Skirting The Issue: Femininity in Boxing
A hot-button issue on the Women Talk Sports website last week centered on the Amateur International Boxing Association's request that female boxers wear skirts when competing in the ring. WTH? Didn't the AIBA learn anything from the Badminton World Federation's ill-fated plan to do the same?
Female boxers, who will be participating in the Olympics for the first time in 2012, have even been provided the aforementioned skirts which the AIBA hopes to "phase in for international competitions". The association believes it will allow spectators to distinguish the women from men. Really?
The Polish and Romanian teams were the only two to wear the suggested skirts at last week’s European Championships in Rotterdam. Poland Boxing made the attire compulsory for its boxers, saying they are more 'elegant'. Their coach, Leszek Piotrowski, told BBC Sport: 'By wearing skirts, in my opinion, it gives a good impression, a womanly impression'." Poland even designed their own light blue, swirly skirts for the competition.
An elegant, womanly look may not be what female boxers are going for when they deliver a potent left uppercut to the jaw.
While AIBA advises that its new uniform is optional and they have no plans to make it compulsory, President of the organization Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, says,
I have heard many times, people say, 'We can't tell the difference between the men and the women,' especially on TV, since they're in the same uniforms and are wearing headgear,'. After we hear about it's comfort and how easy it is to compete in the uniform, it may be compulsory. But we are still working on it.
Quite a few WTS bloggers weighed in on the subject and here's what some of them had to say:
Pat Griffin writes:
Why skirts you may ask? Apparently some people are having some difficulty telling the difference between men and women in the boxing ring. Thank goodness the AIBA has come to the rescue of the gender confused and disoriented spectators who are panicking about their inability to distinguish men from women in the ring. Skirts should do the trick. That is unless Scottish male boxers decide to wear kilts.
MMA blogger Cheryl Ragsdale, who belongs to an online WMMA (Women's Mixed Martial Arts) Advocacy Group, was surprised to discover that some women actually like to fight wearing a skirt. But she says,
Changing to a skirt isn't going to increase badminton's appeal or increase the number of people interested in watching women box.Female fighters sometimes end up with swollen faces, black eyes and bloody noses. Adding a skirt to the mix, won't make that any more palatable or prettier.
It's hard to believe that on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Title IX, we're still fighting causes that threaten to set female athletes back decades. After Atalanta explains that the concept of "things are getting better" or "things are better than they used to be" is problematic.
Progress is not one of those straight 45 degree angle lines streaking across a graph. The x and y axes are not so 1) measurable and 2) in sync that we have this perfect progress line. And this not-so-neat-and-easy "progress" can be applied to sport--women's sports specifically.
Many who oppose the recommendation believe that requiring female competitiors to wear skirts objectifies them and is a ploy to try to feminize women's boxing and demonstrate heterosex appeal. Wombat Sports writes:
It’s not an outfit that makes or breaks women sports. It’s what work they do to prove that they deserve every right as a woman to compete in a sport they love. However, the biggest respect you can give a female in sports is to not treat them as a woman, but to treat them as an athlete.
It will be a great day when women athletes can just be athletes without having to demonstrate their femininity but if this latest move by the AIBA is any indication, it seems we are not there yet. Not even close..
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