I frequently try to convince people (my students, my girlfriend, random strangers) that the concept of “things are getting better” or “things are better than they used to be” is problematic.
Progress is not one of those straight 45 degree angle lines streaking across a graph. The x and y axes are not so 1) measurable and 2) in sync that we have this perfect progress line.
And this not-so-neat-and-easy “progress” can be applied to sport–women’s sports specifically.
Look at the women playing sports! Isn’t it great!?
It totally is.
But there has been some backlash–some subtle, some not-so-subtle. There’s the obvious crusade against Title IX in the US. There’s the rampant, yet largely hush-hush and/or hard-to-prove homophobia. And now there’s skirts.
Skirts where none existed before. Skirts in soccer. (Remember the fashion show in 2009 when the WUSA debuted its Puma kit complete with “wraps”?)
Skirts in badminton.
Skirts in running.
And now skirts in….wait for it—–
The Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) tried to give out skirts to its female competitors at the World Championships last year because they are trying to “phase in” the new uniform in international competition. Just in time, perhaps, for women’s boxing at the London Olympics next year??
It’s pretty difficult these days to say–in most parts of the world–that women should not be able to play sports. But that does not mean people still aren’t trying to distinguish women’s participation in sport. This attempt is through skirts.
It isn’t a mandate from the AIBA–though Poland has required skirts as part of its national uniform because it is “elegant” and gives a “womanly impression.”
There seems to be a certain amount of ambivalence–even among the various national team leaders/coaches–about women who box. Yes, women hitting each other does seem a little masculine because hitting each other has always been the domain of men–except when they hit women.
But putting a woman in