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The “female apology” at the Olympic Games and the eternal controversy over how athletes dress, do makeup and do their hair. Feminism

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The Tokyo Olympics have just begun, but there have already been controversies around the athletes’ wardrobe over the summer, and almost all of them seem to be recurring. The one that has made the most of the noise belongs to the Norwegian women’s beach handball team, which has received a fine from the European Handball Association’s Disciplinary Commission for wearing shorts instead of tank tops and shorts in European tournaments. Regulation knickers, “cut upward at an angle to the top” and “with a maximum lateral width of ten centimeters to the side”.

The federation threatened Norwegian players with fines of 50 euros per head and subsequent declassification, for which they eventually had to play their match against the Hungarian national team in official uniform. Still, he took advantage of what got the case—make no mistake, there would be a pandemic and a climate crisis, but the media isn’t going to miss the opportunity to headline a story with “panties” and portray it. Young athletic women in less wearing clothing to denounce the “hypersexualization” required of female athletes. The group photos she took with her male mates says it all: in bikinis, in tank tops and Shorts mid thigh.

What is regulation for some, is very useless for others. Last month, English Paralympian Olivia Breen, who has cerebral palsy, got a British Championship reprimanded by judges for wearing “too revealing” sports briefs. “Women should not be made to feel self-conscious about the clothes they wear during competition, but comfortable and safe,” Breen denounced at the time, adding that several other athletes had explained to her that He had received similar comments from judges and referees. the athlete intends to wear the same microshort, brand adidas, for Tokyo Paralympics.

As the Games begin and the first artistic gymnastics and synchronized swimming competitions take place, the same question we hear every four years will resurface: Is it necessary for athletes to wear makeup? What is the place of sequins in the hair on sports uniforms? Why does a talented athlete like Simone Biles have to compete with a bow in her hair, as if she were in a children’s choir? In 1978, an American professor of physical education and kinesiology named Emily Wughalter baptized the phenomenon as “in an academic work”lady apologetic“Or” Woman apologies. In her opinion, all of these elements, as well as, for example, the most colorful dance sections in rhythmic gymnastics, are intended to dispel the homosexual stereotypes associated with female athletes and for women in general to “forgive themselves”. for”. Her lack of traditional femininity. The fact that they were strong, sharp, agile and somewhat masculine, she needed to balance this with “frills and twirls,” according to Wuggalter.

In May of this year, three athletes from the German artistic gymnastics team wore jersey who covered their feet At the European Championships held in Basel. They did this, he said, in protest of the sexualization required of women in the sport, in which men compete in shorts and without makeup. “All women want to feel comfortable in our skin. In gymnastics, it gets more difficult as you get older and leave your body behind as a child,” said one of them, Sarah Voss. explained on German public television. “As a kid, I didn’t think much about jerseyBut when puberty started, when I got my period, I started feeling more uncomfortable.”

In this case, and unlike what happened with the Norwegians, the organization allowed it because such uniforms are authorized for gymnasts who have religious objections to showing their legs.

However, for every female athlete who struggles with her union to wear the same uniform as men, there is another who wants the opposite, and who does not believe, as Wughler thought, that they wear makeup. , Swarovski crystals in your swimsuits, as synchronized swimmers are used to having long nails, the opposite of your athletic excellence. The newest female athletics star, Sha’kari Richardson, who can’t compete in Tokyo because she tested positive for marijuana use (but stars in a Beats campaign with Kanye West), is famous for her orange hair and creative manicures. , is reminiscent of Florence Griffith in the eighties. Female soccer player Ali Krieger often plays with makeup, which she calls “war paints”, although this is not a regular thing in football, and another American sprinter, Shannon Robbery, paints her lips red for every race. because she considers it “empowerment”. . The same thing gymnast Aly Reisman said about mascara, which gives her confidence.

According to another Canadian educator, Elizabeth Hardy, who has updated the issue of “female apologies” in sport, the media plays an important role in the persistence of these stereotypes, especially among the elite, because of its lack of access to female athletes. Easy to achieve. Coverage and contracts with brands that sponsor them if they are limited to a standard physicist. “If you insist on that idealistic view of traditional femininity, you ensure that you remain desirable to men,” Hardy wrote in an analysis of gender roles at the last Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro 2016. Hardy says coverage, for example, of the women’s beach volleyball team “focuses not on the sport but on the athletes’ bodies, indicating that it is more important for athletes to be stereotypically attractive than to be good at their sport.” should be.”

The professor also addressed a more controversial issue in his study. For a few years now, a more inclusive approach to sport has focused on female athletes who are mothers and how they combine the two roles, emphasizing that it is possible to be both an elite athlete and a mother. This week, Ona Carbonell denounced the hardships the Tokyo organization has faced as she continues to breastfeed her eight-month-old. For Hardy, however, if the media focuses too much on the protective and maternal image these athletes offer, it is detrimental to their role as athletes and their sport in general. She gives the example of the captain of the team curling of his country. Jennifer Jones, a Canadian star, won a gold medal at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 when she already had a two-year-old son. “one of leave [el capitán] This is a dominant, authoritarian position within the dominant curling. However, in the media and advertising campaigns she has worked with Jones, she targets her protective side and focuses not on her success as an athlete, but on her role as wife and mother, making it The impression is made that his achievements are not valid enough for sports car, they are not good enough. This is detrimental to young athletes, because it shows that sporting ambitions don’t matter, because being a mother should be a priority in your life and what you will be known for.

Perhaps by emphasizing such great merit of athletes who manage to return to training at the highest level after giving birth or competing pregnant, as Serena Williams did at the Australian Open, which she won without anyone knowing that She was already expecting. her daughter Olympia, you are unnecessarily raising the bar and sending the secondary message that Only Athletes and non-athletes and mothers are less important.

For now, the first controversy that has emerged about women’s uniforms at the Olympic Games has nothing to do with whether or not they are revealing too much. FemaleBut, let’s say, diversity management. The International Swimming Federation has banned athletes from wearing Soul Cap brand swimming caps designed for the hair of Afro-descendants. The union believes that they do not respect the “natural shape of the head”. However, swimmers like Danielle Obe, they condemn This decision is a symptom of how white and homogeneous that game still is. The original swimming cap was designed by Speedo to prevent hair, usually straight hair, from reaching the face while swimming. “But the Afro hair goes up and defies gravity,” Obe said. “Inclusion means that any head shape is considered normal.”