Women are driving a worldwide conversation about sexism in sports uniforms, and you love to see it
After a Norwegian women’s beach handball team was fined for protesting sexist uniform standards by competing in a match wearing shorts, there’s been a new focus on the inequity between men’s and women’s sports uniforms. Now, the Olympic gymnastics team from Germany is taking that conversation a step further — by wearing statement-making, full-length unitards to their qualifying competition to bring more attention to sexism in their sport.
The German team — made up of three-time Olympians Elisabeth Seitz, two-time Olympian Pauline Schäfer, Sarah Voss, and Kim Bui — wore long-legged and long-sleeved unitards during the July 25 preliminary rounds that determined which teams would advance to the Olympics finals.
“We wanted to show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear,” Sietz told Reuters. “That doesn’t mean we don’t want to wear the normal leotard anymore. It is a decision day by day, based on how we feel and what we want. On competition day, we will decide what to wear.”
It’s important to note that these uniforms for women gymnasts are not against the rules. The International Gymnastics Federation’s (FIG) Code of Points states only that gymnasts “must wear a correct sportive non transparent leotard or unitard (one piece leotard with full length legs-hip to ankle), which must be of elegant design.” Later in the rules, it adds, “She may wear complete leg coverings of the same color as that of the leotard; under or on top of the leotard.” Men typically wear unitards with long pants to compete, and under the rules, women can do that, as well.
On Instagram (in a post translated from German by Popsugar), Sietz wrote that the team wanted to set an example by wearing “a new type of suit” to give voice to athletes who “may feel uncomfortable or even sexualized in normal suits.”
Fans and spectators have come to expect women gymnasts to wear skin-bearing, high-cut leotards when they compete. The fact that that’s become the standard for women in the sport, when men typically wear long pants, is its own form of sexism. Women should be free to wear whatever is most comfortable for them to compete in, not a revealing uniform that’s come to be expected, even though it isn’t required.
Unfortunately, Germany placed ninth in the prelims, and won’t compete in the Olympics finals. But Seitz and Bui will compete for individual medals in all-around on July 29.