Skirting the howls of outrage

When I was in grade school, we had casual Friday, which was the perfect time for people to get all dressed up and take it easy, especially since afternoons were reserved for club activities. I wore a lot of nifty outfits then, as I recall, many of them featuring shorts and skirts. I avoided jeans for the most part since I thought they were a little too warm. Come fifth grade, the school broke out a new rule dictating that girls were prohibited from wearing shorts. Fine by us, so many of us kept on wearing jeans and skirts. Another rule came out, saying we could no longer wear jeans. Annoying shit, but all right. We had our skirts to keep us happy; I wore a lot of short, flared black skirts then. Finally, another rule was announced in sixth grade, prohibiting girls from wearing short skirts. By that time, girls were getting pretty peeved, many opting instead to either wear random shirts with the school’s PE sweatpants or wear our regular uniforms. In time, casual Friday was killed off, but the no-shorts-and-short-skirts-on-campus rule persisted, even on weekends when some of us would hang out at school or practice for the cheering competition or sporting events.

What I found annoying even then was the fact that the dress codes were imposed only on the female students. Male students could wear whatever the hell they felt like. So you can imagine how peeved I got when I read that the Badminton World Federation announced a rule saying that women must wear skirts or dresses to play at the elite level. The reason?

“We’re not trying to use sex to promote the sport,” said Paisan Rangsikitpho, an American who is deputy president of the Badminton World Federation, which is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. “We just want them to look feminine and have a nice presentation so women will be more popular.”

Interest is declining, Rangsikitpho said, adding that some women compete in oversize shorts and long pants and appear “baggy, almost like men.”

“Hardly anybody is watching,” he said. “TV ratings are down. We want to build them up to where they should be. They play quite well. We want them to look nicer on the court and have more marketing value for themselves. I’m surprised we got a lot of criticism.”

Fortunately, the group scrapped the dress code decision amid criticism. Frankly, I’m surprised that Rangsikitpho was surprised about the criticism in the first place, though if it turns out that he was zapped to 2011 from the 1950s, then that at least makes sense. Looking attractive is the last thing women should be worried about when engaging in athletic activities, and it should damn well be up to us to decide to wear whatever we think is most comfortable for us.

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