An update to AMA’s post regarding the introduction of women’s boxing as an event in the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games:
This week, the AP reported on the issue of skirts. Skirts, you ask? What about them? In perhaps one of the most ludicrous headlines of the week, the International Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) announced that they would be meeting in January to decide whether female boxers participating in the 2012 London Summer Olympics would be required to wear skirts instead of shorts. The official announcement came as a response to the recent media rumors suggesting that female boxers might face a skirt requirement. It turns out that the rumors were semi-true. The IABA states that the January conference will be an opportunity to discuss the issue and draw up recommendations. In response to the controversy, the IABA has defended itself by claiming that skirts would give the female boxers a chance to “stand out” from the male competitors.
The suggestion that skirts would give female boxers an opportunity to “stand out” from the male boxers is not only ludicrous, but also offensive. The IABA’s announcement has understandably met quite a bit of criticism. A female boxer who is expected to compete in the 2012 Games responded: “I won’t be wearing a miniskirt,” Ireland’s three-time world champion Katie Taylor told the BBC last week. “I don’t even wear miniskirts on a night out, so I definitely won’t be wearing miniskirts in the ring.” The AP noted that the announcement from the IABA was similar to when, in 2004, the FIFA president suggested that female soccer players should wear “tighter shorts” as a way to make the sport more popular. The suggestion was ignored, but the premise is very much the same as the proposal at hand: women should look sexy even when playing sports.
The Huffington Post reported on the IABA’s announcement and explored other sports in which females are traditionally expected to wear skirts (i.e., field hockey, tennis, golf, etc.). Interestingly enough, even female equestrian riders used to wear skirts in competition, requiring a sidesaddle riding style. The Huffington Post ended their article by posing a question: “Are skirts a liberating, more comfortable alternative to other active wear? Or a remnant of unenlightened views on women's relationship to sports?”
For me, whether or not a female wears shorter shorts or tighter skirts isn’t a question of liberation or an opportunity to “stand out.” The IABA’s announcement that they are going to have to decide whether female athletes are going to be required to wear skirts is what truly angers me. Female athletes should be allowed to wear shorts or skirts, whatever they feel they need to compete at their best. These athletes do not need a committee to choose their outfit. And to suggest that female boxers need something to help them "stand out" is simply disrespectful. The point is that the IABA would never have this discussion about male boxers’ uniforms. It’s a double standard that should enrage fans of boxing, and fans of all women’s sports.