The policing of women’s bodies in sport must end

Ben Borrok, Contributing Writer

Women, like Serena Williams, don’t play sports to gain men’s approval, nor do they play just for fun. Just like men, they play with the desire to win. That competitive nature that exists within us all is most apparent in tennis, where the men’s and women’s games are on display side-by-side at different tournaments all over the world.

With the US Open kicking off last week, numerous sexist controversies have recently occurred in the tennis world. Just prior to the tournament, French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli announced that the Roland-Garros tennis tournament would have a new dress code; one that seemed to target Williams as she competed in a skin-tight body-suit earlier this year. Specifically, Giudicelli stated that the catsuit that Williams wore to the US Open last year would be banned due to its lack of “respect” towards the sport. People took to social media to defend Williams wearing the suit, which was specifically designed for her by Nike to combat the blood clots she had repeatedly experienced after giving birth last fall. Anger and confusion grew in the days following as users wondered why this is even an issue.

Williams stated that she wasn’t planning on wearing the suit regardless, but this whole story brings up an interesting question: why does it matter what women wear?

Both in sport and in society, the fashion of men has never been questioned. Trends brought short shorts, baggy shorts, tank tops, and form-fitting shirts both into the game and into everyday fashion. All these changes were met with little reaction. After all, why does it matter what men wear? But for women, it seems that every change in fashion brings on another wave of toxic, masculinity-riddled control freaks who think they know better about women’s issues than women do themselves. In society, males of all ages seemingly lose their minds when a girl wears shorts in school or even in a park. “It’s distracting!” “She’s asking for someone to harass her.” “What kind of example does this send to younger generations?” All such criticism is designed to control women in public and shame them for self-expression.

However, this script suddenly flips when it comes to sport. Women are encouraged to express their own fashion, so long as it pleases the men in charge of the sport. Just as Giudicelli banned a modest catsuit, he seems totally on board with the traditional short skirts and tank tops that women wear in the game.  Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter claimed that women’s soccer could be ‘enhanced’ if women wore shorter shorts. They both seem to believe that women exist for men’s pleasure, as if the women play sport to win over admirers. Serena’s 23 Grand Slam titles seem to disprove those claims.

As the world’s top tennis player, Williams has the unique opportunity to change the narrative of dress in female sports; millions will watch her play, regardless of what she wears. Women are of equal strength, power, and ability as men and they should be treated as such. Women should not be bound by sexist dress codes, worse playing schedules, or less than ideal playing conditions.

(Visited 119 times, 1 visits today)