It is very likely that there are women who have decided to not play certain sports because of their mandatory uniforms for competing that make them feel uncomfortable. The bottom line will always be that sport is about athletic ability and not about having a pleasing image; more specifically, a pleasing image to the male gaze. Where an important issue lies in the topic of dress codes for competitions is that not only are the dress codes for women in many sports unreasonable, but they are left without having any choice or say in the matter. Recently, the women’s Norwegian beach handball team decided to opt for shorts instead of bikini bottoms for their match and were fined a hefty amount to each player for going against the guidelines. This can only prove the existing and blatant sexism in sports that is still happening in 2021.
It is also important to consider people of certain religions that are not able to participate in such competitions because they cannot abide by the blasphemous dress codes set for women in various sports such as beach handball. The women must wear bikini bottoms that have “a close fit” and “cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg” while the side width cannot be any larger than 10 cm. In comparison, the men’s dress code has the option to choose the length of their shorts but they must be at least 10 cm above the knee and should not be too baggy, according to the International Handball Federation. How can we expect “inclusivity” in every sense with such rules and regulations?
It is disappointing that women have been fighting for the right to have more options in their uniforms, and still the rules for the majority have not been changed. Uniform regulations should not make women feel self-conscious while playing sports, hence the importance of having the ability to choose the appropriate attire so long as it does not give any unfair advantages. On the flip side, women in track do have the option to choose between a short like bottom, and what is essentially a bikini bottom. There are female athletes who prefer wearing less; although, it is interesting to wonder, if there really is a benefit to wearing such minimal fabric, why are the men not wearing it too?
There is an element to sports that can be seen as entertainment for those who don’t necessarily participate, but enjoy the essence and the thrill of the sport. However, the entertainment should not be coming from women in skirts and bikinis, but from their talent and athletic abilities; for the viewer to feel as if they’re actually involved in the game and cheer on their favorite athletes.
How did these dress codes come to be?
The answer is simple, men decided women in sports would never be quite the same as men in sports, and so they assumed the kind of entertainment would be different for each. The best way they could think to grab people's attention to become more interested in women in sports was to make them more attractive and appealing to the male gaze; and so, their uniforms served the purpose of aesthetics, not practicality and never mind comfort. In the early 2000’s, Sepp Blatter, a former FIFA president said the best way to increase the popularity of women's soccer was to make them wear tighter, more fitted shorts for a more feminine appearance.
So, why haven’t the rules for dress codes changed?
It’s 2021, and there’s no reason to keep women confined in dress codes. Fortunately, changes are beginning to happen in some female sports. Things are looking up in gymnastics as the female German team decided to compete in a unitard; a leotard that covered their entire legs down to their ankles to overthrow sexualization, to which they were not given any fines, deductions, or disqualifications. However, many sports like beach handball, volleyball, tennis, golf, are just a few sports that have not changed their dress codes because at the core, sports are still seen as masculine and so the people who are in charge of maintaining the rules clearly still think they need to compensate by keeping a certain aesthetic.
Women don't need tiny outfits that show their bodies to get attention in their sport. Female athletes deserve more respect and should be able to play their sport without being sexualized and objectified. It comes down to this: athletes; male, female, or any gender, should be appreciated and admired for their talent, abilities and how hard they work to reach such high standards. There is no reason, especially in 2021, that aesthetics and cute outfits are needed to make their sport more attractive and interesting for consumers. They must be given choices that have no bearing in looks, just as their male peers have been given for quite some time.