This photo is what passes for sports journalism at the Sydney Morning Herald nowadays. I did not crop this photo; the Herald did. Here’s a possible original from AFP/Getty Images, nabbed from Daylife:
A couple of years ago, Tigtog posted about athletlcs uniforms and the trend toward sexified, midriff-baring, underwear-style women’s uniforms.
At the time, she wondered whether the women at the next Olympics would be running in sports corsets. While not quite corsets, the women’s uniforms in the big sports are all skintight, while the men (with the exception of swimmers) are wearing looser with more coverage. Tigtog said it before, but I’ll say it again: minute increases in performance cannot account for this difference, otherwise the men would be in skintight clothing also.
No. It’s not about faster, higher, stronger. Women in sports are promoted as sexualised bodies for ogling; men are promoted as performers.
Here are a few side-by-side comparisons of what Aussie contenders are put into:
Bring on the judo and the soccer, I say!
Oh wait, there’s not going to be Olympic women’s judo or soccer coverage on Channel 7? I shall now attempt to fake a surprised look.
P.S. Stop calling grown women “girls”. Especially when they can kick your arse.
[While not all pictures are of the exact Olympics 2008 uniforms, all are very recent, and Olympic uniforms are expected to be near-identical. Images are drawn from smh.com.au, hockey.org.au, athletics.com.au, foxsports.com.au, olympics.com.au, beijing2008.cn, and judowa.org.au]
Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism
I find the image of the track athletes particularly interesting – it’s quite obvious from the tan lines on their upper legs that they don’t train in such skimpy shorts, and most of them have paler midriffs as well.
It’s only when they’re in front of the crowd that they’re required to show that much skin.
Sometimes I think I must be oversensitive, so thank you for confirming that I’m not the only one who has noticed the continued shrinkage of women’s sports uniforms. And Tigtog you make a great point about the tan lines, which I hadn’t noticed.
I’ve been watching the swimming heats, which requires the the athletes to be as streamlined as possible. And they aren’t wearing bikinis, they are wearing swimsuits with covered midriffs and leg coverage that extends to at least the knee. And men’s swimsuits have almost identical form-fitting coverage (women, men).
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Grrr. See, this is the kind of thing I don’t know about from not watching TV. Completely outrageous.
I have a karate gi I’m not using at the moment I can loan to one of the volleyball women in those #@!^$%#^%$#% absurd WTF anti-pubic-hair devices.
TT, do you mean Australian women’s football? Because the Matildas didn’t qualify.
Apart from that, yes, agreed, ch7 is woeful and Fairfax’s internet coverage little better.
It’s Lauredhel’s post, Liam, not mine.
Nevertheless colour me unsurprised that Ch.7 is not going to have any coverage of a popular sport just because there aren’t any Aussies in it.
Curses! I’m really sorry, Lauredhel.
I just … I don’t get how anyone denies that female athletes are sexualized. Seriously. Or that that’s not a problem.
God, I’m glad we’ve declared an Olympics moratorium in our house.
Ok, I thought it was just me.
Yesterday I was watching the women’s beach volleyball event in the Olympics, and they were wearing bikinis. Today was men’s beach volleyball – they were wearing baggy tank tops, and shorts that came to a few inches above the knee…I’d been expecting shirtless and speedos, given the garb that the women were in.
Another who is glad ‘it’s not just me’. Really makes me ill. Why do the women put up with it. Surely if they complained as group they would have some leverage. Ha, sorry, wishful thinking, I guess.
I was sitting in the lounge mucking about on my laptop yesterday when hubby came in and turned on the volleyball (my version of not watching the olympics has to make allowances for other family members), it had been on for all of 30 seconds before I was growling “turn it OFF before I start throwing things at the TV”, I wasn’t actually watching as such but the commentary was making my blood boil, there was a reference made to one of the women’s ages followed by a comment along the lines of “I’m sure she won’t mind us telling her age”. It was just so jarring and I’m quite sure would never have been said about a male athlete.
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I watched one thing – Shane Rose’s dressage test. Like ballet on four legs. All Luck spooked and “ruined” his test, but of course, to us ignorant punters his hissy fit prance was as purty as his sideways canter. Only the top two scores counted, and now they’re in the lead going into the Cross Country phase, which is our stronger suit. No sex class here. The women kick serious butt (Google “Gillian Rolton”) and no revealing clothes are worn. The Body Beautiful is all the horse, and how beautiful they are.
Helen – The dressage is one thing I do love watching, I always forget to check the schedule though and end up missing it.
And as for the clothes: you Jane Austen-reading hoydens, looky!
And they don’t seem to have felt the need to chop the photo off at his neck or waist. Funny that.
Great post – and juxtapositions. I’m glad I didn’t notice that first women’s volleyball photo – completely appalling.
As I was watching I was wondering whether the women’s uniforms had got even skimpier. I seem to remember reading that the rules of the sport required them to be skimpy, but I hadn’t realised it wasn’t the same for the men.
Can I join the me too brigade?
That photo is outrageous in a “serious” newspaper supposedly covering sport.
And to be honest – the beach volleyball uniforms are ridiculous. What happened to “Sunsmart”? If they are not prepared to change them… why aren’t the boys made to wear speedo briefs?
This has to have some effect on their performance. There is tons of psychology that goes into a person’s athletic performance, as outlined in many Psych 101 and Sociology 101 textbooks. The most famous example is that people run much, much faster when there is another person running next to them than they do when they run alone.
These uniforms are going to make it very hard to focus on the game, because many players are going to be distracted by thoughts of how they look. And to think, while the men are preparing for their game by stretching, going over their techniques, etc., the women are waxing their bikini lines! Ugh. I hate the patriarchy.
I’m so glad other people are as dismayed by this as I am. I work in an electronics store and we’ve had the ‘lympics on since it started (which meant I got to watch the dressage and cross country *squee*) did anyone else notice that the beach vollyball had -cheerleaders-
I mean seriously, not only are the women dressed like ‘superheroes’ but when they take a rest the crowd gets entertained by more lithe female bodies jumping around? I came to the conclusion that the way beach vollyball is treated is a mockery…
Although I did see the indoor vollyball tonight (that took me back to high school sports) and it was much better then the beach variant though I still wanted to mute the commentary.
Word. Athletic uniforms that require a bikini wax get a big thumbs down from me. And why in the world has the basketball player seemed to have purloined the rowing team’s uni? Cause as a rower myself, that’s what it looks like. (In rowing, the men’s and women’s unis are pretty much exactly the same, save for supportive liners in different places, (usually a one-piece spandex singlet, that has no sleeves and has normal length shorts). The spandex aspect is important, as loose clothing can get stuck in the moving parts of the boat, bringing you to a screeching halt.
Mens fashion sucks. Seriously, men’s clothes should be as tight fitting as women’s are, but it is going the other way with ever increasingy baggy pants and shirts. I have to buy small shorts to keep them just above my knees! At least it is still socially (un?)acceptable to wear speedoes when I am doing laps in the pool.
Women should be pleased that fashion is moving toward women being more sexy/bare. It gives greater choice. Men’s fashion is much more restrictive and puritanical.
I found your blog via Shakesville just today, so if I am out of line posting so soon, especially with criticism, I apologize.
I would like to respond to cam. Maybe I am missing sarcasm, being new to this blog. If not, and if your post was sincere, can you see how the comment, “Women should be pleased…” is incredibly condescending and privileged? You are, in essence, giving us permission to feel the way that you feel, as if it is your right and that we are not capable of making the choice for ourselves. This is not even touching on the rest of your comment; that being bare = sexy (would you say that about us fat women?) and unrestrictive. I take great issue with that, as well.
I have to admit until reading this post I never really thought about the difference in gender clothing. If the men aren’t wearing skin tight clothing that it is clearly not about performance because all the athletes are there to win. This is about exploiting the female form because no one takes womens sports seriously now do they?
LilahCello, as the post-author’s co-blogger, I don’t think you’re out of line at all. Cam’s comment strikes me as very condescending and privileged as well.
Each qualifying sport has its own culture I know, developed over the years that it’s been gathering a sufficient following to join “the Olympic family”, but yes, the particular way that beach volleyball plays up to the spectators so blatantly is quite jarring when compared to most other sports there.
Cam, I’m not a mod here, but a friendly word of advice about feminist blogs in general: it’s not good form to come to one and tell a group of women how women “should” feel.
If you feel that tighter costumes would be more practical for men athletically, that’s fine. If you feel that men’s costumes are dictated by puritanical ideologies, fine (although I would expect people to argue with that)– but you don’t get to tell us how we “should” feel about the sexual objectification of women.
I’m glad it’s not just me noticing this stuff. I’ve been sensitive to it for a while now, but to see a bunch of examples in one place is really something.
I’d like to point out that when I played (indoor) volleyball, I actually did prefer playing in spandex shorts to playing in looser shorts, and it was purely a comfort/function thing. Shirts with loose sleeves (e.g. cotton t-shirts) were a problem as well: I kept having to roll up the sleeves so that they wouldn’t constrain my shoulder movement. Of course, this is partly my personal preference, and not everyone feels that way… I just wanted to point out that for some of us, sometimes the tighter clothing does have a place. That said, I certainly don’t think it should be de rigeur for so many of the women’s kits to be quite so clingy and skimpy.
It’s true – about the rules, that is. International beach volleyball has rules about the MAXIMUM amount of fabric allowed in the women’s uniforms. The rules as stated right now state that female beach volleyball players should wear bikini bottoms no wider than 7 cm (2.76 inches) at the hip.
They’re among the worst rules, but other sports are that way – or moving that way. FIFA head Sepp Blatter suggested similarly skimpy kits for women soccer players (but was shot down).
Hot damn, this is appalling. Thanks for putting the pictures side by side — even Phyllis Schlafly ought to be able to identify the sexism here.
Helen: It’s interesting that you mention dressage. I watched a bit of it a couple of days ago and, while the horses are beautiful, I found the outfits of the riders to be rather odd. The top hat and tails makes them look like they are on their way to a fancy dress party rather than participating in a sporting event. The message it sent to me was that participants in the dressage events are much too classy and elegant to wear a uniform that implies that they perspire or require the freedom of movement that standard athletic gear allows. And it’s certainly not a sport for the hoi polloi to participate in.
It’s interesting, though, that the women who compete in dressage wear the same outfits as the men. I realize I may be way off on this since I am not really familiar with the sport, but it appears to me that they are wearing men’s clothing, and to participate in the event they have to make themselves appear to be honorary men. Or maybe it’s because the “feminine” equivalent would be an evening gown, which wouldn’t be very practical?
I thought that the Opals went for the lycra uniforms, some time ago now, because it left no loose clothing to grab for one of the competing teams who had a habit of grabbing players clothing and holding them back (while the ref wasn’t watching). Can’t find anything on google though. Other teams are wearing the baggy shorts and singlet tops, so obviously there is no rule there.
The rules about women’s beach volleyball uniforms are just appalling. Women could play just as well in shorts and sports bra tops.
Wow. The side by side comparison of the photos is very effective.
Wow. The side by side comparison of the photos is very effective.
Indeed. But I don’t get it with the hockey costumes – was that supposed to demonstrate a contrast?
Channel 7 must have been reading — they showed about 5 minutes of women’s judo last night (the last 3 points of the match). Then it was straight onto the women’s [skimpy uniforms in] waterpolo!
Yes couldn’t agree more with the inherent sexism within sports coverage. It sh!ts me that to be seen as ‘commercially viable’ and ‘marketable’, women in sports must be sexualised (and agree to be sexualised). Wouldn’t it be great if there was REAL choice. it’s not about lycra vs. cotton, it’s about equality.
And hurrah for everyone who’s slagged off Channel 7’s coverage. I watched the (hmm.. unfortunately really terrible) Olyroos v. Argentina on Sunday night, and the commentator was a complete bozo who has no idea about football. It was just repetitious dribble of every chiche he could think of.
Anyone else tired of hearing Stephanie Rice described as “glamour girl”??? I find the tag totally dismissive of her achievements and really irritating.
Rant complete. 🙂
tigtog, It doesnt change the fact that women’s fashion and social attitudes to women’s fashion gives women greater scope and choice to express their sexuality and physique than men’s fashion does.
A woman can wear a bikini and not have their sexuality questioned. A man doing the same speedo cannot.
The pictures compared for side to side comparison in this post are not indicative IMO of inherent sexual submission of a gender; they are an indication of how crap and unsexualised mens fashion is.
For men who have excellent physiques, as I do for a man in his late 30’s, there is limited choice within which to display both their body and sexuality, especially if heterosexual. It is exceptionally difficult to find shorts and singlets that could not double as a pair of curtains. They just don’t sell them.
Even the gym which as often used as an expression of physical ability women can wear sports bras and short shorts. Men cannot go bear chested and would be laughed out and mocked for their sexuality if they wore short shorts that were even half way down their thigh. Of the men that swim regularly in the pool you can count those that wear speedos on one hand.
IMNSHO if there is a gender that needs to reclaim its sexuality and liberty to show off its physique from the fashion industry and society it is men; not women.
SBS is currently showing Iran vs Lithuania basketball for anyone who wants a non-Aussies at the Olympics fix.
Agree. The track athletes are kind of disgraceful and SUPER obvious. There’s no point in basketball players wearing unis. Yeah, I was like ‘wtf?’ when I heard Rice described as a ‘glamour girl.’ Dude, she’s busting world records. I guess that’s ‘glamourous,’ but I am sick of people expecting women athletes to look put together and pretty even when they’re working out and performing.
Also, men and women both wear skin tight unis when they row. At least that sport hasn’t been touched. Too much.
That might be the lamest “won’t somebody think of teh MENZ” exercise is headdesk point missing I have ever seen. Yoiks.
Cam: Consider yourself now having been told by two mods that flailing “what about the menz” attempts don’t fly here.
Putting women in tiny, skimpy uniforms for display is not about those women “expressing their sexuality”. It is about the male viewers and commentators slavering over their bodies instead of admiring their athletic performance.
There is no “scope” or individuality or choice here. All the women in a sport are put into the same uniforms.
Next time you’ve been a woman in a bikini, particularly a woman without a body in the very, very narrow patriarchally-approved range – old, fat, buzz-cut, and/or hairy, perhaps – you can get back to me on how fabulous it is.
Until then, please take a long stint at “Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog” until you’re up to speed.
If you care to actually address the points made in this post after you’ve done that, you’re free. If you want to come back to tell us how terrible your choice in clothes are and wave your homosexual panic around, please go find a more appropriate space.
Interesting article in Guardian about possible positive effect of Olympics on “the way we see women”.
Lauredhel, Because I don’t like men’s fashion and think it is frumpy, overly conservative, under-sexualised and modeled on living room curtains; then I have homosexual panic? Please.
I haven’t always been in shape either. I always enjoyed this blog so will go back to lurking. I didn’t men to intrude.
I forwarded some snippets from this blog to my sister, with a link saying how interesting/cool I thought it was, particularly the line “P.S. Stop calling grown women “girls”. Especially when they can kick your arse.” And I am kinda sad at the response I recieved…
“I don’t really have a problem with any of the female outfits, except I must admit the volleyball knickers are pretty bloody skimpy! Having said that, I think the woman’s basketball outfits look a lot more comfortable than a pair of long shorts snapping around your knees! I am thinking that if I worked that hard at being so healthy and buff I would not mind showing my body off in the slightest…i.e. I don’t think half those women have a problem with what they wear…in fact I think they are proud of their bodies. I am just thinking of the way I feel when I am in shape and slim, I WANT to wear fitted clothes to show it off, don’t you?” sisterchops
Cam: You’ve read our commenting guidelines, right? Right there, under “Acceptable Content”, it says “# don’t threadjack to ride your own hobbyhorse”. Enough said.
Chops: your sister might be unaware of the flak sportswomen receive when their in-shape bodies look like this:
Women’s hockey team
instead of like the volleyball pics I’ve posted above.
Show me a hairy-legged athlete, a volleyball player without a severe bikini wax, and no differential between the way the commentators speak about those athletes (and the larger ones like high-weight judo players, shotputters, etc) and I might start to consider it being all about the sports.
On being “buff”, which generally means “muscly” for men and “very, very thin” for women: The beach volleyball players look, to me, a lot thinner than any other athletes except the female gymnasts. Since there’s no particular performance reason for them to be that thin (the men’s volleyball players are much more heavily muscled), I’m guessing there’s another dynamic going on here in training. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the programme (and uniform) is triggering disordered eating, just as with gymnasts.
Somewhat relevant: there was a Senate inquiry in 2006 which found (unsurprisingly) that dress codes formed a significant barrier to womens’ participation in sport and recreation. I won’t abuse the field with big blockquotes, but sections 3.48-3.49 and 3.75-3.80 are where it’s at.
Mindy, as I recall, it was the uniform sponsor who forced the change to the Opals’ kit, not the players.
There were also loud protests from players a few years back when the local hockey people started insisting that female hockey players wear nothing but a bra and a see-through shirt. (edit: oh, and a skirt.) It was explicitly said at the time that this was so that they would be more “marketable”.
I just read at Girl-Wonder and at my LJ that there is now a rule mandating that volleyball bikinis have a maximum size at the hip. The Beeb confirms that the limit is 6 cm. The UPPER limit.
Yesterday I heard the song “Doo Wah Diddy” being played between serves (“She looked good/she looked fine/and I nearly lost my mind”). A friend of mine heard them playing “Centrefold”.
C’mon, those who think it’s all about the sports, not the ogling. Bring it on.
Thanks Liam, what I heard must have been the ‘reason’ for the change of uniform.
Cam, if you are buff and wearing Speedos I’m too busy ogling to worry about your sexuality. It’s all in the strut.
The women wear very tight lycra and skimpy skirts. The men wear a loose singlet and shorts. Can you not see the difference? A quick google will get you more photos.
Oreoton: darn, I missed the judo!
The women wear very tight lycra and skimpy skirts. The men wear a loose singlet and shorts. Can you not see the difference? A quick google will get you more photos.
Mmmm – seems pretty close to this as far as I can tell, and I don’t regard the Silver Ferns as sexed up for the onlooker. Other images quickly searched for don’t seem to be too salacious. Perhaps you might need a better picture showing the problem you have with this particular uniform?
No contentions re your other comments, mind.
PiaToR, can you see the difference between the Silver Ferns uniform (tight, very short skirt) and the men’s basketball uniforms?
Just because you don’t see the sexual objectification of women in sport doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
God, I was just emailing someone about this stuff this morning. The volleyball uniforms, apart from being a gross violation of the Cancer Council’s basic purpose, scream impractical. They are playing on sand. In skimpy, teeny tiny knickers. On sand.
I have to say I don’t find the hockey uniforms AS vastly objectionable as the other examples, mainly because between the women’s and men’s uniforms there isn’t as huge a difference. However, I suspect this has a lot to do with the fact that hockey ‘girls’ are generally perceived to be not quite as sexy as volley ballers, swimmers and runners. Possibly because of all the girls-boarding-school-lesbians-but-not-like-katy-perry connotations that hockey has always had.
Just throwing this out there as a genuine question (though I am fully prepared that this would not be the reason why marketers wanted women to wear tight tops) – is it more comfortable for women to play competitive sports in tighter tops for the extra support they provide? I have no chance of ever being drawn to team games, so I really couldn’t say either way.
Also – I agree that cam’s comments are irritating because of the whole ‘should’ directive. I also think he’s kidding himself if he thinks that women are ‘lucky’ to be seen as ‘sexy’, particularly because as Lauredhel pointed out they can only be seen that way if they subscribe to very strict aesthetic parameters.
However, I think some of his argument is worth exploring. He’s not saying he has homosexual panic, just that the way he would prefer to dress leads others to label him homosexual which as we all know would not be a compliment or even a benign statement in that context but a blatant expression of homophobia. In the quest to have women’s bodies NOT be constantly sexualised, I think it’s equally important for us to recognise that the male form is just as beautiful. It’s possible to appreciate aesthetic physical beauty without being exploitative. I think Cam’s frustrated that he wants to be appreciated for the hard work he’s put into sculpting his body but any efforts to do so lead to him being labelled ‘gay’ and therefore ‘not a man’ – both of which are insulting and offensive.
I disagree strongly that we women should feel ‘lucky’ that we’re allowed to be objectified. But I also feel that his concerns shouldn’t be swiped away as the rantings of a privileged sexist male (he’s already admitted to reading here regularly and enjoying it so he obviously has some empathy for feminism and gender equality) because what he’s essentially rallying against is the idea that if women can ONLY be seen as sex objects and people like us are fighting against that, men can still ONLY be viewed through a rigid lens of a masculinity devoid of anything that extends beyond, ironically, standing on the sidelines and objectifying women’s bodies while remaining comfortably covered up – and there aren’t that many people interested in appreciating the male body in return.
I don’t think people should exploit and objectify anyone’s body. But I also don’t think that a truly equal society between not just men and women but also people of different shapes, looks, ethnicities etc etc etc should necessarily be devoid of the simple pleasure of visually appreciating another person’s looks.
So, in conclusion – I think there are nuggest of important debate in Cam’s original comment. I think he expressed it poorly and needs to deal with his resentment that women are ‘allowed’ to be sexy while men aren’t. But I think there are nuggets…
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LOL the swimming ladies
you didn’t post pictures of them…
anyway, who cares? it took them a lot of work to do that, and they probably like it, deep down.
Speaking from having played sports as vigorous as squash, karate, and judo, my answers is no – it’s the bra that provides the support, not the shirt. I also found a looser top much cooler.
In judo I did get a very, very tight leotard custom-made to replace a bra, because a bra would sometimes come undone or displaced in the fray. (Hockey, basketball etc have nothing like these issues.) However an off-the-shelf top or leotard, however snug, didn’t provide discernable support.
Sorry, just doing bits at a time.
See, I just don’t think there is much in the way of actual evidence for this. In the sports where men do use form-fitting clothing for function, like swimming, cycling, and weightlifting, I don’t see much in the way of responses like “Har har he’s so gay” or “Phwoar, sexy!” from commentary team. (This may happen sometimes, but I’ve been on high alert for it and just haven’t seen it.) I do see some aesthetic appreciation of the male bodies happening, but it tends to be focused on the physical power of their bodies and the amount of work they’ve done to get them that way, an approach that bears little or no relation to the constant barrage of “I’d hit that” implications when it comes to women. Sportsmen tend to admired for their strength, sportswomen for their utility as fuck objects for men as well as for their skills.
There is a little “Phwoar”ing at sportsmen from time to time in less formal discussions, I think, but the bottom line is that the conntations and context for that are very, very different when it’s women phwoaring at men, compared to when it’s men phwoaring at
women”girls”. And that ubiquitous “girls” appellation, I think, tells the story nicely all by itself.
A side question on gaze: how many women are there doing the commentating for men’s sports, compared to the other way around?
I was talking more generally about the way males are allowed to dress and behave in public. Certainly male sporting ‘heroes’ are admired for their physiques, but while women can (nay, are encouraged! Unless they’re fat – in which case they should obviously be killed because they have no hope of passing the litmus test of whether or not a balding, overweight FM breakfast announcer wants to bone them) walk down the street wearing scant, revealing clothing, men who do the same might be laughed at, called gay or egocentric.
It’s that in particular that I think is worthy of discussion at least, though probably in a different thread 🙂
Oh, totally agree. Women aren’t even allowed to commentate on women’s sports by themselves – they have to have a man there making sure they’re not just going to veer off topic and start discussing shoes or their periods.
Speaking of ‘girls’, I couldn’t believe it yesterday when one of the Australian swimmers (Libby Trickett maybe? Bah, who knows..) was going for gold and the male commentator started screaming, “And she’s nearly there, come on, TOUCH THE WALL GIRLY GIRL!!”
Yes. He actually said ‘girly girl’. The mind boggles.
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I’m afraid I’m going to continue to disagree with you here, even though it perpetuates the thread-tangent a little. (So long as we stay feminism-focused, I think that’s ok.)
Taking your scenario: when a (thin, young, hairless, beautiful, visibly cissexual) woman walks down the street in tight/revealing clothing? She is not “encouraged” so much as sexually harrassed, slut-shamed, and considered blameworthy if she is raped.
[edited to add: I am not trying to imply that women who conform to these requirements are more likely to be raped than women who don’t; merely that the women-blaming narrative surrounding the events tend to be tweaked in different ways.]
A woman can wear a bikini and not have their sexuality questioned.
You’re assuming that woman = heterosexual woman. That’s rather het privileged of you, although unsurprising given the “people will think I’m gay, oh no!” tenor of your comments.
An attractive, thin, young, shaved woman can wear a bikini and be assumed to be heterosexual. Try deviating from that beauty norm in any way and you get called lesbian, intended as an insult (although it shouldn’t be). The woman isn’t “allowed” to express her sexuality, the default norm of heterosexuality is projected onto her by you and whoever you’re imagining is looking at her approvingly.
Women wear swimsuits in water polo, but I play water polo and in it we wear high neck suits (I think of them as armor) because regular suits (with straps in the back instead of one solid zip up piece) are too easy to pull on underwater, so in actuality female water polo players are covered *more* then female swimmers. And male water polo players wear speedos. (This is the only event I watch.)
The Australian women’s water polo suits look quite practical, don’t they? Not so much this one.
Lauredhel-That is a traditional swim suit and is a HORRIBLE choice for a water polo suit. Seriously. I can just hold on to the back (where the straps come together) and keep you in one place. The zip up back is the only way to go. I have 3, including a rubber suit (hard to grab onto) in case she wants to borrow one.
Oh and vis a vis swimming suits sorry, I just looked at pictures and saw that the swimmers are now wearing long nontraditional competitive suits. I wish they had those when I was swimming. I hated having to shave.
Though here are the US Women’s Water Polo uniforms (so she won’t be wearing that thankfully.)
Crap. Find them here
an incredible bunch of piling on is going on here. I “stumble uponed” this blog, so my comments will, I’m sure, be out of line, and I vilified for them, since it seems to be just awful to disagree.
Everyone here seems to think that it’s wrong to be attracted to women in skimpy attire. It seems to be a horrible thing to find a lithe, hairless woman sexy, and it confounds me.
Yes, I’m male.
Yes, I find those women’s bodies alluring.
Does that make me sexist? Does that make me a horrible person? I don’t think it does, as I am not ‘offended’ by women’s bodies who don’t look like that, and in fact, am more often than not attracted to women that don’t look like that.
“Feminists” are often portrayed as “man-haters.” It is unfortunate that the bulk of responses to Cam have demonstrated that same level of intolerance.
I strongly urge you to take a look around, and, in particular, read our Commenting Guidelines before commenting here. The link’s right in that little aqua box above the comment entry field.
If you’re a feminist or pro-feminist, welcome! If you’re pre-feminist and interested in engaging and learning, a very big welcome also! If you’re new to feminism and feel the urge to whinge about something you know nothing about instead of engaging and learning, I also suggest a pre-commenting stint at Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog. Cheers.
ETA: And take a good look at Antifeminist Bingo I and II.
Here’s the thing, Name Withheld By Request: I don’t give a damn what gives you a woody. And if you find it unthinkable that the lives of a whole lot of women don’t revolve around your dick? I don’t care.
PiaToR, can you see the difference between the Silver Ferns uniform (tight, very short skirt) and the men’s basketball uniforms?
Actually, I was mentally comparing it to the All Blacks, having just gone through a story about the athletes of both in sponsorships.
Yes, I’m male.
Yes, I find those women’s bodies alluring.
Yeah, well so do I, but Laurelhed’s point is fairly simple – they’re professional athletes, not participants in a Girls Gone Wild video. Athletic clothing should be on the basis of (i) safety and ii) convenience, period.
In that there seem to be mandated rules forcing the women to show skin, Laurel’s point is well worth noting. Why precisely are the XX athletes supposed to be sexual advertisements when the XY athletes ain’t?
The problem is not in that they’re sexy. It’s in that they’re forced to be sexy.
I read, and abided by, the commenting guidelines. They specifically say that disagreement is welcome, but verbal abuse is not. I do not feel that I was verbally abusive in any way.
Apparently, you -do- care, because if I am not offended by the outrageous sexism of the female Olympian’s uniforms, then I must be just this side of misogynistic, right?
Well, truth be told, I have yet to find a single woman whose life revolves around my penis. In fact, a woman like that would be an anathema to me. Someone so vapid and shallow would hold no appeal.
Do you find it shocking that many men’s lives don’t revolve about your vagina?
I’ve watched less of this Olympics than in the past(partly because they’re in an oppressive country, partly lack of time) but those photos really say it all on this topic. I’m not 100% convinced on the hockey, but the athletics more than makes up. Everyone knows beach volleyball is a joke, but when did we start treating our female runners as eye candy not champions?
One of the things that strikes me is that I’m a straight male, and there is no question I enjoy looking at women without a lot of clothes. But for all that, I get much more of a thrill out of seeing female athletes be athletes than seeing them running around wearing almost nothing. I mean I might turn on the beach volleyball and think “hey she’s hot, and not wearing much”, but within 30 seconds its all about the sport.
Which makes me wonder – are the men who are insisting the women dress like this actually so contemptuous of women’s sport they’re focused on the flesh the whole way through, or are they doing it for the quick perve before the game starts.
NWBY, I draw the following to your attention:
“Nobody is obliged to listen to you if you are being a jerk.”
“don’t threadjack to ride your own hobbyhorse.”
“Meaning matters, not just the ‘decency’ status of the words used.”
“We decline to publish unacceptable content.” (And if you really can’t see why accusing feminists of being man-haters and whining woundedly about what you find sexy isn’t acceptable content here, you have a whole lot more reading to do.)
Lastly: “If you object to a moderation decision, please discuss it with us via email.” <—– And this is final. You’re over on this thread, because you’re acting like an obnoxious arse.
Oh, gag me. The NBC Olympics site is running a photo slideshow of close-ups of volleyball players’ buttocks. The excuse is that the shots are all showing hand signals.
But do they actually explain the codes? No, this is all they say:
Surprise surprise, there are no photos of men signalling, and most of the photos show a more or less severe case of wedgie. They’ve titled it “Cracking the Code”. Seriously.
I’m so pleased to have found this post – it’s a subject that’s been bothering me for a while, but I couldn’t have articulated it as well as you. And, as to the “it’s because it increases performance” argument, can I just point out that runner usually like to wear some kind of shorts to cut down on chafing (it hurts over long distances, and the friction certainly doesn’t provide an advantage)? I looked at the pictures of the ladies on the athletics team, and they have strong thighs that don’t leave a gap in the middle, so I can imagine this might be a problem for them. But really, it’s not about the sport. It’s about the eye candy.
I came across your blog while doing a Google search to figure out why there is such a ridiculous difference between the men’s and women’s beach volleyball outfits. It does seem that the popularity of summer Olympic sports is related to the amount of clothing worn. (Though, badminton and fencing have surprisingly high ratings this year.)
However, I got sucked into the disagreements that have occurred here with “Cam” and “Name Withheld….” What is interesting about these disagreements is how they have illustrated a form of hypocrisy that relates to the thread topic.
Moderator note: this comment has been edited to delete several further paragraphs. The deleted content has been ported to a new thread. See moderator comment below.
For the beach volleyball I found out that the women do have the option of wearing a one-piece suit and not the bikinis. So while the option of wearing something more modest exists, this option has not been taken.
Moderator note 2: The above sentence has been re-inserted because it is on-topic.
I’ll note that what a person finds sexually attractive != what is appropriate dress for any profession or activity unrelated to filling your sexual needs.
If you think Olympic athletes should be fulfilling your sexual needs, you have problems.
Wearing my Moderator Hat:
Meta-discussion about our comments policy and our own adherence to its guidelines can go on this new thread, please, so that this thread does not get derailed.
Just to note, PIATOR above (before the near-derail about our comments policy) summed up exactly what is objectionable about the double standard in uniforms perfectly:
men can still ONLY be viewed through a rigid lens of a masculinity devoid of anything that extends beyond, ironically, standing on the sidelines and objectifying women’s bodies while remaining comfortably covered up…
I don’t think you’ve thought this one through. In summer, men are still allowed to get around completely topless, if they want, and with fairly skimpy shorts. Don’t you have the old blokes with bare torsos hosing the garden in Adelaide? Maybe it’s a Melbourne thing. And they don’t care whether they’re buff or not. They’re simply entitled to do it if it makes them feel comfortable, and of course there’s not “He’s asking for it!” involved.
“while the horses are beautiful, I found the outfits of the riders to be rather odd. The top hat and tails makes them look like they are on their way to a fancy dress party rather than participating in a sporting event. The message it sent to me was that participants in the dressage events are much too classy and elegant to wear a uniform that implies that they perspire or require the freedom of movement that standard athletic gear allows. And it’s certainly not a sport for the hoi polloi to participate in.
It’s interesting, though, that the women who compete in dressage wear the same outfits as the men. I realize I may be way off on this since I am not really familiar with the sport, but it appears to me that they are wearing men’s clothing, and to participate in the event they have to make themselves appear to be honorary men. Or maybe it’s because the “feminine” equivalent would be an evening gown, which wouldn’t be very practical?”
Ok, I am disagreeing with this comment in about eleventy-three ways.
First, yes, the top hat and tails look kinda old fashioned, but they’re not just grabbing the top hat and tails from their dinner suit – riding jackets are designed for riding in, even if they look like tails, and I’m betting my bottom dollar that those top hats are actually hard hats designed to protect the head if you fall off your horse.
“[don’t] require the freedom of movement that standard athletic gear allows”
As someone who used to do dressage, I can tell you that johdpurs and a riding jacket allow you all the freedom of movement you could possibly want. Johds are totally stretchy. You could do yoga in them.
And they’re riding pants, not men’s pants. Everyone who rides a horse (other than maybe if you just go on a trail ride or something) wears them. And there are a lot more women who ride horses than men, so I totally fail to see how they’d be classified as “men’s clothes”. A riding jacket for a woman is cut for a woman. I kinda-sorta get where you’re coming from with the top hats, but if you take a closer look at the women’s hats, you’ll see they don’t actually look like a man’s top hat, they’re a lot shorter.
“to participate in the event they have to make themselves appear to be honorary men”
I’m just not seeing this. They don’t look like men, honorary or otherwise. The jackets are cut differently, the hats are different. They just don’t look like they’re showing a whole lot of flesh. If I wear trousers to work, does that mean I’m doing it because I want to appear to be an honorary man, or are we over the whole oh-my-god-a-woman-wearing-trousers-she-wants-to-be-a-man thang?
And yes, not so much a sport for the hoi polloi – I don’t think the hoi polloi could afford. Just looking at some ads, an untrained three-year-old with dressage potential costs upwards of $10,000. A five-year-old with preliminary dressage training – $25,000.
Peggy – the Colin Firth-esque costume is feeding into a penchant for Jane Austen-ish costume which might be kind of peculiar to this corner of the Oz blogosphere – ie. a bit in-jokey, sorry.
Your point about women dressing as honorary men is interesting. I wish I could remember where I read a thread some days ago about boys’ and girls’ clothes and play: some things, such as trousers and flat boots, are simply clothes and are appropriate to both if you’re going to engage in activities where you need to be unhampered. As opposed to, for instance, skirts and heels. As a woman who gets around in jeans and T shirts most weekends, I don’t feel I’m being an honorary man- it’s just that some of the specifically “feminine” clothes are so mind-bogglingly bad to wear when you want to do anything.
The dressage gear is a bad example because it’s highly ritualised and has been handed down from yonks ago without much change. Here’s a picture of what women horse athletes wear for the cross country stage:
and for the third event, the showjumping, they all (M & W) wear a similar costume but with a nice tailored jacket, such as you might wear to the office, and a posher helmet, but no top hats and stuff.
You’ll notice the women and men are both wearing stuff that’s 100% geared to keeping them comfortable. OK, what is my point? I’m very unhappy with the lack of coverage of this sport, as we were headed for gold until the last moment. But there were no lycra-clad chicks to be seen. Coincidence? I think not. I managed to catch some coverage on TV last night, but they had to cross regularly to the non-stop splishy-splashy boring bloody blah SWIMMING, and airbrushed ads of blonde supermoddelly-looking Liesel Jones with the Oz population in her suitcase.
(As for the elitist nature of Olympic dressage, I think, no pun intended, the horse has well and truly bolted on the elitism problem for most sports once you get up to that level!)
No that one is universal I think -round my way there is a guy who is always watering his footpath in his jocks, not even budgie smugglers, plain old coloured jocks. He must be about 70, and his beard covers more skin than his clothing. I suspect he may be a european emigre like my dad- mad keen on nudity and totally wacky with age.
Maybe he is an immigrant mad keen on nudity – but for real? I grew up in some very “white aussie” working class areas, and those men are no less keen to flaunt their packages and the rest of their body let me tell you. A fine tradition of humungous bellies overhanging speedos and, yes, undies in the front lawn, shirtlessness at any outdoor party/event, often in the shopping mall. Once at fifteen I saw a HUGE guy walking shirtless through the mall I worked in, fat belly swinging in the breeze, a CARPET (shagpile too) of hair on his back…except where the two sides of his back rubbed against one another because of the weight he carried on his back and made a bare strip right along his spine. Also short shorts and legs apart is another vaunted tradition…and my own father sporting a belly so large and hairy it is a wonder he can stand upright likes to mosy around the house in silk boxers, particularly when there are guests.
Oh yeah, I didn’t mean to imply that it was just one group that did it
aargh noe! Flood of unwanted memories. Also some good Dave Allen jokes about euphemisms: “The gate is open but the dog’s asleep” “The bird fell out of the nest.”
No, yeah, I worried about the tone when I wrote that, not implying that you were implying anything either…just this white aussie ‘bloke’ culture of excess exposure is so familiar to me…bleaurgh! 🙂
I just saw an ad and Today Tonight is tackling this very issue tonight of beach volleyball get up and gender. Sure to be typically illuminating.
A quick note: fat-shaming and mockery is not cool here.
I agree, there are definitely some flaws in my argument. I was actually just trying to see where Cam was coming from. I do think it’s important to remember that dudes are also victims of patriarchal oppression as well. It’s obviously not as relevant in this case, but as a discussion topic I am interested in the ways in which men are allowed to sexually express themselves beyond being the aggressors.
audreys last blog post..Project Thigh Blaster
Amanda: Today Tonight? Oh, that’s sure to be just special. I predict a lot of long, lingering zoomed-up shots of wedgie-buttocks with a bit of half-hearted pretend indignation.
(To our international visitors: Today Tonight is a half-hour primetime “current affairs” programme specialising in shoddy reporting, dramatic “exposes”, harassment, and ratings-chasing.)
I just assumed that people, generally, commenting on this blog took it as read that the patriarchy affects us all, not just women, but probably should have spelled it out for some of the newer commentators. I’m interested in the idea that particular items of clothing allegedly mark you out as gay as a man. But I don’t want to derail the thread. Anyone care to take up the baton?
I’ve never played beach volleyball, but surely a pair of shorts and bra top would be just as comfortable?
I predict a lot of “humourless/puritanical feminist” strawfem-bashing. Possibly with a quick cut to Catherine Lumby telling us to all lighten up already.
Cam’s blogged on it over at his place, Mindy, so you can explore the concept there – I’ve got a few thoughts I should toss up in the air on that as well.
The shorts definitely, and why not a singlet top like the men, so that they don’t have any performance anxiety about perhaps a little roll of fat around the middle? Also as Audrey mentioned way up-thread, what about the sun-protection issues? Apparently the one-piece alternative that the women are offered (skin-tight, naturally) has been rejected by the players because it tends to trap sand and thus lead to chafing – but of course, the ruling bodies can point to it and say see, they’re choosing the teeny-kinis!
If it wasn’t for the fact that it would involve one of these fine athletes getting skin-cancer, I’d relish the thought of an eventual lawsuit against the rule-making bodies.
I was thinking that the women would need some sort of supporting bra anyway, so why not just make that the top layer. It would be interesting to see if more women participated if there was an option of a singlet top as well.
I was also wondering if the attraction of the uniforms for beach volleyball would hold if more, lets say, traditionally built women such as myself wore one. I suspect not. Not that I could run around on sand for three sets. I think three points might just do me in.
I worry about skin cancer too. Obviously it’s an issue for any outdoor sports, but where such a skimpy outfit is the uniform, surely there would be scope for a lawsuit. Is it just the Olympics or does beach volleyball in general mandate tiny outfits?
Point taken about the fat shaming…I was aware of it as I was doing it…I guess what I was getting at here was my experience of a particular class of masculinity, which involves (far in excess) beer drinking men, older men with no problems exposing their very large beer bellies mowing the lawn in undies, while judging, ogling and holding women to impossible standards. This figure (of the older, larger, white angry man being hideously sexist)is so common as to be the overwhelming image of my childhood and adolescence. But despite their hypocrisy, the point is not their weight, and it’s a little cheap of me to mock it.
Definitely a huge double standard though FP.
It’s the Beach Volleyball ruling bodies that mandate the uniforms. Pretty sure that’s always the case for all sports in the Olympics – each sport has its own code for its rules, including those wrt uniforms – the Olympic committees seem to merely confine themselves to rules about miminum/maximum sizes of various national and Olympic logos.
Rebekka & Helen: Thanks for the clarification. I really know nothing about dressage other than the 30 minutes or so I watch every four years as part of the Olympics coverage. My only personal experience with horses is trail riding, where the uniform is pretty much jeans and a tee. And as for the “men’s clothing” comment, I wasn’t actually referring to the pants and boots, which I consider to be unisex, but to the top hat and jacket with tails, which look like men’s formal attire to me. It still seems odd to me that the riders don’t actually wear what I think of as athletic gear, but I guess that’s because I haven’t seen it enough to appreciate the nuances. And you’re right that it’s refreshing that the women aren’t expected to wear bikinis and sparkly eye shadow like they are part of a Vegas floor show.
On a separate topic, the outfits the beach volleyball players are wearing do closely resemble male vs. female swimwear here in Southern California. Almost all the men here s wear baggy board shorts, while women are expected to be wearing something skimpy, or at least form fitting. I have definitely heard comments about men who wear speedos or otherwise skimpy swimwear along the lines that they must either be homosexual or foreign, so at least in some localities I think Cam is right in that respect.
I think there’s worth in pointing out the double standard Mindy. It would be different if you were attacking the nerve of overweight men to just quietly go about their business watering the lawns while fat. However, when fat men take it upon themselves to belittle and shame ‘fat’ women (who in most cases are actually nowhere near the concept of fat! – not that that makes it okay) then it is perfectly acceptable to point out the hypocrisy because it highlights yet another way in which some people assume that rules made for men exclude those made for women.
audreys last blog post..Project Thigh Blaster
I think it’s worth pointing out that the volleyball outfits are a recent development, and was chosen to gain more viewers. Volleyball was at risk of getting dropped as an Olympic discipline, and this was how the Volleyball ruling bodies solved that problem.
In other words, the womens’ uniforms being sexy was the explicit reason for choosing them.
Note to people who don’t know me: this is not an excuse, just some added background for those unaware of it.
Finally, a sport featuring men in skimpy costumes – Men’s Diving. Lovely buff bodies in tiny speedos. Bliss.
Sorry Audrey, I thought I had pointed out that there was a double standard.
I’m not sure that you’re right there, Kristjan. Indoor Volleyball has not been under threat of dropping that I’m aware, and the Indoor women’s uniforms are nowhere near as skimpy as the Beach Volleyballers.
Perhaps you’re thinking of when Beach Volleyball was still on the fringe as a “demonstration sport”, before it was fully accepted as a member sport?
tigtog, the explanation I gave was what was widely reported in the Danish press when it happened. It could be the Danish press misunderstood the story (it wouldn’t be the first time), but some of the Danish volleyball women seemed to have the same impression, and said that while they didn’t like the uniforms, they preferred those to Volleyball being dropped from the Olympic program.
Beach volleyball have always had those uniforms, as far as I am aware, but I must admit that I haven’t followed the sport at all.
The indoor volleyball uniforms just don’t seem that bad – here’s Cuba vs Brasil at Athens 2004:
And here’s this year’s American Olympic women’s team:
Form-fitting compared to the men’s, and the shorts are short-short, but at least they’re not bikinis.
Could it have just been that the Danish team was having trouble qualifying, perhaps because of funding issues for training facilities etc? And that sexifying their uniforms got some sponsors on board? Because I know that the Australians have trouble qualifying for the indoor volleyball competition, but I’ve never heard that the entire sport was in danger of being dropped from the Olympic program.
May I suggest water polo? You want guys in their best physical shape (total body workout) AND speedos, this is the sport for you. (Plus I like my sports rough.)
Oohh, good point, Lost Clown I will watch the water polo too.
via Tennessee Guerilla Women
The Indian women have rejected the alternate official uniform one-piece as well, opting for T-shirts and long shorts. Good for them, but of course they had to cite religious morality reasons in order to have their refusal be upheld without disqualification. No way that it would fly simply on the grounds of preference/practicality for the other women in the sport.
Maybe this teaspoon may be enough for others to take note and take action? Good on them, whatever their reason.
So if I’m a professional athlete, I can’t get out of wearing sexy clothes unless I’m religious?
“sky daddy says I can’t wear revealing outfits” is the only excuse to get out of it??
At least in certain sports, that appears to be how it is, Jess. If you don’t follow the rules, you get kicked off the squad. Especially at an event where one is representing one’s country, you know, those events that used to be all about the glories of amateurism?
When it was all still amateur, the athletes appeared to have more choices, at least with uniforms (other choices were severely constrained by lack of funds). Now that the sports have been professionalised, and their training is paid for by sponsors who want their logos displayed in certain ways, the athletes have less choice about how they are presented in front of the spectators, particularly the all-important TV spectators.
Ooh Mindy, I apologise! I actually meant to direct that to FP as a sign of agreement with you. My bad.
I watched the Today Tonight story on volleyball. Unsurprisingly, it focused very little on the differences between uniforms and instead featured a lot of footage of the Australian team talking about about how they found the bikinis a lot more comfortable to play in and they actually felt sorry for the men having to play in so much material.
Oh, and various vox pops of dudes salivating over the uniforms.
Apparently beach volleyball is the third most watched Olympic sport these days. I suspect the uniforms are different for indoor women because they don’t have the benefit of sun and sand to contribute to the atmosphere of sex.
audreys last blog post..short but sweet
Well this is another connected issue is that *even if* you could say that individual athletes enjoyed baring their bods etc, *even if* you could make the argument it’s a personal freedom matter…what about the fact that wherever women go at the moment we get to hear the lewd comments of men discussing “Women’s Beach Volleyball” loudly, whenever and wherever they want with no regard as to whether anyone might be uncomfortable about a bunch of old dudes referring to the Beach Volleyball to express in code “Check it OUT dudes, we’d all tap that, am I right???Am I right???This is almost as good as porn” over and over. And no, it’s NOT the fact that there is an attraction there that bothers me, it’s the ways and the reasons it’s communicated, as if it’s their right to sexualise and salivate over any woman, anywhere, anytime, no matter what the woman does, should be being looked at *for*.
Then there’s the ads for the current affairs program where a reporter (white male) ‘investigates’ the chinese cheerleaders…and turns while watching their routine to tip a large “Hell YEAH” wink to the camera. So yes, even if you could make skimpy attire into the choice of the wearer, what of the *choices* of the rest of us not to be bombarded by continual sexual inuendo all day?
If anyone here can point me in the right direction for some good readings on the male gaze, and the whole homosocial ‘women as goods to exchange’ kind of writing, it’d be appreciated…cos I often get asked by men why their sexualising of women is possessive/appropriative/upsetting for me to hear…and I find myself fumbling to explain it sufficiently in the face of their resistance. I know what I mean, but I think some further reading would help me articulate my views without getting frustrated.
I was listening to the ABC’s “Life Matters” last night about mentoring, and was struck by the comment that many male mentors were suddenly ‘getting it’ when it was their daughter not progressing because of the male priveledge in the corporate arena.
I wonder if the wearing of appropriate uniforms (as opposed to the sexualised outfits they are apparently required to wear) may be challenged when the Powers That Be are told by their participating daughters how uncomfortable some of those clothes are to wear, and how uncomfortable it is to be seen as an ‘ogled body’ instead of the athletes they are.
Personally, I can’t imagine that playing a strenuous sport on sand in a skimpy costume would be that comfortable.
But then, during times of sporting hysteria times I take refuge in my DVD collection and the library until it is all over and the world returns to its usual insanities.
The link may not show the pic that’s up now (as they often change their front page pics) but it’s the swimmners hugging in victory under the heading GOLD DIGGERS…ok, I get it, a play on diggers, a pun on the medal, however…I’m sure there were many other ‘punny’ headlines available and the gendered connotation to ‘gold diggers’ is inescapable
It seems so, as tigtog says, at least in some sports. You don’t get an out from playing to the horny male gaze unless you’re already claimed by a religion or skycreature – unless the male authorities in your home country object to you being on display.
Fuckpoliteness: awesome point, and one that I think is underexplored. I totally agree.
I put up a couple of other indoor volleyball uniform pics. The difference isn’t as stark as it is in beach volleyball, but there is still obviously a gender divide. Snug tops and lycra short-short hotpants or swimsuit type briefs for the women; loose shirts and shorts for the men.
No need to apologise Audrey! I did wonder if you had me confused with someone else, no harm done.
I feel your frustration FP. If you do come across some good writing, please share.
FP: tekanji’s FAQ on the Male Gaze over at FF101 covers a lot of good ground and has a list of further reading, but I’m not sure whether any of it’s the pithy summary you’re looking for.
Thanks, I’ll check out the link – I don’t need the pithy summary really, it’s just it’s stuff I know from experience and ranting with friends, but stuff I’m not down on the theory of you know? So it’s cool to have a link to check out to start some readings…so I can go “aaaHA!!!” and formulate my own pithy summary with which to then kick the rhetorical pants of those trying to claim it’s no problem/just a fact of life/exactly the same as when women scope each other/men. At the moment all I’ve got is a raspberry.
Lauredhel, excellent point about women only being allowed to opt out of these rules if they clash with religious belief (dictated by old guys back home). FP, I think that’s one zinger you can use when trying to articulate to guys why the male gaze is still in operation.
audreys last blog post..short but sweet
I’d like to point out that it’s not just professional athletes that have to deal with this; I ran cross-country my first year of college, and the women were required to wear the equivalent of swimsuit bottoms while the men wore shorts. The uniform was distracting, and I complained, but was told that I had no choice. It was one of the reasons I quit the team. It makes me even angrier now, as I think about all the barriers in the way of young women and girls learning to participate in sports. It’s sad to think that things like this might keep women and girls away from sports.
A really excellent post, and the photos really do the trick. I hate when people reply, “well, maybe they want to wear those uniforms.” When the international rule requiring Beach VB bikinis came out, the women were pissed. There is very little logical reason why, for the benefit of the athlete, such stark differences in uniforms would be required. And I was shocked at the Basketball images, since the uniforms for the WNBA here in the states are very much like the men’s.
On a sidenote, the uniforms make it awfully difficult to publish an action shot that isn’t Maxim-worthy. It makes me think of a story I blogged about where a young athlete’s track photo from her newspaper was taken out of context and spread all over the internet with very lewd and harassing comments accompanying it. I can’t help but think about the online conversations over some of these very sexual-looking photos of these women, about how they must feel. Because it’s not like they’re going to say “no I don’t want to be in the Olympics because some asshat’s gonna get off on photos of my ass hanging out of my uniform”, but that doesn’t mean they’re all o.k. with that idea either.
The uniforms sure make it hard to take female athletics seriously when they look like they belong in a lad mag, not on the playing field.
Good point, Jane – and one that was made in a Senate inquiry a few years ago, as Liam mentioned in #43 and as I blogged at the time. Many young girls are being turned off competing in sports at all because of their discomfort at the gratuitous display of skin and/or formfitting garments.
Further idiocy: Kate Harding skewers a Times correspondent bemoaning how women’s swimming suits compress their breasts so that they are less ogle-able: he does grudgingly concede that this does make them swim faster so that’s “probably OK” just so long as they get out of those horrible things ASAP so that they look “feminine” again.
I’ve just published a post on the issue of sexualised uniforms over at Larvatus Prodeo. I expect that it won’t take long for someone to tell me how it’s all just in my head.
Of course it is tigtog, you lie around all day dreaming up problems that don’t exist all for your own amusement! (Mmm…sarcasm *doesn’t* translate well to the written word does it?)
I can’t lie. I like the pictures. And the uniforms. I’m a straight male so I guess I am the target market. Is the problem that men (including me) like them or that the males aren’t dressed in similar revealing clothing?
If everyone wore tight uniforms would the world be a better place?
OMFFFFFFG! I’ve been reading the comments over at Lavartus in response to your post tigtog. Disheartening.
Uh… no, at Larvatus in fact, not some new w/s…I can’t spell for shit some days.
Asked and answered, Dan. Look up.
[I should develop a macro for this.]
In some ways the best response to an obvious tool like TH can just be to banter around him until he gets bored of it and leaves, so I don’t mind the latest silly comments, but yeah.
I’m a little late to this and the sexism surrounding uniforms for female athletes has been pretty throughly discussed already, but I couldn’t let this slip by.
Name Withheld By Request said:
Only caring about your penis = unattractive to you
Outside interests and goals = sexually appealing to you
How is this not still about your penis? Counting a woman’s non-sexual achievements as part of her allure is still judging her based on how attractive you find her, instead of on what she has achieved.
THE PROBLEM IS WOMEN DON’T HAVE A CHOICE. Not that they are hot, or that people find them hot. The problem is that they are athletes being valued for their physical appearance instead of their athletic prowess, and being REQUIRED to show their bodies whether they want to or not.
The generalizing is honestly quite frightening.
“I like the way women look in this outfit” = “Every woman should be wearing this outfit no matter what they are doing.”
Criticism of that outfit in a non-Playboy-photoshoot = YOU PERSONALLY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO FIND THAT ATTRACTIVE
The entitlement which is bred into men from birth is epic. Every part of society is made to fit their wishes. When one part of society is criticized, they take it as “Am I not allowed to have those wishes?” — because OBVIOUSLY the BEST ATHLETES IN THE ENTIRE FUCKING WORLD are meant to dress for YOUR pleasure — you, specific you, the ass that is sitting in your chair right this minute.
Jane @116, I think that’s a really great point. Mandating skimpy outfits for high school and college athletics not only keeps out those who object to being forced to be objectified, it also keeps out girls/women who might feel uncomfortable with their bodies. I know I would have loved to try out for the volleyball team, but I was too self-conscious to wear the tiny skin-tight shorts that were part of the uniform. It’s another way of telling us that we only deserve to be seen performing if we’re small enough.
I’d also like to point out that in the article that I’ve seen that reports on the Indian team refusing to wear the bikinis, it says that you can have a religious, ethical, or cultural objection to them. So I guess feminism would be an ethical objection. But still, they made sure to quote a French player hoping that they would be inspired to wear the bikinis in the future by seeing the super-hot French team. As if the Indians fought to be able to wear shorts and a t-shirt just because they weren’t sure if a bikini was a good idea, and seeing the French team will change their minds.
Have you seen this?
I like how they sell it like she made a strong case for the bikini, but really all she says is “It’s hot and so we don’t wear many clothes.” Then they say “it’s not about eye candy” while giving a link that says “Click to see pictures of beach volleyballers in brief bikinis.” Yeah, I’m sure it’s so we can get a feel for how hot it must have been that day.
THANK YOU. I’ve been noticing this all week — and seething. I’ve even considered making a LJ post about it, but felt just so unutterably weary I couldn’t even get started; the sexism just never ends. Now I can link to your excellent post.
I’ve hated the women’s volleyball “uniforms”, but haven’t seen men’s volleyball, so wasn’t aware of the extreme disparate coverage. What I’ve particularly noticed is the divers and gymnasts. Male divers — suits are tight and skimpy, but the bottom hem goes down almost to the crease where leg joins buttocks. Female divers — the bottom hem is halfway up their buttocks, and the side is cut so high over the hip that they feel obliged to “tug” everything down as they exit the pool. I haven’t seen one man need to “tug”; his suit is cut to stay in place.
Similarly — women gymnasts’ uniforms are cut halfway up their buttocks, and to the top of their hips. Men gymnasts get to wear full-leg length stretchy tight things. If the men can do their routines in full-length gear, you can’t convince me that women “need” skimpier gear for freedom of movement. Bah, humbug!
I was actually wondering this while watching the beach volleyball tournaments this past week. Every year the women’s outfits seem to get smaller every year.
Is it more comfortable for women to play competitive sports in tighter tops for the extra support they provide?
A buxom woman needs to find the right balance between painful compression of the breasts versus avoidance of annoying and painful bounce. I personally prefer a very tight bra for sports – one that is exactly the right size for me and permits zero bounce.
The type of top under discussion, though, would provide zero support for a buxom woman. Looking at the beach volleyball pictures up top, my sports bra wouldn’t fit under one of those.
If anyone here can point me in the right direction for some good readings on the male gaze, and the whole homosocial ‘women as goods to exchange’ kind of writing, it’d be appreciated…
The following two links from the blogosphere are, I think, close to what you mean:
Lauredhel, thank you very much for this post.
Lauredhel, I blogged this for the Sunday Mail.
audrey apples last blog post..short but sweet
Great article, Audrey!
Right women are the ones who have to dress sexy because the outfit is different from the men and we all know how women would love to see men in tight speedos and bras.
Here’s the latest, from the ”multi-award winning Chief Sports Photographer” of the Times Online, Marc Aspland.
A series of faceless butt and bikini shots, prefaced with this:
[courtesy of ninjapoodles, via twitter.]
Gaargh! Gaaaaaaaargh!!!! “Here. Have these women. Enjoy them. That’s what they’re for”. ALL things beautiful eh? No beautiful MALE bodies at the Olympics? No sunsets? No heartwarming moments to capture? OH…all things beautiful, meaning all thing young chicks I’d like to bone compiled in one handy list to share with my mates… Mmmm…MSM masculinity is charming.
I’m a female cross country runner, and most of the girls on my team tend to wear only their sports bras and spandex shorts when training, especially when it’s hot out (like it must surely be in Bejing in the middle of August) because you don’t get as much chafing from an excess of fabric between your legs, and when you sweat, it’s not soaking a baggy cotton shirt, which sticks to your body uncomfortably and weighs you down. So while I agree that many of the commentators’ comments can be quite sexist, I’m also sure there is probably a performance reason behind all of these “unnessesarily skimpy” uniforms.
Also, during races, boys and girls are both required to wear the same uniform, short running shorts and a tank top, which is significantly less comfortable than a sports bra/top and spandex shorts.
“I was thinking that the women would need some sort of supporting bra anyway, so why not just make that the top layer”
Because each layer serves a different function and trying to get one layer that does both doesn’t always work very well.
If you look at the pics of men’s indoor vollyball above, you’ll notice that a lot of them are wearing “bike shorts” underneath their uniforms. This is generally for both support and so that they don’t have to worry about occasional lack of coverage during the course of the match (similar to bras). The outer uniform, though, is supposed to be designed for the ease of the judges/referees – hopefully without hindering movement. (As Emmie’s comments illustrate.)
It’s certainly possible to make one layer uniforms that do all this, but it’s often easier to go ahead and use two layers. Especially since, even with the homogeneous body shapes you get within each sport, different people have different support/coverage needs, but the teams uniform needs to be, well…uniform.
All of which, btw, means that not only are these skimpy uniforms unnecessary and sexist, they often aren’t ideal for actually playing the sport, either. That’s what kept bugging me the most as I watched the women’s beach vollyball. I may be wrong but, just couldn’t get over how uncomfortable those suits looked.
I don’t think women choose to be objects of sexuality. It’s more of the observer (generally men, being the visual creatures that they are) focusing on this and imagining that the women are responsible for what the men are seeing. It’s all about perception, just like the popular saying: “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”; except in this instance, sex is in the eye of the beholder.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have StumbledUpon this site – I had noticed the differences in athletes uniforms and was very unsettled by it. Definitely a double standard and not a balanced lesson to be teaching our children.
I will be back to read more comments – thank you for posting this. I am pleased to see I am not the only one who felt this way.
ResilientHearts last blog post..Open Letter to the World Outside of Brain Injury
Hi there ResilientHeart, and welcome.
I’m genuinely very surprised by the assertion that athletes are forced to wear certain types of clothing in their events. Am I just being really naive here? I’ve always assumed that Olympic class athletes would prioritise their performance over the supposed aesthetics of certain outfits, and I would have thought that the Olympic committee would too.
Of course nothing justifies crappy, sexist sports coverage of the kind you’re describing, and I know a few people on here have mentioned specific regulations around athletes’ clothes, but I’m really surprised. Are you saying that the world’s top athletes are forced to wear clothes that might make them feel self-conscious or uncomfortable? Surely that would compromise their performance? I find the idea a bit shocking to be honest and I need convincing that it’s really the case.
Please don’t think I’m being facaetious, I’m genuinely surprised by this, I’ve always assumed athletes wore what they were most comfortable doing their sport in.
There’s no need to take anyone’s word for it, Bransby. An official copy of the 2008 regs has proved difficult to find, but you can read the Athens 2004 Beach Volleyball 2004 regs right here at the FIVB website. The uniform regs are pp 38-42.
Well I’ll be buggered! Thanks for that Lauredhel, I am now fully convinced and suitably outraged. That really is quite amazing, I mean it’s bad enough that the world’s greatest athletes are forced to comply with this kind of nonsense, but as the photos above illustrate there is a blatant, shameless exploitation and objectification of women going on here, and this from the fricking Olympics!! Worse still I was able to live in totaly ignorance of the reality of it all until I stumbled across this blog. Seriously, I’d been watching stuff like the Olympics and thinking “hmm, bit skimpy, but if that’s what they’re comfy in, fair enough”, then this! People like Paula Radcliffe, one of the UK’s greatest athletes, has to wear a sodding bikini to run in because some tit thinks it looks foxy?? I’m really cross now.
women’s judo was on the tele…