If you didn’t hear, officials for the sport of badminton recently tried to instill a new policy that would force female athletes to wear short dresses or skirts. Shorts and pants would not be allowed, unless a skirt or dress was worn over these garments. Yeah, because athletes don’t sweat enough already? The Badminton World Federation stated:
In order to ensure attractive presentation of Badminton at tournaments organised or sanctioned by the BWF, all clothing worn by players shall be acceptable Badminton sports clothing. In level 1 – 3 tournaments women must wear skirts or dresses. It is not acceptable to tape over nor to pin on advertising, nor in any other way to modify such clothing to comply with advertising or other regulations.
Check out their implementation guide for the would-be new uniform regulation.
Apparently, the new regulation is to “create a more ‘attractive presentation'” and officials also noted that the new dress code “would make female players appear more feminine and appealing to fans and corporate sponsors” (Source: New York Times).
The inherent sexism in this new regulation is so apparent that it’s shocking that no one thought professional female athletes might object to it. The Badminton World Federation is basically saying that the only way to get viewership up for female badminton is to make their uniforms sexy and feminine. The deputy president of the organization says, “We’re not trying to use sex to promote the sport…We just want [the players] to look feminine and have a nice presentation so women will be more popular,” yet officials are surprised to be fighting against allegations of sexism. Hmmm….women would be more popular if they dressed a certain way? Dude, that is the like the definition of sexist. Come on.
Good news: the new rule has been shelved. For now at least. But if that rule in fact ever gets implemented, I’m starting a petition for a new rule that would force male badminton players to wear this:
UPDATE [6/16/11]: Thought I should include a link to a post from Sociological Images from a couple of days ago for further reading!: Femininity and the Proposed Badminton Dress Code.
In other news, women’s soccer in Iran has just taken a hit, as FIFA has disqualified them from competing to enter the 2012 Olympics due to their wearing of headscarves, which apparently violates uniform regulations. The team was set to play Jordan in an Olympic qualifying game, but the Iranian team was dismissed and the Jordanian team awarded with the victory. According to an article in the Washington Post, “In the Islamic Republic of Iran all women are obliged to cover their hair, neck, arms and legs according to the state’s interpretation of Shiite Islamic tenets. Female athletes who compete internationally have to obey the country’s dress code.” An official for FIFA noted that the organization was planning to ban religious expression and attire on the field during the 2012 Olympics, and in addition the headscarves were a safety hazard because they covered the women’s necks.
Let’s see what the FIFA rulebook states:
Players must not reveal undergarments showing slogans or advertising. The basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements. A player removing his jersey or shirt to reveal slogans or advertising will be sanctioned by the competition organiser. The team of a player whose basic compulsory equipment has political, religious or personal slogans or statements will be sanctioned by the competition organiser or by FIFA.
However, it is my understanding that FIFA has made exceptions for the hijab because women in certain countries are required to wear them. It seems to me that they should have let the women play this particular qualifying game and then guide them on how to cover their heads without violating the FIFA code in the Olympics.
It’s a fairly complicated issue, and I can see the arguments on both sides. On one hand, if Christian, Jewish, and Hindu players can’t display signs of their religions on the field, than neither should Muslim players. On the other, hijabs are part of the daily uniform for many Muslim women — it’s not like a piece of jewelry.
On June 9th, NPR’s All Things Considered aired a piece on the controversy. Here’s part of the transcript between Michelle Norris and James Dorsey, who is the author of the blog “The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer”:
NORRIS: FIFA says that the Iranian delegation had been informed thoroughly that they wouldn’t be allowed to wear the headscarves that covered their neck, in part, for safety reasons. Iran has taken a very strong and interesting stance on this. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week called FIFA “dictators who just wear the gown of democracy.” That’s a direct quote.
Was Iran trying to send a message or make a point or push the envelope with these uniforms?
Mr. DORSEY: It’s certainly true that Iran, last Friday, tried to push the envelope. And it’s certainly also true that although this is in and of itself a political issue, Ahmadinejad has gone out of his way to politicize it.
I guess what mostly irks me is that Muslim men aren’t required by culture or law to cover themselves and therefore don’t face any hinderances in qualifying for the Olympics. The women, however, can not participate because their culture and/or religion and/or law dictates the way they appear in public. It’s fine that some women wear the hijab voluntarily, but not all women cover up by choice. And now with the new FIFA law it’s contributing to the suppression of women’s equality in sports.
What do you think?