Fashion or Athletic Ability, Which One Appears More Important Might be Surprising
On May 29, at the French open, American tennis player Serena Williams stepped onto the court in a black, skin tight bodysuit. It didn’t take long for the tennis player to receive backlash for her outfit choice.
Bernard Giudicelli, the French Tennis Federation president, quickly stated they will be announcing a dress code to regulate player’s uniforms. Giudicelli tells ESPN “It will no longer be accepted. Sometimes I think that we’ve gone too far.”
Has the game gone too far, or has society gone too far in placing regulations on women’s clothing instead of paying attention to the sport?
Even still, Williams once again dominated the court Sunday 2, at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Playing against Estonian tennis player Kaia Kanepi, Williams proved that even outfitted in a tutu, she is still the one to beat on court.
Two days later, she proved it yet again playing against Czech player Karolína Plíšková.
Williams does not fault the regulation on her uniform choices. She said the French Tennis Federation has the right to make these sorts of limits. “Everything’s fine guys.” Williams told ESPN. “He’s [Giudicelli] been so easy to talk to. My whole team is basically French, so, yeah, we have a wonderful relationship. I’m sure we would come to an understanding and everything will be okay. Yeah, so it wouldn’t be a big deal.”
Fans criticize Giudicelli saying he is disrespecting Serena as a professional athlete. Especially since she was wearing the bodysuit to help increase blood circulation after giving birth to her daughter, Alexis, last September. Serena said the form-fitting clothes help reduce the expectation of blood clotting since her complicated childbirth.
After reassuring her fans Giudicelli and herself harbor no hateful feeling towards each other, Williams told New York Times “I’ve since found other methods.” Meaning, she has found different ways to wear her tennis uniforms so that it still provides the health benefits she needs.
One of these methods involves a tutu.
After donning her black bodysuit, Williams decided to make a statement by wearing a tutu at her next match. She dominated, giving the crowd a twirl after she won the game against Carina Witthöft. Yet once again, reports about William’s outfit dominated the spotlight rather than her athletic ability. Why is more attention being placed on William’s outfit, rather than her killer talent as a professional?
Oftentimes, female athletes see criticism for wearing untraditional uniforms, but luckily Williams has idols such as Billie Jean King in her corner. King tweeted “The policing of women’s bodies must end. The “respect” that’s needed is for the exceptional talent Serena Williams brings to the game. Criticizing what she wears to work is where the true disrespect lies.”
Williams is just good at what she does. Why do we need to focus on what she’s wearing or how she could possibly be this good at her age when most players would have tapped out by now?
“Luck has nothing to do with it.” Williams said. “Because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.” Surely we have seen by now that her hard work has paid off, and will continue to despite considerable backlash.
For centuries society has been dictating what clothing is socially acceptable for female athletes to wear. However, in far too many cases, like Williams, the outfit shouldn’t be the item people choose to focus on.
Take French tennis player Alize Cornet. During the U.S. open, Cornet accidently put her shirt on backwards. She takes her shirt off on the court to swap it around which briefly exposes a sports bra. For that, she received a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. Granted, according to the Grand Slam rulebook clothes can only be changed in private and off the court. Yet, no such rule is given to male tennis players as we frequently witness shirt changes throughout the match.
Scottish tennis coach Judy Murray was among the first to reply on behalf of Cornet. Murray told ESPN “It just seemed so strange that it was called unsportsmanlike conduct. Her shirt was on back-to-front, which would restrict her movement, she changed quickly so play could resume right away. It seemed like such a functional decision. You sit and watch the men’s matches, and it happens all the time.”
Thankfully the USTA United States Tennis Association, took a step back and apologized on behalf of Cornet stating they are changing their policy, and she did nothing wrong.
Anya Alvarez is an American professional golfer. Alvarez said she has personally seen criticism for being a professional athlete and being ridiculed for her body type and clothing choices. Recently in an interview with National Public Radio, NPR, Alvarez said there is a simple solution to this type of discrimination.
“I think one of the things that would help eliminate some of these issues that we see in regard to female athletes – to have these different dress code requirements placed on them is to, one, look at who’s in charge of these different sports organizations. And is there gender equality there?” Alvarez said. “I think most organizations are ran by men. And if there’s no gender equality on the people who are actually administering rules or creating those rules, then we’re going to see more issues rise up – because I can almost guarantee that if there were more women in charge of helping make these decisions, we would see less of these issues rising up in terms of if a girl or woman’s skirt is too short or too tight or if Serena’s bodysuit is deemed inappropriate or not respectful to the game of tennis.”
Olympic athlete Shannon Rowbury said she wears hot pink lipstick in honor of her grandmother who passed away.
“You can be a strong, athletic, courageous woman and you can wear lipstick,” Rowbury said in an interview with USA Today Sports. “I like being able to be all those things or try to help inspire young women to be all those things. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It’s a form of expression, especially in track and field where my uniform is provided by my sponsor (or the USOC). I basically have my uniform and my shoes and there’s not a lot of expression that’s allowed and there aren’t many ways to show your personality.”
It is no stretch to say too much emphasis has been placed on female athlete outfit choice versus talent.“It’s important to open people’s eyes to the fact that you can be an athlete and still be into fashion,” Rowbury told USA Today. “I think before the two were considered mutually exclusive or something. But that’s definitely not the case.”