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What Do Olympic Boxing and Badminton Have in Common? Skirts
First, it was "let's have women wear skirts to compete in badminton at the Olympics". That conversation didn't go well. But that hasn't stopped the the Amateur International Boxing Association, or AIBA from suggesting that women wear skirts to compete in London 2012.
Here's the back story on the Badminton World Federation officials effort to mandate what women wear when competing. "An attempt by badminton's governing body to force professional female players to wear skirts or dresses has been condemned as 'a regressive and damaging attempt to sex up the game' by Hugh Robertson, the UK minister for sport. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) says the dress code is necessary to make women athletes appear more feminine, thereby reviving flagging interest in the sport from fans and corporate sponsors." source
You know you're going to get into trouble as soon as you start telling women what to wear.
No offense intended for people who love the sport of badminton, but appearance of the players may not be the cause of "flagging interest from fans and sponsors". That sounds a bit like the tail wagging the dog.
As it turns out, some women badminton players like to wear skirts. It boils down to personal preference. The issue is still being considered, but will now impact both men and women players. An update is expected sometime in December 2011. source
Female Boxing Olympics 2012
"The Amateur International Boxing Association has asked female boxers to wear skirts, which it said would allow spectators to distinguish them from men, but at last week's European Championships in Rotterdam only two nations - Poland and Romania - wore the outfits. Poland Boxing took it a step further and made the attire compulsory for its boxers, saying they are more 'elegant'. The Poland coach, Leszek Piotrowski, said: 'By wearing skirts, in my opinion, it gives a good impression, a womanly impression'."
Now that's a curious point of view. The Polish team's choice of skirt is light blue, swirly and flippy. Coach Piotrowski told BBC Sport, "Wearing shorts is not a good way for women boxers to dress." source
Women Who Fight in Skirts
I belong to the WMMA (Women's Mixed Martial Arts) Advocate Group on Facebook. The idea of women wearing skirts sparked some interesting conversation. I was surprised to discover that some women actually like to fight wearing a skirt.
Marq Piocos from wombatsports.com tweeted: "@wombatsports Since I have been given a little grief over the title of my editorial it has changed. Hear some fighters like skirts."
Slade Bittler, owner of Tussle Fight Gear (for women) said: (direct from Facebook)
"I have lady's that ask me for skirts to fight in! Elaina, Val, Jordan, Kristin, and there's also the lady's that fight in MT (Muay Thai) skirts too! In this case it (is) up to the fighter. Making it mandatory one way or the other will obviously upset somebody. Makes no sense to force anybody to wear something that really has nothing to do with the sport other than personal preference. I think it's great that I have some lady's asking for them! I say do your own thing!"
Obviously, cultural differences apply to this skirt conversation. Here's video of Felice Herrig wearing a Muay Thai skirt for her fight in Phuket (Fight Girls Final). It's different from the style of skirt that the Polish boxing team chose. Male Thai boxers wear this style of fighting "skirt" too.
I would love to hear the arguments in context, not just the bits and pieces that were reported. If they're just looking for an updated, stylish look for the female boxers to wear for the Olympics then they should state that. Plus, offer options for women to choose from. One size fits all does not apply here.
The bottom line is people will watch the sports they're interested in watching. Female athletes will wear the clothes that allow them to perform at their best. Changing to a skirt isn't going to increase badminton's appeal or increase the number of people interested in watching women box.
Female fighters sometimes end up with swollen faces, black eyes and bloody noses. Adding a skirt to the mix, won't make that any more palatable or prettier.
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