Sexualised sports uniforms turning girls off sport

That is a key finding of a bipartisan Senate inquiry into female participation in sport and recreation.

TIGHT lycra bike pants and full body-suits could be a cause of teenage girls dropping out of sports.
A Federal Government report has recommended clubs give teenage girls the option of wearing looser-fitting comfortable clothes, to avoid them becoming body-conscious and abandoning organised sport.

A bipartisan report produced from a Senate inquiry into women’s participation in sport found that teenage girls were leaving amateur sports because of body image issues exacerbated by uniforms.

ACT senator Kate Lundy, deputy chairwoman of the Senate committee that produced the report, said sports should do a survey of their women participants to see whether their uniform policy was suitable.

So, my recent post on changes in track uniforms over the last few decades was more timely than I knew. The SMH notes that other sports with “daggy” uniforms with strict requirements on shorts and sleeve lengths suitable for older participants are also a problem in terms of attracting younger female participants.

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism

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10 replies

  1. Nobody is going to choose looser fitting clothing instead of bike pants, at least in bike racing, after they find themselves losing all the time to people wearing the proper stuff. Tight fitting clothing is often tight for a reason.

  2. I can see that tight-fitting is essential for certain sports, certainly. But there’s no physical performance reason for tight outfits that are also midriff-and-bum-baring for women in sports where men’s midriffs and bums are well covered.

  3. Looking at the young women working out in our university fitness center, it seems that loose t-shirts (not huge, just not tight) and comfortable shorts are what they like. I don’t see teeny little midriff shirts or panty-like shorts.

  4. Viv, both the men and the women in your track and field examples before were wearing tight clothes. Since “tight” is the first word in the quoted text above, I have to think that tightness is seen as a problem, and that whether it’s track and field or any number of any other sports, *allowing* girls to wear loose fitting clothing isn’t going to help anything unless you *force* all of them to do the same. Otherwise, girls won’t quit sports because of body image issues, but instead will quit because they’re unable to compete against the ones wearing more sports-appropriate tight clothing.
    So where do you draw the line? Gym slips, or burkas?

  5. All the discussion I’ve been hearing has been far more about bare midriffs and bum-cheeks, Paul. Perhaps the journo got their emphasis wrong.
    Obviously flappy clothes would get in the way for sport. And sports such as cycling and skating require lycra leggings for best performance. But for many other sports uniforms can be sleek, as in the 80s track shot, without having to be so form-fitting that every bulge is revealed.
    A lot of women would be happy as long as their uniforms covered as much skin as the men’s and weren’t any tighter. Current club sport uniforms and elite uniforms all too often don’t do that now.
    Vicki, the young women in your uni gym sound as if they are dressing sensibly for what they are doing. Good for them.

  6. Also, Paul – this report is about getting women to play sport at a local club level in the first place. Perhaps your more elite competition experience is getting in the way of your understanding here. The report was about sport and recreation.
    Obviously, those with elite ambitions (once they’ve played the game long enough to realise they have the talent and skill to have a shot at making the cut) will go for the most advantageous outfits for the sport, but what about the “hit and giggle” brigade? People who just want to get out and play at a fun level of competition? People whose bodies aren’t elite athlete toned, but instead jiggle?
    There is more to sport than elite competition.

  7. that’s the sort of point I’d like to make too, tig – what’s the point in getting a 13-14 yr old girl to wear something they find embarrassing? they won’t take the sport up in the first place, let alone become good enough at it to then look at the advantages/disadvantages of what she’s wearing.
    that shot of the beach volleyball girl – crikey. an average girl at school would probably rather sink into the ground than to have her bum crack showing. a middle-ages woman is just going to say, no, I’d rather go and have a coffee and cake, thanks. hell, I hated wearing those pleated gym skirts and scungys in high school. why couldn’t we have worn shorts? any length we desired?
    (this is slightly off-topic, but back in the 70’s my mum fought the P&C furiously to allow girls to wear trousers in winter instead of those foul box-pleat uniforms. why did we have to put up with draughty, cold legs when boys got to wear slacks? things like this get me just as cranky)
    let ‘em wear what they want, and be as serious as they want.

  8. Word. I remember watching the lads during gymnastics training when I was about 13 – they’d tend to wear tight shorts that came down to their knees, with baggy, shorter shorts on top. We had to wear leotards, with lycra shorts if we wanted. I just remember thinking that I’d like to line up to use some of the equiptment, but someone might stand *behind* me, and what if they could see the lines where my leotard (or worse, pants!) was under my shorts!

  9. What i rather wear tight uniforms than loose, i run track and ill feel more comfortable in tight clothes then loose, the loose ones slow you down, and then its tighter it makes you feel as if the uniform is part of your body its not extra weaight on you.

  10. @ Sprinter:
    But why do female sprinters’ tight uniforms show so much more skin than male sprinters’ tight uniforms? Men don’t have to bikini wax in order that they don’t get negative attention in their tight uniforms, but women do. Same goes for gymnastics, where tight uniforms are also genuinely a performance advantage. It’s not just about tightness, especially in sports where loose clothing would be a problem.
    And you’re overlooking the vast array of sports where the men wear loose, comfortable outfits and the women wear tight, revealing outfits even though they are playing the same/similar sports. See field hockey and basketball/netball.
    Young girls see that elite women in sport are expected to look good in sexbot outfits on the playing field (it’s not enough to just be strong and/or fast enough, you have to be flawlessly buffed as well). This turns young girls off participating. This is a problem.

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