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What headlines about European women challenging athletic uniforms say about sports

While the recent news is a positive step, it reveals a double-standard about the type of women society is willing to support, says professor

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What headlines about European women challenging athletic uniforms say about sports
江戸村のとくぞう, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

European women recently made international headlines for challenging sexism in athletic uniforms, but some are arguing that other women have done the same for years without any applause. 

“It’s great that women are rebelling so publicly and collectively about these issues, but it’s actually not new,” said Helen Lenskyj, a professor emerita at the University of Toronto whose research focuses on the Olympic industry and women in sports. 

On 25th July, the German women’s gymnastics team sported full-body unitards instead of the usual bikini-cut uniforms in their qualifications at the Tokyo Olympics. The uniform covered their arms up to the elbow and legs to the ankle. 

The move was meant to “set an example” for “gymnasts who may feel uncomfortable or even sexualized in normal suits,” gymnast Elisabeth Seitz wrote in German on Instagram when she and fellow teammates debuted the suit in April.

The German Gymnastics Federation supported the team’s decision to wear a long uniform as a stand “against sexualization in gymnastics.” 

A week prior, a Norwegian women’s beach handball team was fined 1,500 euros for breaking International Handball Federation rules when they wore shorts instead of bikini bottoms at the Euro 2021 tournament. Women must wear bikini bottoms “with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg. The side width must be of a maximum of 10 centimetres,” according to the federation

Meanwhile, men are allowed to wear shorts as long as they’re 10 centimetres above the kneecap. 

The controversy caught the attention of American singer Pink, who offered to pay the women’s fines.

“I’m VERY proud of the Norwegian female beach handball team FOR PROTESTING THE VERY SEXIST RULES ABOUT THEIR ‘uniform,’ she tweeted. “The European handball federation SHOULD BE FINED FOR SEXISM.”

Rem Malek, a 20-year-old athlete from Egypt, feels for the women. The medical student faced resistance to her own sportswear at a young age.

A swimmer since she was four, Malek was one of the fastest on her team during practices. But when she was 12, she was denied the chance to compete nationally because of her hijab.

“I felt like there was something wrong with me,” said Malek over a series of text messages. “I lost hope in being able to play that sport again, and I just generally hated it later on.”

That changed in high school when a coach suggested Malek participate in school swim competitions. There were other hijab-wearing swimmers competing, and Malek was allowed to swim in a burkini.

Though Malek was years out of practice, she placed second in a 100-metre freestyle race.

“I felt really happy and not self-conscious about what I am wearing,” she said. “I was only concentrating on the game and not bothered by a swimwear I don’t feel comfortable in.”

Lenskyj says the recent headlines reveal a double standard about which women are seen as worth supporting.

It was only at the 2016 Rio Olympics that fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first American woman to compete in a hijab. She won bronze. (This year, Sarah Gamal became the first International Basketball Federation referee to wear a hijab at the Olympics.) 

But media coverage at the time was nothing compared to the international headlines now, Lenskyj pointed out.

“Some observers have suggested that…a group of white women rebelling attracts more attention than a group of Muslim women,” she said.

Canadian sports journalist Shireen Ahmed agreed. 

“The lack of outrage for Black and Brown women in sport does not escape me,” she wrote in an op-ed in TRT World. “Forcing women out of clothing is just as violent as forcing them into it…All women deserve better, and so does sport.”

Furthermore, an athlete’s uniform isn’t just a matter of preference – research suggests tight and revealing clothing may actually hinder athletic performance. 

A recent study from the University of Toronto revealed that women who wore tighter and more revealing clothes took longer to perform the same tasks as women who wore looser and less revealing clothing.

The research also found that women consider tight and revealing sportswear to be less comfortable than other clothing, suggesting that the women who wore tighter and skimpier uniforms performed worse because they were more conscious of their bodies, the authors said.

So, why has the sports world resisted change for so long? 

Lenskyj said part of the problem is moneymaking.

“Heterosexual sex sells sports,” she said. “The sexualization of female athletes in certain sports is what sponsors are looking for.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Daily Brief

More than 90 Women Sue the FBI for $1Billion For Mishandling the Nassar Case

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  • More than 90 women and girls, including Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who were sexually assaulted by the disgraced USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar plan to sue the FBI for $1 billion for mishandling the credible sexual assault complaints. 
  • The FBI agency’s own watchdog found that the FBI disregarded allegations about Nassar, and in a long-awaited report from the US Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, it was stated that various missteps and cover-ups by FBI agents allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue for more than a year after the case was opened in 2015.
  • The FBI field office took very limited action against Nassar and did not document any investigation or alert other authorities. Also, just two weeks ago, the US Justice Department decided not to prosecute the two FBI agents accused of mishandling the Nassar case. 
  • The plaintiffs’ claim is being filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people who have been harmed by negligent actions of the federal government to seek recompense for damages. The plaintiffs are all seeking different amounts for damages, but the total claims amount is expected to surpass $1billion. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Liverpool Fans Tear Gassed by French Police Before Final Match: UK Calls for an Investigation

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  • French police are criticized for firing tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool fans waiting to get into the stadium in Paris.
  • The French sports ministry has called a meeting with Uefa (the French Football Association), stadium officials, and police to “draw lessons” from the event.
  • French interior minister Gérald Darmanin appeared to blame British supporters, tweeting on Saturday that thousands were without valid tickets and had forced entry while also claiming that some fans had assaulted stewards.
  • However, Merseyside Police said its officers who were stationed in Paris and attended the match “reported the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner, arriving at turnstiles early and queuing as directed.”
  • Liverpool FC also called for an investigation into the event and said they would be asking fans to contact them directly with their experiences.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Sport

The untold stories of Qatar and the FIFA World Cup

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While many acknowledge deep problems within the host country, one expert says the overly negative attention on Qatar overshadows much of the positive change the games are creating. 

Sports often bring people together, but that doesn’t seem to be happening with FIFA this year.

“Having the world cup in Quatar (sic) just makes me sick and not interested,” said one Twitter user, decrying the alleged abuses against workers who built the stadiums for the World Cup. “Those guys could never afford a ticket to these games, even though they loved the game and worked hard.”

“Give me a free final ticket if Germany played in it, I still won‘t go there. Never,” said another.

Qatar is hosting the World Cup in November, the very first Middle Eastern country to do so. Since Qatar was awarded hosting rights for the sporting event, there have been controversies over the way the country was chosen (including allegations of bribing FIFA) as well as scrutiny of the country’s human rights record (over the country’s alleged treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ rights). 

But while many acknowledge deep problems within the country, some say the overly negative attention on Qatar overshadows much of the positive change the games are creating. 

“There’s politics with FIFA and World Cup organizers of Qatar,” said Luv Randhawa, an international singer based in British Columbia, who still hopes to attend his first World Cup this year. “For us as fans, we want to see the best sport.” 

He has conflicting feelings about the “beautiful” stadiums built by migrant workers.

“I look at it in two aspects: I pledge the pride of the people of Qatar for what they’ve done, but I’m also somber about the people who have lost their lives and livelihood because of the building of these buildings that the world is coming to see.”

Umer Hussain, who has a PhD in sports marketing, says while the controversies around Qatar are concerning, they’ve detracted from the positive aspects of the first World Cup since the pandemic.

“One of the goals of FIFA was to grow its own fan base, so that’s why when the FIFA World Cup was awarded to Qatar, it made me very excited,” said the postdoctoral researcher at Texas A&M University. 

He noted this World Cup generated around five million jobs. Qatar also changed some of its laws to support the rights of migrant workers and to prevent wage theft. Muslim women are also being encouraged more to play sports as a result of the Cup, Hussain said.

But he added the media has only been focusing on the negative aspects of the host country. 

As far as allegations of corruption go, Hussain points to the Global Transparency Index, whose Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021 ranked Qatar as less corrupt than the three previous FIFA hostsRussia, Brazil and South Africa. (Russia also faced controversy over alleged bribery and human rights violations.)

Hussain says the negative portrayal of Qatar as a corrupt country reflects historical stereotyping of Arab countries as inhumane. 

“People think … Qatar wanted to take soft power in the Arab world, that’s why they’re holding this World Cup,” Hussain said, noting Qatar has however lost more than it’s gained from this Cup. 

“There has been a lot of damage already done.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

Double Olympic Champion: Losing to Trans Women is About Biology – ‘I Feel Let Down’ 

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Screenshot 2022 04 22 at 09.45.26
Nicola, Wikimedia Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Katie Archibald, the double Olympic champion has criticised the International Olympic Committee and other sports bodies for their transgender policies saying they have not only let down female cyclists by underplaying biology but also left trans women like Emily Bridges to face intense scrutiny. 

“It is my opinion that the international governing bodies of several sports have let down transgender athletes, in particular transgender women, with their inclusion policies,” Archibald said in a statement.

According to Archibald, it was wrong for governing bodies to ignore the science that shows trans women who have gone through male puberty have a retained advantage in strength, stamina and physique. She made it clear that she and other females were also being let down by the unwillingness of sports to accept the importance of biology. 

Sadly, this is just an extension of the policies we have chosen to enact in our society without any regard to their consequences. Following the law for some such as trans results in rights being taken from others such as female athletes in sports. 

“These policies have put the athletes, their involvement in sport, and their personal lives under intense scrutiny when all the athletes have done is follow the rules and enter a category they were encouraged to enter.”

“I feel let down by the International Olympic Committee who tell me there should be no assumed advantage for an athlete with a gender identity different to their sex,” she said.

“I read this and hear that my world titles, my Olympic medals, and the champions jerseys I have at home, were all won in a category of people who simply don’t try as hard as the men. That losing to male androgenisation is not about biology, but mindset. They are wrong.

It’s ironic that women had to live under the tyranny of men for so long but now in a so-called liberal society, we are allowing men to become women and oppress women as women. Katie has shown incredible courage to point out something so obvious that our society continues to ignore with no real questions or fair solutions on offer!

She continued: “The retained advantage of people who have gone through male puberty in strength, stamina, and physique, with or without testosterone suppression, has been well documented.

“Cycling’s global governing body, by its president’s own admission, knows this. But they chose to delay action until it became sadly personal for one rider. That wasn’t fair.”

She also expressed deep sympathy for Bridges, who broke the junior men’s 25-mile record before transitioning in 2020, saying she was only following the rules of cycling’s governing body, the UCI, before it decided to block her racing as a woman last month.

In her statement Archibald also called on governing bodies of sports such as cycling, triathlon and rowing to come together to develop policies based on science, while also making their sport more welcoming for trans athletes. “But I’d like us to do all this without sacrificing one of the foundational pillars of sport: fairness.”

This is a key point, but it is not just limited to sport, in all aspects of society fairness should be a key consideration before making policies that allow individuals to act in a way that is legal but harmful to other individuals. We choose to ignore this principle at our own peril and decisions made in the past are slowly starting to unravel before us. 

When little 8-year-old boys start to transition and when a male swimmer who ranked 554th in men’s competition, becomes one of the top ranked swimmers in women’s competition, it tells us that this question of fairness should have been asked a long time ago! Not just from IOC but from governments and societies at large!

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Sport

Utah Governor Vetoes Bill Targeting Transgender Athletes

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Utah governor vetoes bill that targets transgender athletes
Utah Reps, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, a republican-backed bill was vetoed by the state governor of Utah that barred transgenders from competing with girls in sports in schools.

Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement that while “politically, it would be much easier and better for me to simply sign the bill,” he chose to veto it because he “tried to do what I feel is the right thing regardless of the consequences.”

Mr Cox was the second governor in vetoing the bill as on Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill, saying it would likely have been challenged in court and would not have solved any pressing issue.

The two governors’ actions of vetoing the bill are at odds with steps taken in a number of other Republican-led states where transgender rights have become an imminent issue in a broader U.S. culture war over sexuality and gender identity. Whereas governors in states including Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Iowa have signed into law bills that ban trans girls from competing in girls’ sports.

In a series of tweets Cox made an emotional plea for compassion toward transgender youth Tuesday in explaining his decision to veto the bill. He said “No other state has done this, and we hoped that Utah could be the first. Unfortunately, that compromise fell apart in the 11th hour of the session.” Regarding transgenders he also tweeted “I am not an expert on transgenderism. I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting. When in doubt however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion.”

Also in a letter to the state’s Senate president and House speaker, the governor said he was moved by the data that shows that among 75,000 kids playing high school sports in Utah, only four were transgender, with just one involved in girls sports.

“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day,” he wrote. “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few.”

However Republican legislators plan to override the veto on Friday, as State Senator J. Stuart Adams, a Republican, mentioned in a statement.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Russia-Ukraine

Sanctions Against Russia Leave Chelsea Football Club Up for Grabs

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  • Former Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, was pushed to sell the Club amidst the hard sanctions against Russia.
  • Turkish businessman, Muhsin Bayrak, is set to bid 1 billion pounds for the football club, half of the 2.2 billion pounds he intended to offer Abramovich.
  • The British government will issue a license for the sale, despite not being directly involved in the sale process should they agree with the conditions.

Former Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, was pushed to sell the Club amidst the hard sanctions against Russia. Leaving room for potential buyers to submit bids in hopes of taking the Club at a fraction of the cost now that it was transferred to the government. The British government has set Friday as the deadline for any bids.

Turkish businessman, Muhsin Bayrak, is set to bid 1 billion pounds for the football club, half of the 2.2 billion pounds he intended to offer Abramovich. Strict sanctions connected to Russia’s occupation in Ukraine have hit multiple Russian oligarchs. This has caused an opening in the world market where many top Russian business owners held assets. 

Bayrak also intended on offering Abramovich $400 million of his company’s cryptocurrency and the transfer of certain real estate projects to the Russian billionaire. The Turkish investor is set to meet with Abramovich later this week in Turkey to receive his blessing for any deal. The British government will issue a license for the sale, despite not being directly involved in the sale process should they agree with the conditions.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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