Sexism in Sports Uniforms
What exactly makes a sport uniform sexist? You could argue for the tightness of said uniforms or the revealing nature. However, the most defining factor comes from when a uniform doesn’t match its opposite gender counterpart. When you compare men’s uniforms to women’s, thats when the blatant objectifying of women’s bodies comes into light. You can see that often time in sports, women’s uniforms prioritize the appearance of the body, rather than functionality and protection for the sport. When all the emphasis is on the female form, then the abilities of those involved is overlooked.
The tightness of uniforms cannot be used as a solid argument for sexism. Take a look at men’s football. They wear tight pants that adhere to their body shapes. It’s not for the purpose of showing their bodies however, it’s to hold their padding in place. You could say the same about Women’s volleyball shirts. Unnecessary fabric in the arms could lead to an uneven surface to receive the ball, making it more difficult to aim and control. Although when you compare both men’s football uniforms and women’s volleyball uniforms to their male counterparts, then you run into a problem. While the men wear paddings and pants in the Nation Football League, women in the closest league you can compare called the Legends Football League wear bras and underwear. Do leg paddings only help men? Are women’s hips indestructible enough not to need the same protection men get?
The revealing nature of women’s uniforms also falls apart if you use it in an argument. While sand volley ball uniforms and track uniforms for women usually consist of a bra and spandex, men in these sports are also required to wear their version of that said uniform. Men’s track wear tight shirts and shorts too, with some male distance runners wearing just as short shorts as the women. Take a look at swimming, and a lot of men are wearing the absolute bare minimum with speedos. Women have obviously have more that needs to be covered, but there is no fair comparison you can make to speedos. All of these examples are in place for a reason. When running or swimming, you need to be as aerodynamic as possible as to not catch any resistance. So while some sports definitely force women into revealing outfits, many also do the same to men.
What can be used as a solid argument for sexism, is the unnecessary feminine flair seen in women’s sport uniforms. In tennis, golf, and lacrosse, women wear skirts. There is no comparison you can make here, since apart from modern fashion men, never wear skirts in any circumstance. That type of cutesy flair isn’t seen on any men’s uniform. There isn’t an example of an add on to a men’s uniform that serves only for aesthetics. There are things like colors, stickers added to helmets, or certain badges or pins that are merely for aesthetic, but none of these things are impractical. Author Eric Anderson states in his article, “The Changing Relationship between Men’s Homosexuality and Sport” that the reason women are presented as feminine as they are is because if they are viewed as powerful and strong, it threatens male hegemony.
“The Badminton World Federation (BWF) instituted a rule that women must wear skirts, and an American Deputy President of the BWF defended the rule by claiming, “We just want them to look feminine and have a nice presentation so women will be more popular”
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) instituted a rule that women must wear skirts, and an American Deputy President of the BWF defended the rule by claiming, “We just want them to look feminine and have a nice presentation so women will be more popular”. The practicality of skirts is never taken into question, only the presentation. Women athletic abilities are often undermined for their physical qualities, and that is sexist.
The best example for similarity when comparing uniforms in American soccer. Both the men and women wear relatively the exact same thing; a jersey, and longer shorts. There is no apparent difference between the two gender’s uniforms. You could try to make the argument that sex-sells, and women need to wear skimpy outfits in order to get the same viewership ratings as men do. However, in 2012 Women’s American Soccer had a 22% higher viewership compared to men’s for their World Cup final according to author Abigail Johnson Hess for CNBC news. In her article, “US viewership of the 2019 Women’s World Cup final was 22% higher than the 2018 men’s final” she states, “According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. women’s soccer games have generated more revenue for the USSF than U.S. men’s games over the past three years”. The women actually outperformed the men when it came to ratings, and they had no advantage with sexy uniforms. It wasn’t the eye candy keeping people watching, it was the women’s skill and athleticism.
While there are still many issues with women’s sports uniforms today, they’ve come a long way throughout history. According to author Patricia Campbell Warner in her book When the Girls Came Out to Play: The Birth of American Sportswear, back in the 1900s, women’s uniforms actually had the opposite problem as today. Instead of trying to accentuate the female body, uniforms tried to cover them up. A photo from 1912 shows that women’s swimming uniforms were made of a cotton material to mask their curves. They wore a spandex-like material underneath. “Each stands soberly with arms firmly clasped across her chest, three or four unwilling to meet the camera’s eye, even though they had just won first place. So all those years of decorous modesty had apparently taken their toll, even among these pioneers of women’s competition” Warner states. Even when being forced to cover up, when the emphasis of the uniforms is on the body, that leaves the women ashamed and embarrassed in their own skin.
Women’s sports uniforms are sexist in nature, but its not because they are exposed or compressed. The sexism comes from when the uniforms differ from their male counterparts in ways that isn’t practical, and only serves to put emphasis on the body itself. It’s when functionality is deemed less important and appearances is the key factor. Sex-sells is an outdated concept that is still believed by many, even though it has been proven false throughout history. The goal of uniforms is to identify and unite teams, and while they’ve come a long way through history, there’s still a lot to be fixed in order to end sexism in sports.
AbigailJHess. “US Viewership of the 2019 Women’s World Cup Final Was 22% Higher than the 2018 Men’s Final.” CNBC, CNBC, 10 July 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/10/us-viewership-of-the-womens-world-cup-final-was-higher-than-the-mens.html.
Anderson, Eric. The Changing Relationship between Men’s Homosexuality and Sport. https://counterintuitiveblogdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2022/10/b6c34-sexualorientationandgenderidentityinsport.pdf..pdf
Warner, Patricia Campbell. “WOMEN ENTER THE Olympics: A Sleeker Swimsuit.” When the Girls Came Out to Play: The Birth Of American Sportswear, University of Massachusetts Press, 2006, pp. 84–103. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vk4v1.10. Accessed 17 Oct. 2022.
I would like feedback on this paper, since I feel like i was a bit all over the place. I hope I was concise enough, but I want to see what I can change to be more specific on my definition. Also any tips on the paper as a whole would be appreciated.
Thanks for the specific request, Oni. I’m here only to acknowledge your Feedback Please for the moment.
As we discussed, I won’t be making Feedback Comments on THIS post, Oni. The Definition argument will remain untouched to the end of the semester. I’ve put your Definition Rewrite into Feedback Please. All feedback and revisions will occur there.