Skirting Around the Issue

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Serena Williams, Wimbledon 2012. Photo: giz-img.blogspot.com

The This Girl Can ad campaign by Sport England aims to show that all types of women can participate in sports, and is a celebration of active females all across the UK. Interestingly, this example of empowerment in sport features a glimpse of a netball match in which a small minority of players are wearing netball skirts. The debate about women in sports is ongoing, but what part does dress code have to play?

Female athletes on the world stage such as Venus and Serena Williams have been seen wearing some fabulous (and very out there) outfits on court over the years, but this doesn’t detract from the fact that they are extremely talented tennis players. Although there is no overarching rule in tennis regarding skirts, a lot of players choose to wear skirts or dresses—and get plenty of endorsements for doing so. However, when female boxing was finally declared an Olympic sport in 2009, it was proposed that female boxers wear skirts to allow the spectators to distinguish them from men. Although this campaign gained a lot of support, after receiving criticism from boxers and the wider public it was scrapped. There are many other ways to distinguish a boxer than by a skirt—their face, their team colours, or simply by looking at the names of the players competing.

Years ago, women had to wear corsets whilst playing tennis; this was later abandoned because of the obvious restriction on physical activity. I personally believe that if the outfit allows you to be comfortable then go for it, but when it is unnecessarily forced then it becomes a tad ridiculous. Aimée Grant Cumberbatch reminisces about P.E. in secondary school, lamenting the stupidity of dress code rules, saying: “We used to be made to wear netball skirts over our tracksuit bottoms.” Seem a bit pointless to you?

This was an article written by me for The Mancunion student newspaper in February 2015.

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