Linda Dunn: Women’s sports: Style over substance

Linda Dunn

Now that the Olympics has come to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on how things have changed and how unfortunately much they’ve stayed the same.

Since 1900, when only five sports were allowed, women have come a long ways since then. Only 22 women participated that year — 2.2% of all the competitors. They had to compete wearing long sleeves and high necked dresses that were at least ankle length.

In Tokyo recently, the genders were fairly evenly represented, but while the men’s clothing choices were selected for comfort and safety with an eye to insuring that some article — such as Nike’s original “Vaporfly” — didn’t offer an unfair advantage; women’s clothing choices are still unfortunately gender-biased.

Obviously, there’s a need for different sports attire due to gender differences; but why is it that beach handball is played while wearing tank tops and shorts if you’re male and in a midriff-baring top and bikini bottoms if you’re female?

Admittedly, beach handball isn’t an Olympic sport, but the penalty imposed on the Norwegian women’s team for competing at a European event in shorts rather than bikini bottoms was my first indication that some female competitors were pushing back against regulations that focused more on how the athletes looked than how well the clothing suited the sport.

The German gymnastic team arrived at Olympics wearing unitards and not the bikini-cut, bikini leotards other teams were wearing. They called it a protest statement. “sexualization.”

The third and largest indication I saw that maybe some long overdue changes were coming for women’s sports attire was seeing the updated “Portrayal Guidelines”The International Olympic Committee issued instructions to broadcasters that stated that they were not to “focus unnecessarily on looks”Makeup, hair, nails, clothing, etc. “intimate body parts”Like “crotch shots, cleavage, backsides” “especially if it does not relate to an athlete’s performance.”

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Wow! That seemed a hard slam against what had been going on in essentially all women’s sports in and out of the Olympics since viewership expanded beyond ticketed sales to televised coverage.

Given that sports governing bodies need funding just as much as any nonprofit, it stands to reason that they’d want to expand their fan base to increase revenue and thus be able to offer more resources to their younger athletes and hopeful future Olympians. Sometimes, however, it seemed as though members of their governing boards decided to livestream to try to attract more fans to less-popular sports. “Mad Men’s”For promotional ideas, look at early episodes.

This might explain why someone decided that it would be profitable for them to launch a company. “Lingerie Football League,”This was a league that had women playing football in underwear. Fortunately, this was not a popular sport. We also did not see youth leagues that featured little girls in Disney-themed underwear and helmets.

It sometimes feels like women have let the sports governing boards dictate to us what our daughters and granddaughters should wear while participating in our chosen sport.

Is there any reason why female beach handball players should be dressed in a more modest manner than the men?

Why is it that sports chatter about men competing is focused on what they do, while women compete is focused on how they look doing it.

Anna Kournikova didn’t become rich because of her tennis skills. She never won a major tennis tournament. However, she became the world’s most highly paid women’s tennis player of that era through endorsements that emphasized her sex appeal over her athleticism.

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This is not the lesson I want my toddler granddaughter and teenage granddaughter to learn from sports.

I want them learn discipline, dedication, and how to get along. I want them to take away the lessons of goal-setting and time management, perseverance and resilience, as well as critical thinking skills.

These are qualities that many of us value, and we want our children to have when they encourage them to play sports.

We ask that you please continue with this movement “de-sexualize” women’s sports and focus on their skills and abilities rather than their looks?

Linda Dunn, a Hancock County resident since childhood, is an author as well as a former employee of the Department of Defense.

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