The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Beach-Fest: Volleyball’s Uniform Disparity Strikes Again

Posted by Clem Bastow on August 19, 2008

Even the most casual viewer of the past few Olympics would likely have noticed the vast difference between men’s and women’s uniforms at the Games, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the beach volleyball field. The women wear tiny bikini-esque get-ups while the men dress in roomy Eddie Vedder-esque “big shorts” and a basketball singlet. If it’s so hot and sweaty on the beach (which is traditionally the excuse given for the ladies’ micro uniforms), how on earth can the blokes stand the heat?

Here are some of Sunday Mail blogger Clementine Ford’s thoughts on the topic:

[L]et’s not be fooled here. The sheer skimpiness of the bottoms themselves has nothing to do with player comfort. If it did, men would be required to wear similar outfits. Clearly, the swathes of material dudes practically bathe in while out on the court are doing nothing to hinder performance.

The bikini uniform is a marketing strategy that revolves around T & A. It’s what’s helped propel BV to the number 3 of most watched Olympics sports. Let’s ignore for a moment the clear violation of everything scientists have taught us about skin cancer. For better or worse, beach volleyball is an elite sport with hard working athletes who train tirelessly to be the best in the world. It is not (or should not be) a glorified skin fest whose only purpose is to titillate a drooling (mostly male) public.

Disappointingly – and yet, somewhat unsurprisingly – the blog was then flooded with comments of the “you’re just jealous” variety (she details some of the worst over at her non-work blog) as stunningly original critics (and, presumably, beach volleyball fans) accused Ford of being “jealous” of the players.

But when even Today Tonight is asking what’s up with the teeny bikinis, surely something’s got to give?

The issue of women in sport needing to show skin to gain either money, respect or a telecast is, sadly, nothing new. Where male athletes garner sponsorship and endorsement deals based on their sporting prowess, female athletes need to be “hot” and “sexy” as well.

In the lead up to the Beijing Games, four members of Germany’s Olympic team posed naked for Playboy, and countless other female athletes were pictured either naked or semi-naked in sexy shots for various magazines and calendars. And who can forget the Herald Sun‘s “bitchin‘” coverage of triathlete Erin Densham?

What happens between the covers of magazines is one thing (and fodder for at least ten blog entries); what our female athletes wear on the field is another. As Hoyden About Town’s tigtog points out, sexed up uniforms are actually driving women away from sport, so why do we still expect our elite female athletes to get about in mini-uniforms that even Mattel would probably veto for an Olympian Barbie doll?

2 Responses to “Beach-Fest: Volleyball’s Uniform Disparity Strikes Again”

  1. zooeyibz said

    and then there’s this fine piece of, er, journalism, in the British Times: http://timesonline.typepad.com/olympictures/2008/08/simon-loves-ele.html

    (a fit woman with no face… every man’s dream come true, right?)

  2. monique said

    It is dangerous for the women athletes
    to dress like this. They are
    considered objects and will not be
    treated with respect. The men should
    have to wear the exact same skimpy STUPID
    bottoms and see how much they would enjoy
    their volleyball matches.

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