Sometimes a non-event of such insignificance comes along that, by sheer magnitude of its irrelevance, it becomes noteworthy. Herewith the “debate” over what women should wear in sport.
Vanessa Friedman has been the fashion director and chief fashion critic for The New York Times since 2014, so we could expect better. Her opinion — “Who Decides What a Champion Should Wear?” — is provocatively framed: “Policing women’s bodies via dress code is nothing new in sports. The difference is now women are doing something about it.”
Oh that story again. Because only women get objectified, right?
Friedman points her lazy finger at the current Olympics — the German gymnasts’s unitards, the Norwegian beach handballers’ shorts — as evidence of an ongoing “spotlight on sexism” at the “frontline of the battle” but, in the end, concedes it’s mostly athletes themselves who decide what they wear.
They wear what works. And thanks Pink, but shut the fuck up.
One of the reasons why sport doesn’t register for me is that at amateur-levels it seems like a total waste of time. Becoming a professional athlete, on the other hand, seems a precarious way to earn a living. So what a pro-athlete should wear is strictly what helps them win a living.
Form follows function.
Serena Williams wore a catsuit in the 2018 French Open to optimise her post-baby performance. It made her feel tight and compact, like a superhero. A spat with some petty (male) official about her outfit prompted her to wear a tutu in the 2018 US Open? Again, why does anyone give a shit, let alone rage?
It was just one dude’s opinion.
Simone Halep cut her tits off for the same reason: to optimise performance. She wanted to be the best tennis player she could be, and they got in the way. And on this occasion, you can be fairly fucking certain that precisely zero men were consulted.
The hard evidence supports female athletes wearing clothes that help them win. “Style of clothing may influence motor performance in women by reallocating cognitive resources towards the body and away from the motor task at hand,” says one report. If that means running bare, or close to it, then so be it. No man is going to disagree.
What does seem totally unscientific is the female desire to win AND look good. Body-consciousness is a wrecking-ball to performance, you would assume. But the science says no, not always. Which is why Vanessa Friedman’s NYT piece concludes with the reluctant concession that sometimes the best ‘performance outfit’ is indeed a goddamn bikini.
But we already knew that.
But here’s a man’s opinion anyway: Don’t foist this on us. It’s not the ‘male gaze’ that make women self-conscious about what they wear, it’s critical older women who need something to write about that keeps this “debate” alive.