A number of years ago, the great Australian swimming champion Dawn Fraser was reported to have said she could swim a lot faster if she was allowed to swim naked. That might be taking a it a bit too far, but in the last couple of years there have been a number of occasions where female athletes have been criticized and/or penalized by officials in their chosen sports over their apparel.
For example, a couple of years ago, a U.S. high school student was disqualified in one of her swim races because an official decided her swimsuit showed too much of her butt cheeks. This despite the fact that the swimsuit in question was supplied by the school. The incident led to claims of “body discrimination.”
Now, you might agree with the official that modesty is to be maintained at all times. If you do, then how do you explain a recent decision by the International Handball Federation to fine a Norwegian women’s team because they chose to wear snug fitting shorts instead of the prescribed, more revealing bikini bottoms? Have you ever watched beach volleyball? You will notice that while the men are allowed to wear singlets (a tank top) with shorts that come to just above the knee-cap, the women are required to wear skimpy little sports bras and bikini bottoms. If that ain’t sexist, I don’t know what is.
Welsh Paralympian Olivia Breen, a track and field competitor, was criticized just this past weekend by a female official for wearing “inappropriate” shorts during an event, despite the fact the shorts she wore were the same style she has worn for years, designed by ADIDAS, and made for competition.
And, of course, FIFA, that odious body that rules soccer, flipped back and forth for years before finally bending to pressure and allowing women players to wear the hijab.
However, it isn’t just on matters of apparel that women athletes are held to different standards. For example, the U.S women’s national soccer team, one of the best in the world, is still fighting for pay equity with the men’s team. And I’m sure players on the Canadian women’s hockey team – (again, one of the best in the world) – don’t earn anywhere near the money earned by players on the men’s team.
There has been much in the news recently about discrimination against Canada’s Indigenous peoples, people of colour, Muslims, Asians, and the list goes on. But sexism and its associated discrimination against women continues unabated. Considering the fact that every man has a mother, it’s difficult to figure out where this sexism comes from. And considering the fact that women account for 50 per cent of the population, it’s difficult to figure out why they haven’t pushed back harder against the discrimination they face on a daily basis. (I hope that isn’t a sexist statement!)
Women pay more for their clothing than do men and pay more to have their clothes dry cleaned. They pay more for a simple visit to a hair salon. It is far more difficult for women to enter some trades and professions than it is for men and, when they do enter those trades and professions, they often face harassment from male co-workers or supervisors.
In the Canadian Forces, there have been hundreds of sexual assault complaints in recent years and I think one could reasonably assume that the number of men complaining about being assaulted was minimal.
I think it is well past time for women to start demanding, forcefully if necessary, equality with men. If you have a daughter, just think of the obstacles that are placed in the way of her achieving her goals, her dreams. She will often face situations where she not only has to prove she is as good as her male counterparts, she has to prove she is better.
I’m not talking about rebooting the feminist movement. I’m talking about an equality movement. It seems to me we owe it to our mothers, sisters and daughters to see they get the quality they deserve.
Tell me, am I wrong?
Want to tell Roger Varley if he’s wrong or right?
Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org