Guest post: Real People by default

Originally a comment by cluecat on A full wax.

This has been an issue in a number of settings – particularly gymnastics and related sports. A number of us have taken the point deduction that comes with departing from uniform expectations in competitions. Those deductions can be substantial – going from a near-perfect score on technical grounds, to ending up placing last as a direct result of the clothing/appearance penalty. A penalty applied only to female athletes in these settings – the males rarely have points deducted on these grounds.

I have competed wearing leggings in some sets, and others have worn the “boy’s” uniforms – a vest or mens’ leo with shorts. We were all penalised for refusing to wear skimpy, impractical, undignified (and inevetably sexualised) clothing. There is no technical advantage to the high-leg leotards; it doesn’t help the gymnast in any way, or benefit any aspect of the performance – the whole reason for wearing the leotards is “that’s what female gymnasts wear”. There is literally no reason to prohibit wearing leggings or shorts.

Gymnasts are penalised for having bra-straps showing beneath a leotard, or any hint of underwear generally visible – this often results in gymnasts being unable to wear anything under the leo, and having to temporarily glue the thing in place for competitions to avoid extreme embarassment (plus further deductions of points). With this expectation of near-nudity comes the chance for predators to abuse their targets – it’s clearly related to the clothing limitations; predators see it as part of the excuse for their behaviour.

Finally a number of international competitors are refusing this indignity – the German team have been competing in full suits; basically the equivalent of long-sleeve leo and matched leggings. This is exactly what a lot of gymnasts would like to wear, given the choice. It’s much more dignified, and still shows the technical “lines” etc.

Also, if the guys can wear shorts and the judges are still able to tell if their routines meet the requirements, then what reason can possibly be offered for why the girls cannot wear the same? Apart from sexism, there’s nothing.

The very fact that these athletes keep having to insist that they are, in fact, athletes, not decorative things for gross dudes to drool over, is still infuriating. We should not be penalised by males for insisting on practical, dignified attire in which to perform our sports. Women are still fighting to be seen as Real People, not accessories for males, and access to sport is part of that.

How many girls have turned away from these chances to understand their own strength and capability because they face these demands to perform their incredible feats in ridiculous outfits?

How often are brilliant girls, demonstrating their hard work and dedication in magnificent performances, belittled and dismissed because stupid people want to focus on what the girls are wearing, and whether they look sufficiently doll-like and decorative, or whether they meet some other bizarre male fantasy?

Nobody expects the dudes to look decorative. They get to be sporting professionals and be recognised as such without having to fulfil anyone’s fantasies. Males get to be Real People by default.

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