Lena Bitaduo addresses the issue with women’s clothing in sport, and how women are wrongly being sexualised in sport because of their apparel.
When watching a men’s volleyball or beach volleyball game, what are you thinking? Are you thinking how high they jump? Or how fast they serve? Do you like the big blocks and the spectacle? Of course you do. These are factors you should be noticing anyway. But what’s your first thought when someone tells you to go and watch a women’s beach volleyball game? Unfortunately for many, the thought is of bikinis and semi-naked women running around. Studies have shown that men’s games attract the crowd mostly because of the spectacle and the explosiveness, whereas the women’s games attract the crowd mostly for the ‘sexual appeal’.
This is something that is not only completely wrong, but also a great shame. The women, who have dedicate their lives to reach the highest level, such as the Olympics, deserve the people’s utmost respect for their patience, sacrifice and determination. Women playing beach volleyball, for example, are now allowed to wear whatever they want (long sleeve leggings and tops or bikinis) and still participate in the Games. The Egyptian team participated in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, covering their whole bodies with clothing because of religious reasons. As respectable as this may be, choosing to wear a bikini does not mean that women want to be objectified and attract men in order to worship them for their body.
“Studies have shown that men’s games attract the crowd mostly because of the spectacle and the explosiveness, whereas the women’s games attract the crowd mostly for the ‘sexual appeal’.”
Wearing bikinis whilst playing in 40 degrees heat in the middle of the summer is something that comes part and parcel of the sport, and is only logical. The temperature is so high it is unreasonable to wear something warmer, longer or more concealing, unless there is a compelling reason, like religion. In addition to this, the high amount of movement in beach volleyball means that the players need less restriction and more comfort. Unlike the women, however, male players play in loose, comfortable shorts and are never judged or objectified on the basis of their appearance.
Winning three gold medals at the summer Olympics, Kerri W. Jennings is one of the best beach volleyball players in the world, and has explicitly expressed her view on the topic of the sports apparel. She has supported that playing in bikinis is just comfortable and prevents overheating when the temperature is so high. She seconded that at the end of the day, it is really not a big deal because they are just human bodies – just like men’s. She did however note that it would only be appreciated if the crowds show some respect for the sport and the athletes and not their ‘semi-naked bodies’.
This is not an issue that is exclusive to the sport of beach volleyball. The same situation exists in indoor volleyball, tennis, gymnastics and many other sports. People will look up to the men and their beautiful bodies but they will not just stay there. They will admire their talent and mastery, alongside their dedication to their sports. However, women’s bodies are objectified and people seem to care more about their sexual appeal than their skills and achievements.
“Sexual appeal sells, and the sponsors are unfortunately taking advantage of that.”
Women are also, in a sense, ‘forced’ to wear bikinis or tight clothing that highlight their bodies, as sponsors have been known to order them to wear them. Less clothing means better results, and most of the time it also means more people on the bleachers. Sexual appeal sells, and the sponsors are unfortunately taking advantage of that. If the players don’t agree with the sponsors and lose their sponsorship deal, they will have to pay on their own for their travel, clothing, training costs and entry to competitions. This is of course unlikely as the costs are extremely high and too difficult to cover, even for the top players. Therefore, the players, men and women, depend heavily on the sponsors and have to comply with them in order to pursue their dreams.
However, as mentioned beforehand, women are generally more constrained to wear ‘provocative clothing’ in order to attract the crowd, as the selling numbers depend on their appearance and sexual appeal instead of their skills. This overall expresses how women in sports are still treated in 2018, and highlights on the uneven treatment between the men and women of sport.