Telling women (and men) what they can and can’t wear has to stop. It has to stop in our classrooms, it has to stop in our workplaces, and as it has to stop with our athletes.
I remember my daughter avoiding wearing a beautiful long sundress to school, concerned that she would be criticized for violating the dress code because the dress had spaghetti-straps. As long as apparel covers the creases and cracks of boobs and butts, people should be able to wear whatever they please. Girls and women should never be shamed for their clothing. Instead, men need to be taught to respect boundaries and learn to control their hormones.
You can’t tell girls not to wear tank tops, but let boys wear them. You can’t tell girls to wear skirts when boys wear shorts and pants. Similarly, boys shouldn’t be forced to wear pants in heatwaves, they should be allowed to wear shorts. Girls and boys need to have the same rules applied to them since learning outcomes are not affected by clothing.
In the workplace, I was once told that I didn’t look like an accountant, and was told to be more modest in my attire. I replaced my professional pencil skirt with a pair of pants, but that still didn’t seem to stop the person who told me to change my attire from staring at me lasciviously. On the flip side, women at certain bar-restaurants shouldn’t be forced to wear skin-tight skimpy clothing either.
It’s confusing for women, as we seem to be told what to wear by (typically) men in power. Sometimes we are told to wear more, and other times we are told to wear less. Think of all of the pop stars who are told by male-run record labels that they have to lose weight and wear sexier clothing.
I trained as a gymnast growing up, and had to wear a bodysuit to train. As each of the girls hit puberty, those bodysuits seemed less and less practical. Now at all levels of sport we are seeing women saying enough is enough. The Norwegian beach handball team and the German gymnastics team have protested being objectified in their sports; by choosing to wear more modest attire. The Norwegians were fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms.
Men can wear shorts for beach volleyball. For gymnastics, men wear full leg leotards or shorts with tank tops for competition. There is no reason the same shouldn’t apply for women. The athletes themselves should be the ones deciding what they are comfortable wearing, as long as there is no unfair performance enhancement. Men and women in power need to stop the sexualization of sport and start reviewing new regulations for sports uniforms that are as inclusive as possible.
Also, from turbans to hijabs, and afros, cultural boundaries also need to be respected. Banning swim caps designed for black hair seems absolutely racist. Who cares if they do not follow the natural shape of the head because the caps cover braids or dreads? It would not be an aerodynamic advantage, so let the athletes wear what they want.
This month, we’ve seen the black hair swim cap not permitted by swimming authorities, beach volleyball and gymnastics suits for women protested, and boys wearing skirts to school as they weren’t allowed shorts during a heatwave. Had proms happened this year there would have also been dress code complaints as well. I hope the protests will continue, because it’s time these antiquated policies are challenged and rewritten.