Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Chasing Skirts: Why do women tennis players wear them?

First apologies for the sporadic posts of late (and a pre-apology as it continues to be a pattern, or rather non-pattern); I am on vacation. Woo-hoo!
And so having just played tennis for the first time in 2+ months I was somewhat inspired by this very old Slate column about women's tennis skirts. First of all, I am still somewhat skeptical that talking about skirts is the real issue behind the gender inequality in sport. But I do find it fascinating. And I have heard some interesting research on the history of women's uniforms.
That having been said, I feel the need to talk about my theories and observations on the tennis skirt.
I like them. I won't apologize for it. While I did occasionally don shorts during matches, most of the time I wore skirts. Because I really do think they comfortable, despite the Slate columnist's (Eliza Truitt) claims to the contrary. With skirts there is no tugging between your thighs for the bunched up fabric that sometimes accumulates or rides up (even Serena was tugging at her catsuit a few years ago).
Does it make women players sexier? I don't know. With the length of shorts these days, it doesn't really matter. Truitt's note that some women are wearing them is interesting. Anna K., she mentions, wore them a few years ago but Truitt believes it's because she no longer needs to prove her sexiness. Have you seen the shorts she wears? They are shorter than most skirts and the sit well below the belly button. Shorts do not equal less sexy in tennis.
And 4 years later (the column was from 2001) more women are wearing shorts. Nike makes versions and players such as Anastasia Myskina and Daniela Hantuchova wear them regularly. Jill Craybas, who beat Serena at Wimbledon this year, wore shorts made by Under Armour. I am wearing some Nike tennis shorts right now myself. I don't feel more or less sexy in them versus any one of the skirts I own.
In the end, I like having choices. And I think players like having choices. Openly gay Amelie Mauresmo could wear shorts, but she chooses not to. And I do believe it is a choice--for her. She already bucks many gender and sexuality norms--shorts wouldn't make it any worse. Martina, on the other hand, realized she was wearing skirts and dresses because of the tradition, decided she would be more comfortable in shorts.
I agree with Truitt that patriarchal tradition has basically dictated what women tennis players wear. But shunning skirts altogether is a perverted version of radical feminism that just doesn't make sense. It's certainly not the battle I would choose to fight. So I say "Let them wear skirts!" (or shorts or catsuits, or full-length white body suits.)

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