The conversation surrounding dress codes for female athletes is certainly not a new one. In many organizations, progress has been made, and women are allowed to wear clothing more suited to their activity, but there is still a very clear disparity between male and female dress codes in sports.
A glaring example of this struck earlier this summer when Norway’s handball team decided to protest against their dress code. While men are allowed to wear full-length shirts and shorts reaching down to their thighs, women were made to wear midriff-baring tops and revealing bikini bottoms, which are incredibly uncomfortable for playing in the sand.
Similarly, in this year’s Olympics, Germany’s gymnastics team ditched the more revealing leotards for full length bodysuits while competing. Sara Voss, a member of the team, shared with the BBC, “To do splits and jumps, sometimes the leotards are not covering everything, sometimes they slip and that’s why we invented a new form of leotard so that everyone feels safe around competition and training.”
This is only a small part of a noticeable pattern in women’s dress codes. The clothing’s utility and comfort are almost completely disregarded for its aesthetic appeal and sexualization of women’s bodies, which, once again, takes attention away from women’s actions and achievements out on the playing field.
Women’s athletic wear is designed to make women appear traditionally “attractive and feminine” based on Eurocentric beauty standards, regardless of their own needs as individuals or as athletes. Only recently were women allowed to compete in hijabs and long-sleeved shirts as per the International Volleyball Federation.
Imposing dress codes mean that even professional athletes are unable to have their talents be the main event. They also drive people away from competing for superficial reasons when their natural traits are discriminated against. Those who are emotionally or physically uncomfortable wearing clothes that align with the dress codes feel discouraged from competing.