Would you be offended if a male tennis player took his shirt off in court? Would you think his bare chest is disrespectful to the game or the audience? No, right? But what if a woman takes her shirt off and shows her bra? Or worse, what if she is just wearing a tight suit that shows her body? Well, apparently we live in an era of female liberation where old rules written by men still dictate how women should dress... or undress.
Let me share a bit of history here. In the 1800s, a group of women wore pants for the first time in history. Suffragette Elizabeth Smith Miller and writer Fanny Wright are just a couple of those brave women who decided to defy society's rules and wear publicly a garment that was only accepted for men. Over time, pants became a symbol of gender equality, so that we can wear them every day and feel comfortable and feminine yet also empowered.
Unfortunately, it seems that even in the 21st century some rules can’t be broken, like the obligation to wear a skirt or a dress when playing tennis, instead of dressing comfortably to prevent health risks after giving birth, like in Serena Williams's case. The tennis player wore a black bodysuit to the 2018 French Open and caused a fierce controversy, after the organizers said that her outfit was against the rules and “disrespectful,” even though she was not showing any skin. Wondering if the person who said the attire was “disrespectful” was a man? Yes, it was Bernard Giudicelli, president of the French Tennis Federation.
Serena defended her suit, saying that not only did she feel like a “warrior princess,” but also that she is in danger of suffering dangerous blood clots after giving birth to her daughter, a condition found in her lungs after a CT scan while recovering from her C-section. Studies show that the risk of suffering blood clots is four times higher in pregnant women and it remains so for weeks after giving birth.
In response to the controversy surrounding her suit, Serena decided to add a tutu to her attire in a couple of matches during the US Open, but the debate about how women dress (or undress) in tennis courts (and in daily life) didn’t stop there.
French tennis player Alize Cornet received a code violation for removing her shirt on the court, after returning from a 10-minute break to change her clothing in the locker room and realizing it was backwards. It was just a few seconds of her showing up her bra before putting her shirt back on. This mistake might be due "mental fatigue," as it was argued by an ESPN commentator. Of course, the US Tennis Association was called “sexist,” because there is no problem if a male player takes his shirt off.
The attire rules of the Women’s Tennis Association say that “all players will be expected to dress and present themselves in a professional manner,” and that “compression shorts may be worn during a match under a skirt, dress or shorts.” Really, whether it's a skirt or dress: is it only an obligation because these are female players?
Another recent incident where a woman was judged because of the way she dressed was when Ariana Grande was harassed at Aretha Franklin's funeral. The bishop giving the eulogy groped the side of her breasts and made her feel really uncomfortable. People on social media were justifying the pastor's action by judging Ariana's dress and saying "it was a funeral and her dress was not appropriate," "she looks like a whore." But come on, really? Who decides what is the proper way for women to dress? Who says that we should all wear long skirts in order to show how feminine we are? Who defines what's provocative? And last but not least, why do women still have to go through these situations in 2018?
After these three recent moments, I wonder if associations who manage female sports will think about changing their rules and respect women’s decisions to dress comfortably and according to their likes and needs, without the obligation to "prove" that they are women by wearing skirts. And I hope that one day people will stop judging women for wearing whatever they feel comfortable in.
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