The Badminton World Federation is now demanding that women players wear skirts, or skorts.
In an attempt to make female badminton more appealing, officials have now implemented a dress code that requires all female players who compete in level 1-3 tournaments to wear a skirt.
“Hardly anybody is watching,” Paisan Rangsikitpho, deputy president of the Badminton World Federation, told The New York Times.
“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.”
Yes, Rangsikitpho, we don’t understand why someone would oppose being told that they need to look less like a man so people will care about their athletic talent either.
The dress code was originally supposed to be enforced starting May 1, but the skirt controversy caused officials to delay it to June 1. The Singapore Open in June will be the first skirt-only tournament.
Nora Perry, head of the Badminton World Federation’s Women Working Group and former world champion, supports the regulation.
“I am thrilled to be part of putting the women’s game higher on the agenda in the BWF. And the new clothing regulations are one of the tools that can help create a better presentation and more distinct profile of the women’s game”, Perry was cited as saying in an April 21 press release from the Badminton World Federation.
Others, like director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario, Janice Forsyth, say it is sexism, according to The New York Times.
“This is a blatant attempt to sexualize women,” she said. “It is amazing. You’d think at some point, somebody would have said: ‘Wait a minute. What are we doing?’ ”
But the measure has also been accused of being religiously discriminatory.
Though the new dress code allows women whose religion does not allow skirts to wear long pants or shorts under their skirts, some say this will cause a disadvantage as their clothing will be baggy and obstruct movement.
“You sweat a lot doing badminton at a really high level,” Forsyth told the New York Times. “Sometimes clothing sticks to you. Adding another layer does not enhance performance. It detracts. It counters the basic argument that they’re trying to generate more interest in women.”
Yet this isn’t the first time a sport comes up with the brilliant idea of uping female players’ sex appeal for ratings.
In 2004, Sepp Blatter, the president of the world governing body FIFA, brilliantly suggested women soccer players swear hot pants to attract viewers.
“They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?” he said, according to The Guardian.
But these controversies could merely be a product of a bigger problem of discrimination of female athletes.
According to The Women Sports Foundation, only 6-8 percent of sports coverage is devoted to women despite the fact that they make up 38-42 percent of all sport and physical activity participants.
For now, badminton officials seem to be sticking with their decision. But the true test will be the meeting of world badminton playing nations Saturday in China, where opposition will likely present a case.