequences for defying that expectation can be even harsher than students experience for disobeying dress codes.

It's clear that people are starting to get tired of having their outfits dictated to them.

There's a good chance that you've heard about the Norwegian beach handball team who were fined for wearing the shorts they trained in and feel comfortable wearing rather than the bikini bottoms that the European Handball Federation required of them.

Well, it seems that they're not the only ones to push back against this expectation for skimpier attire as The Washington Post reported that the German women's gymnastic team specifically made a point of appearing in special unitards that made them feel comfortable rather than the more revealing leotards typically expected of Olympic gymnasts.

And the move was indeed a way to counter forced sexualization in the sport, as Elisabeth Seitz (pictured at center-right) said: "We wanted to show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear."

And in sports where revealing attire is expected, you'll often find that these rules are often stricter for women than for men.

Again, this is particularly obvious in the handball case as the International Handball Federation requires tops that bare the midriff for women and bikini bottoms "with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg."

Meanwhile, men and for whatever reason only men are permitted to wear shorts that end four inches above the kneecap.

And it would be different if there was some unfair tactical advantage to wearing what these athletes actually want to wear.

But since the unitards seem about as aerodynamic as traditional leotards and the shorts are just standard shorts, there doesn't seem to be any practical reason why written rules requiring such specific outfits for female athletes exist.

Indeed, it's been very telling that in the time since the handball controversy has emerged, nobody from the European Handball Federation has come forward and stated why it's supposedly so important for players to wear bikini bottoms.

With that in mind, it's hard not to suspect that there is no real reason and that whoever made this rule was just codifying what they wanted to see.

But even if they can't justify these rules, that doesn't stop officials from enforcing them.

It's worth noting that according to NBC News, the Norwegian team shown here were not only fined for wearing these shorts, but initially threatened with disqualification for doing so.

Imagine fighting your way through try-outs and training for months at something you're passionate enough about to put that dedication into only to be told that your athletic achievements don't matter because you didn't dress sexy enough for some athletics commission's liking.

How else are people who experience that sort of threat supposed to feel besides degraded? And for that matter, what are we saying is really important in these international competitions if these rules continue to be enforced?

Filed Under: