Tokyo Olympics: Female athletes face double requirements over uniforms


The Norwegian ladies’s seashore handball staff had been fined as a result of their shorts had been too lengthy, British Paralympian Olivia Breen was instructed by an official that her briefs had been too brief and Olympic swimmer Alice Dearing gained’t be allowed to put on a swimming cap for pure black hair on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Ahead of the Games, set to begin on July 23, feminine athletes are being scrutinised for his or her selection of sportswear. FRANCE 24 seems at why athletic uniform laws for ladies are so harsh.

The 2021 Tokyo Olympics haven’t even begun and the run-up is already fraught with debate on what feminine athletes ought to or shouldn’t put on.

Double Paralympic world champion Olivia Breen is the newest Olympic athlete to be caught in a sartorial storm. After competing within the lengthy bounce on the English Championships in Bedford on July 18, an official stated her briefs had been “too short and inappropriate”.

“She said to me that I should consider wearing shorts because my briefs were too revealing,” Breen instructed FRANCE 24. “I was so taken by surprise and gobsmacked that I asked her if she was joking. She said no, and insisted I should buy a pair of shorts.”

Writing in regards to the incident in a Twitter put up, Breen pointed to a double customary concerning athletic gown codes and questioned whether or not male athletes can be subjected to the identical degree of scrutiny.

“I have been wearing the same style sprint briefs for many years,” she stated in her put up. “I recognise that there needs to be regulations and guidelines in relation to competition kit, but women should not be made to feel self-conscious about what they are wearing when competing, [they] should feel comfortable and at ease.”

The 24-year-old says she was in full compliance with athletic uniform laws, which permit athletes in her division to put on sponsor gear (the briefs), so long as in addition they don a membership vest or a nationwide package. Their outfits can not be “objectionable or see-through”.

“It’s 2021, it’s not the 18th century,” she instructed FRANCE 24. “I shouldn’t be told what I can and can’t wear.”

Breen filed an official grievance to England Athletics on Monday, however says she hasn’t heard something again. The younger athlete is about to participate within the Tokyo Paralympics this August and intends on carrying the “contentious” briefs. “I’m not letting them stop me from wearing them. I will be wearing them in Tokyo,” she stated.

Racist measures and double requirements

Breen’s case is by no means singular. Alice Dearing, the primary black swimmer ever to signify Team Great Britain on the Tokyo Olympics, is not going to be allowed to put on the swimming cap made particularly for pure black hair she has been selling.

Earlier this month, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) banned the usage of swimming caps made particularly to guard dreadlocks, afros, weaves, braids and thick curly hair for the 2021 Games. Soul Cap, the corporate behind the swimming caps, had been instructed by FINA that it was as a result of their product doesn’t match “the natural form of the head”.

In yet one more effort to sanction feminine athletes for his or her uniforms, the European Handball Federation (EHF) fined the Norwegian ladies’s seashore handball staff 1,500 euros for carrying shorts as an alternative of bikini bottoms on the Euro 2021 championships. Calling it a case of “improper clothing”, the EHF stated gamers didn’t abide by athlete uniform laws, which require ladies to put on bikini bottoms “with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg” and are decided by the International Handball Federation.

Male seashore handball gamers, however, are free to put on shorts so long as 10 centimetres above the knee simply so long as they aren’t “too baggy”.

The staff had approached the EHF earlier than the competitors, asking for permission to play in shorts. They had been instructed that any breach of protocol can be met with fines.

Although seashore handball isn’t a part of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, it’s a stark reminder of the evident double requirements held when athletic uniform laws are devised.  

Who decides?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the authority accountable for organising the Olympic Games, says it isn’t accountable for establishing and implementing uniform laws. Instead, it’s as much as worldwide federations for every particular person sport to determine what the suitable apparel for every gender group is.

According to the latest Olympic Charter printed by the IOC, they’ve the “sole and unique authority to prescribe and decide the clothes and uniforms to be worn, and the gear for use, by the members of their delegations on the event of Olympic Games”.

International sports federations don’t make their criteria for athletic uniform regulations public. FRANCE 24 tried to contact FINA and England Athletics for comment, but received no response.

Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, a professor at the University of Toronto and author of “The Olympic Games: A Critical Approach”, says uniform decisions are based on either “practical considerations related to the demands of the sport”, “traditional roots like the gi for martial arts” or gender differentiation. Some federations also argue that their decisions are purely based on performance, or that they ensure fairness.

But Lenskyj sees clear gender discrimination at play, especially given that many federations are still largely run by men. “Sports judged on aesthetics like figure skating have clothing rules consistent with judges’ often stereotypical views of what a ‘feminine’ skater should look life. Women’s beach volleyball uniform regulations are based solely on heterosexual sex appeal,” she says.    

“What’s clear is that a lot of it is commercial,” Janice Forsyth, former director of Western University’s International Center for Olympic Studies in Ontario, told FRANCE 24. “[The international federations] try to appeal to what they think is a heterosexual male audience, try to titillate them into watching women’s sports, arguing that it raises interest thereby making it more lucrative by potentially attracting sponsors and TV contracts or even corporate sponsorships for athletes.”

If motivated, international federations could move quickly to change uniform regulations for women. The fact that they choose not to, according to Forsyth, is purely for marketing reasons.

A little bit of history repeating

Not every Olympic sport is stuck in the “18th century”, as Paralympic star Olivia Breen put it, but many have a history of controversy when it comes to female athletic uniform regulations. Swimming, athletics, badminton, boxing, gymnastics and beach volleyball, for example, have particularly poor track records.

Just before the 2012 London Olympics, the Amateur International Boxing Association tried to make female boxers wear skirts instead of shorts. Their reasoning was that spectators would be able to discern more easily between female and male boxers, as they couldn’t “tell the difference” before.

The suggestion sparked outrage and an on-line petition began by novice London-based boxer Elizabeth Plank demanded ladies be free to decide on what they put on within the ring. After garnering greater than 57,000 signatures, the choice was amended and feminine boxers had been free to decide on between shorts or a skirt.

That identical yr, the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) modified its gown code. Before the modification, ladies gamers had been compelled to put on bikinis or bodysuits throughout video games. But public strain mounted and the FIVB printed new guidelines, permitting ladies to put on shorts and sleeved tops out of respect for “religious and cultural requirements” of some collaborating nations.

In 2011, the Badminton World Federation had been much less forgiving about their uniform necessities. Ahead of the London Olympics the next yr, the organisation determined that feminine athletes taking part in at an elite degree should put on dressers or skirts. They defended their determination saying this is able to create a extra “attractive presentation”.

But latest sartorial debates are simply the newest hurdle for feminine athletes, significantly in relation to the Olympic Games. Women had been barred from becoming a member of the video games for many years and even subjected to gender testing. And regardless that the IOC overtly promotes inclusivity, feminine athletes are nonetheless subjected to extra scrutiny than their male counterparts.

“We’re just scratching the surface,” Forsyth from Western University says. “If we’re just talking about and debating uniforms, imagine what we’re going to find if we dig a little deeper.”


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