Women’s boxing will be on the program for the London 2012 Olympics but that’s not why the sport has been in the news. The Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) is suggesting that women boxers wear skirts rather than shorts because doing so will enable spectators to distinguish them from men.
The AIBA is also suggesting that women wear “tight-fitting vests.”
The reasons, such as they are, for these clothing changes has nothing to do with enhancements to the women athlete’s performance or comfort. Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, the AIBA’s president, says that the organization’s Women’s Commission made recommendations and that the clothing changes are being suggested for the sake of the spectators:
“I have heard many times, people say, ‘We can’t tell the difference between the men and the women,’ especially on TV, since they’re in the same uniforms and are wearing headgear.
While the skirts are currently “optional,” Wu says that, depending on “comfort and how easy it is to compete in the uniform,” it may become “compulsory.”
At least week’s European Championships in Rotterdam, only women from Poland and Romania were wearing the skirts and vest combo. Polish Boxing has already made wearing the skirts, which it terms “elegant,” compulsory.
“By wearing skirts, in my opinion, it gives a good impression, a womanly impression,” Poland coach Leszek Piotrowski told BBC Sport. “Wearing shorts is not a good way for women boxers to dress.”
Women athletes themselves — you know, the people who would actually have to compete in the skirts — have different views on the matter. Said Ireland’s three-time world champion Katie Taylor, who won her fifth consecutive European lightweight title in Rotterdam:
“It’s a disgrace that they’re forcing some of the women to wear those mini-skirts. We should be able to wear shorts, just like the men.
“I won’t be wearing a mini-skirt. I don’t even wear mini-skirts on a night out, so I definitely won’t be wearing mini-skirts in the ring.”
British lightweight champion Natasha Jonas said that boxing in skirts is “more for the aesthetics; nothing practical is going to come from wearing a skirt. The only people who would want to see women in skirts are men.” Boxers should, says Jonas, be able to choose their attire, rather than have (male) officials, coaches and the like make the decisions. How would the men feel about boxing in a skirt?
Jacquelin Magnay of the Telegraph has this answer regarding the AIBA’s claim that skirts are needed to distinguish women from men:
Hmm, here are some clues, guys: hips and breasts.
Not only is the idea flawed that skirts can somehow make female boxing appear more feminine, it is somewhat sleazy to have ringside boxing officials – nearly always male – looking upwards, ostensibly to watch the action. That’s what I call perving.
The AIBA wanting women boxers to wear skirts is a further sign of the feminizing of athletes, whether in saying that WNBA player Candace Parker “is pretty, which helps,” press photos of women athletes in dresses (so the public knows they don’t only like to get sweaty) and reports about a “groundbreaking female competitive sailor,” in which she is reduced to a “hot chick.” Heaven forbid that a woman who’s an athlete be seen off the court or in the ring in just what the guys are wearing, pants.
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