Skirts or Shorts – The Ultimate Debate

  Skirts or Shorts – The Ultimate Debate

Imagine this –

You are sprinting down an open field, fueled by the relentless cheers from the stadium bleachers surrounding you. Turf pellets, wind, and opposing players fly at you from every direction. You only have one goal – to score one. Your focus is unmatched; that is, until it isn’t. As you’re in motion, the tiny uniform skirt suffocating your waist starts to divert your attention. Before you know it, thoughts about the uncomfortable and embarrassing position you are suddenly placed in race faster around your mind than your grass-stained cleats could ever take you. Stick in hand and game in action, there’s no use in attempting to adjust your jersey. But being a woman in the sports industry, this is just one of the many situations you are forced to deal with.

As an athlete, comfort is quite possibly the most prominent factor to successful athletic performance. Not being able to move freely and with ease only distracts from the game. So why are women and girls exempt from the choice to choose how they feel most comfortable? “When I put my lacrosse jersey on, my first thought was how I was going to readjust my skirt,” says sophomore Leah Gullace. Representing your school by wearing your uniform should feel like an honor, not a burden. But while playing in the thin and skimpy skirts female athletes are forced to wear, many feel awkward or distraught. However, short and revealing clothing for women tends to be so fixed into today’s society that very few even bother to look twice. So, when handed a uniform that can be uncomfortable, exposing, or inconvenient, many athletes fail to speak up.

Some may even argue that skirts are more comfortable and easier to play in. But if this is the case, then aren’t shorts as well? Shorts don’t ride up as you run, and don’t expose anything when bending over or getting low for certain game situations. “When I’m playing, it feels like I’m constantly readjusting or fixing my jersey to feel less exposed,” Leah Gullace adds. But if the two options are equally as comfortable, then why are female athletes still wearing uniforms that were born from the idea of keeping women out of men’s sports? There are also many situations in which girls refuse to even try out for a team because they do not wish to wear a skirt. So much potential and talent can be wasted because of this. Therefore, offering the choice to athletes would promote better performance, comfort, and would allow for a larger pool of talented players.

This issue does not only affect high school level athletics, though. Collegiate and professional levels of women’s sports also suffer from the same discrimination. According to the International Handball Federation (IHF), it is required that female athletes wear small tank tops and bikini bottoms as their official uniforms. To go even further, the bikini bottoms must have “…a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg.” When this was protested during the Euro 2021 tournament by the Norwegian women’s handball team, each member was fined about $150 for improper attire. On the other hand, men’s uniforms consist of loose-fitting tank tops and baggy shorts. This is a key example of society’s intention to showcase women’s bodies rather than their athletic abilities.

Aside from sexualization, another answer behind the reason for skirts in school sports such as lacrosse and field hockey would be the tradition. For many generations, women were thought of as “masculine” if they played a sport, so they wore slim fitting clothes and skirts to obscure this “masculinity”. But this is a new day and age, and it calls for a more modern approach. We must stop following traditional gender roles, and instead start normalizing athletes wearing what they feel comfortable performing in. The difference in male and female uniforms was based on an ideal that does not properly represent today’s growing generations, and should therefore be discontinued.

Athleticism and strength are both qualities that have been associated with masculinity for far too long. When female athletes show their strength, they are deemed as less feminine. This leads young girls to believe that in order to be more feminine, they must conform to society’s expectations of a blatantly sexist athletic attire. Women are strong, fast, muscular, and tall, and it’s about time our society embraces that. Female athletes should have the freedom to do what they love without being sexualized or held back. Therefore, all athletes, no matter the sport or the gender, should get to choose how they present themselves and their athletic abilities.