Sumo wrestlers compete with just the loincloth (mawashi) and no one bats an eye. Men swimmers compete with just their trunks and no one takes a second look.
But as much as women are being objectified by their attire on any given day, women in sports are also being discriminated against with what they wear.
And it is just not about women wearing less in sport, it is about women wearing anything that triggers the snowflakes.
Over the past ten days, there were two distinct cases touching on what a women “should” wear.
Gymnastics New Zealand made amendments to its dress-code rules, allowing female athletes to wear shorts during competitions so their bodies won’t be exposed. A right step forward but the international body is still considering coming out with similar ruling.
And thousands of miles away, in the American city of Nashville, 14-year-old Najah Aqeel was stopped from playing in a high-school volleyball competition because she was wearing a Hijab.
And she was stopped from the competition because the hijab did not adhere to the rules which states that only “hair devices made of soft material and no more than three inches wide may be worn in the hair or on the head”.
Two contrasting circumstances, but with one underlining factor – the policing of how women should dress in sports.
Badminton at one time wanted to compel the women shuttlers to wear skirts in a so-called effort to make the game more attractive. It was quickly shot down as sexist and was never heard of again.
A couple of years ago, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) president Bernard Giudicelli banned Serena Williams from wearing a catsuit, which was a compression garment specifically designed to help prevent the blood clots that nearly killed her during childbirth, during the French Open.
Giudicelli said in Tennis magazine interview that the uniform “went too far” and “would no longer be accepted,” adding that players “have to respect the game and the place.”
But, that some players wearing short skirts and revealing tops was all okay as it brought in more spectators to the game.
The men going topless by changing their attire in between matches was seen just as another norm. Yet the US Open officials slapped code violation on Alize Cornet of France when she briefly took her shirt off on the court after realizing it was on backwards, revealing her sports bra.
As usual there were many who were furious at the seemingly sexist nature of it when they have no qualms with children wearing revealing leotards to compete in gymnastics or even swimming.
What a woman wears during sports has nothing to do with her morals or ethics. Just like rapists and molesters who blame the women for seducing them with their “sexy attire”, the sexualization of women is in the minds of the men.
Like the men, women wear what helps them to participate in the sport of their choice to achieve better results.
Look at the irony in the difference between the attires won by the male and female gymnasts. It goes to show just how the rule makers have been exploiting women.
If wearing a leotard helps them to gain an advantage on the field, so be it. And if they want to adhere to their own religious belief by wearing a Hijab, it should be their choice.
This choice should not be dictated by the men, who predominantly control sporting bodies and many a times also wield the political power to do so.
It is no different in Malaysia where the Terengganu state government, led by Islamic political party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), had taken the stance to stop the state gymnasts from competing because it would “display indecent movements” that would expose their bodies.
Instead of engaging the athletes and finding proper solutions, decisions are practically shoved down on women athletes.
Many international sports associations still have discriminatory rules governing attire for the women in their rule books and changes have been pretty slow.
It was only in 2012 that the International Volleyball Federation stopped requiring female players to wear bikinis. Prior to the change, women must compete in bra-style tops and bikini bottoms that must not exceed six centimeters in width at the hip while the men compete in shorts and singlets.
Careers of outstanding female athletes have been destroyed and many more never coming to fruition because of rules on how women dress for sports.
American basketball player Abdul-Qaadir’s life was derailed by the International Basketball Federation’s ban on religious headgear. Abdul-Qaadir broke an 18-year Massachusetts record to become the state’s highest all-time high school scorer before she went on to play for the University of Memphis and Indiana State University. But the ban denied Abdul-Qaadir the chance to go pro.
That the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo groom their hair to perfection before going into the pitch is normal but a women athlete applying make-up before a game is considered overtly narcissistic.
Mya and Denna Cook were stopped from their school sports programme in Massachusets because they refused to stop wearing braided hair extensions while Ronaldo earns millions.
While many dress codes for sports still appear to differentiate between the sexes, many a time it is always women who have to show more skin. While men showing skin is seen as an exhibition of masculinity, women face the brunt either way.
If they show even a little skin they are branded as sex objects and if they show less, they are against the game rules. There is no winning in this battle.
Unless we standardize all outfits to become gender-neutral across every sport, the misogynist male will always find a bone to pick with women putting themselves out into the public eye.