This morning I read this post over on Fit is a Feminist Issue discussing potential sexism in athletic team names. I’ve never really had issues with team names, other than Jr High, where the girls’ teams were hilariously cheered for by the name of Lady Rams.
However, I ended up considering the post further throughout the day because the author also mentioned team uniforms, criticizing the fitted, revealing nature of many women’s sports uniforms.
On the one hand, things like playing Lingerie League football on turf with so much turf-burn exposed skin is cringe-worthy and blatantly sex-focused. On the other, I chose the skimpiest ‘shorts’ possible for most of my college races (traditional split-shorts, mid-thigh spandex, long tights, and buns were offered) and would run in a sports bra most days if I could be guaranteed to only encounter non-judgemental, non-cat-calling folks during said runs.
I overheat easily and would rather choose un-restrictive, air-flow encouraging clothes than stay ‘modest’. I don’t think I’m motivated by sexiness or ego – I’m definitely uncomfortable wearing my preferred summer running attire in high-traffic locations or around people who I suspect might take offense or with whom I have professional relationships (rarely ran in a sports bra on campus when I was TAing and working in a lab). Women’s and men’s track uniforms do differ, with men’s generally having less fitted singlets (as a curvy-ish runner in grateful for the fitting, less annoying fabric swish around my waist) and longer spandex shorts. Traditional running shorts are equally revealing on both genders. I have yet to see a guy in buns outside of triathlon or novelty race costumes, so yea guys are generally not expected (allowed?) to show quite as much thigh. Women in track and field, as in all athletic endeavors and general life, are frequently sexualized whether they dress for that purpose or not. Not sure anyone found my granny-panty buns sexy while I sweated, spit, and grimaced around the track, and not sure I would have covered up more even if they had. Once that gun goes off I don’t give a damn what someone thinks of my attire. Unfortunately, I can definitely see that worry and discomfort creeping in to damage one’s performance or even prevent one from participating in a sport where only skimpy/fitted attire is allowed.
I guess I have mixed feelings. I don’t mind the skimpier women’s running uniforms. However, running is less focused on sex-appeal than many sports. And I might be more comfortable in less typical/acceptable attire if I had a different body shape or had different religious/cultural views on attire.