Who Decides What a Champion Should Wear?
In the end, the mid-sleeved, long-legged unitard didn’t make it to the gymnastics team final at the Olympics. The German women who wore it to combat the “sexualization” of their sport were eliminated during the qualifying rounds. Instead, the usual crystal-strewn leotards cut high on the thigh were worn by the medaling teams.
The earlier shock over the Norwegian female beach handball players being fined for daring to declare that they felt better in tiny spandex shorts rather than tinier bikini bottoms (and act on their own desires) was not revisited because handball is only an Olympics Youth sport, and none of the beach volleyball players lodged a similar protest.
Yet, in many ways these Olympic Games have been shaped as much by what is not there as by what is.
Like the questions about the ban on marijuana — now legal in many states — spurred by the absence of the sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, or about what makes a woman, raised by the decision of the middle-distance champion Caster Semenya not to compete rather than forcibly lower her natural levels of testosterone, the controversies over clothing have triggered a re-examination of the status quo.
短跑运动员沙卡里·理查森(Sha Carri Richardson)的缺席引发了关于大麻禁令（在美国许多州如今都是合法）的质疑；中长跑冠军获得者卡斯特尔·塞曼亚(Caster Semenya)不愿被迫降低她的自然睾酮水平，决定不参加比赛所引发的对女性特质的疑问；与此类似，关于比赛着装的争议引发了人们对现状的重新审视。
They have cast a spotlight on issues of sexism, the objectification of the female body, and who gets to decide what kind of dress is considered “appropriate” when it comes to athletic performance.
“The conversation has been a very long time coming,” said Angela Schneider, the director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies and herself a 1984 rowing Olympian.
“这场对话已经持续了很长时间，”国际奥林匹克研究中心(International Centre for Olympic Studies)主任安吉拉·施耐德(Angela Schneider)说，她曾是1984年奥运会的赛艇选手，
It is the latest iteration of a debate that has been waged in offices, colleges and high schools; in the halls of Congress; on airplanes and on television stations, as individuals have increasingly rebelled against the traditional and highly gendered dress codes imposed on them — be it the need for a suit and tie, the ban on leggings or a demand for high heels.
Sports may be the final frontier of the battle, in part because it has been built on the foundation of gender differentiation, including how that is expressed through dress, as well as an entrenched hierarchy and financial interests.
The #MeToo and social justice movements have made equity and inclusion clarion calls of the moment, and that extends to what we wear to express ourselves and the concept of uniformity — which may be less a relevant idea than an antiquated interpretation of the social contract, one defined by a historic power structure that was almost always male, and almost always white.
Though that tension is most obvious in these Olympics, it exists at every level, from Little League to the world championships. And though the issues around clothing and sports occasionally affect men (aquatic sports, especially swimming, water polo and diving, are among the few in which the male body is on display and often objectified more than the female body), they fall heavier on women.
“It feels a little bit extraordinary that we are still talking about what women can and can’t wear,” said Brandi Chastain, the former member of the Olympic soccer team who, at the Women’s World Cup in 1999, became famous — or notorious, depending on your point of view — for whipping off her shirt in celebration of her winning goal, to reveal her sports bra. “But at least we are talking about it.”
Finally, she thinks, the conclusions may actually stick.
A Brief History of People Freaking Out About What Women Wear in Sports
For as long as there have been women in competitive sports, it often seems, there have been attempts to police what they wear: to make it more female or less; to hide the body because it may be too enticing for men to see or to show it off to entice men to pay to see it; to play down the idea of power and raise the idea of clichéd femininity.
Because sports are grounded in the physical, it is almost impossible to divorce the idea of sexuality from the idea of the athlete — no matter how absurd it is to think that when a woman, or a man for that matter, is in the race of their life, what they are thinking about is seducing spectators.
(All you have to do is listen to post-event interviews with Olympians to know what they are thinking about: winning. Period.)
This is especially clear in tennis. In 1919, Suzanne Lenglen shocked Wimbledon by wearing a calf-length skirt with no petticoat and corset; she was called “indecent.” It happened again 30 years later, when the American player Gertrude Moran wore a tennis dress that hit mid-thigh and again the Wimbledon powers that were declared she had brought “vulgarity and sin into tennis.”
这一点在网球比赛中尤为明显。1919年，苏珊·朗格伦(Suzanne Lenglen)在温布尔登网球公开赛(Wimbledon)上没穿衬裙和紧身胸衣，只穿了一条及膝的裙装，引发了震惊；她被称为“不雅”。30年后，同样的事情再次上演，美国选手格特鲁德·莫兰(Gertrude Moran)穿了一条露及大腿中部的网球裙，温网官员再次宣称，她把“粗俗和罪恶带到了网球运动里”。
In 1955, when she was 12, Billie Jean King was barred from a group shot at a tennis club because she was wearing shorts rather than a short skirt. Even in 2018, Serena Williams caused a stir by wearing a catsuit at the French Open.
1955年，12岁的比利·简·金(Billie Jean King)被禁止参加网球俱乐部的合影，因为她穿了短裤而不是短裙。哪怕是在2018年，塞雷娜·威廉姆斯(Serena Williams)也因为在法国网球公开赛(French Open)上穿紧身连体服引发了轰动。
It’s the Culture!
At this point, an alien landing on Earth could be forgiven for being confused about the so-called skirts worn by women in tennis, field hockey, squash and lacrosse, since they resemble the vestige of a skirt — like a vestigial tail — more than an actual garment.
Likewise, it would make no sense that men and women wear such strikingly different amounts of clothing in, say, track and field, whereas in sports like rowing, basketball and softball they wear close to the same thing.
The answer, when sought, is usually “it’s the culture of the sport.” Culture, in this sense, being synonymous with history and legacy; with what got athletes involved in their sports in the first place; and with the symbols of what connects extraordinary players of today to those who came before.
It’s the culture of the sport that gymnasts wear sparkly leotards. It’s the culture of the sport that beach volleyball players resemble beach bunnies. It’s the culture of the sport that skateboarders wear big T-shirts and baggy pants.
“Culture is maybe used as a reason and an excuse, but that doesn’t make it right,” said Cassidy Krug, a member of the 2012 Olympic diving team.
It’s also the culture of sports to concentrate power in the hands of the governing bodies, which rule with an iron fist, and in the coaches below them. “When someone is holding your dreams in their hands, it’s very hard to push back against that,” said Megan Neyer, a sports and psychology consultant and former Olympic diver. For years athletes have been told to be seen and not heard, a situation that helped facilitate the sexual abuse recently revealed in many disciplines, and which has made the debate around dress even more charged.
As social media has allowed athletes to create their own power bases, however, the playing field has also changed, allowing them to speak up in a way they never could before.
“There’s been a significant movement in the athlete’s rights movement,” said Ms. Schneider, of the Centre for Olympic Studies. “There has been a shift in power.”
Who Gets to Decide
The International Olympic Committee allows the National Olympic committees of each delegation to dictate their own rules when it comes to dress, with one caveat, according to Ms. Schneider: The result must “not be offensive.” But like office dress codes, which have generally retreated to the idea that employees simply dress “appropriately,” what may be seen as offensive or appropriate is highly subjective.
国际奥委会(International Olympic Committee)允许每个代表团的国家奥委会在着装方面制定自己的规则，但施耐德说，有一点要注意：其结果“不能令人反感”。但就像办公室着装规定一样，一般来说，那些可能被视为冒犯或得体的着装是高度主观的，到最后，员工的着装通常都会变成“得体”而已。
“It’s a very fluid word when it comes to women’s bodies and changes across cultures and religions,” Ms. Schneider said.
The unitards worn by the German team were positioned as a political statement, but they were also an officially endorsed form of attire. It’s just that previously no gymnasts had chosen to wear them in a setting like the Olympics. In June, the rules of U.S.A. Gymnastics were changed to allow female gymnasts to wear shorts over their leotards — just like men.
Styles “evolve as social mores evolve,” said Girisha Chandraraj, the chief executive of GK Elite, which makes the leotards for women and men on 11 national teams, including the United States. That the women seem to prefer what seems like classic glamour (sparkles! shine!) and bare legs is their choice.
时尚“随着社会习俗的演变而演变”，GK Elite的首席执行官吉里沙·钱德拉杰(Girisha Chandraraj)说。该公司为包括美国在内的11支国家队的男女运动员生产紧身连衣裤。女性似乎更喜欢看起来经典的魅力（闪光！闪亮！），光腿是她们的选择。
Which is, in the end, what this should be about: choice. “We have seen in study after study that when an athlete feels better about what they are wearing, they perform better,” said Catherine Sabiston, a professor of sports and exercise psychology at the University of Toronto. But only the athlete can define what clothing makes them feel better. Maybe it’s shorts. Maybe it’s jammers. Maybe it’s a unitard.
最终，选择才是问题的关键。多伦多大学(University of Toronto)运动和运动心理学教授凯瑟琳·萨比斯顿(Catherine Sabiston)说：“我们在一项又一项研究中发现，当运动员对自己的穿着感觉更好时，他们的表现也会更好。”但只有运动员才能定义什么衣服能让他们感觉更好。也许是短裤。也许是运动服。也许是紧身衣。
Maybe it’s a bikini.