SPORTS BRAS AND GENDER EQUALITY
Recently Runner’s World Magazine celebrated the history of the sports bra declaring it the greatest invention in running EVER.
The sports bra changed the lives of women runners. After title IX was passed in 1972 mandating gender equality in funding of education which by default applied to college athletics, women flocked to sport. Around the same time, the revolution in technical designs that were to become the first practical sports bras for women were storming forward.
Title IX and the athletic wear that supported its journey was the start of the revolution for generations of women to be given the opportunity to be athletes on a more equal footing.
Fast forward, we sometimes might take what our fore-mothers did for us for granted… until we are reminded that we are still fighting for it today.
REASONS GIRLS DROP OUT OF SPORTS AT TWICE THE RATE OF BOYS
There are statistics reported by the Women’s Sports Foundation in 2016 showing that by the age of fourteen girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys.
Reasons cited are:
- Lack of access
- Safety and transportation issues
- Social stigma
- Decreased quality of experience
- Lack of positive role models
We’d like to argue that the positive role models are BOOMING in 2018, but when you look at the media coverage, there are stats to prove otherwise – but that’s for another blog post.
Look at that list and consider numbers 3 and 4…. then read on.
ROWAN UNIVERSITY AND THE CASE OF THE SPORTS BRA
A news item came to light about cross country athletes attending, training and racing at Rowan University in New Jersey.
Cross country athletes at Rowan University were banned from running in sports bras because – it was claimed to be distracting to the football players on the field during the same time. Not only were they not able to run in their athletic wear of choice, they were also banned from using the track and asked to practice at the local high school track or change their practice time.
The incident highlights so many issues, and the much bigger issue about policing women’s bodies and the implication that women are inferior to the male athletic counterparts. No one was asking the male football team to go practice at the high school field after all.
The backlash was visceral, immediate and impassioned. We posted a link to the initial article @PoppySports on Facebook and it was the most commented and shared post this year to date.
We run in sports bras because we are confident, hardworking student-athletes.
Following the backlash, Rowan University reversed its decision, which is the optimal outcome, and we commend them for doing that. But we also have to consider why are we still even having these discussions?
One athlete interviewed stated “Until we stop telling women to cover up, we’re never going to solve the larger problem.”
What is that larger problem? Lauren Fleshman succinctly tweeted:
Whether a female athlete runs in her sports bra with our without a top should be a decision that is entirely her own. Every issue like this that bubbles to the surface serves to remind us of the seemingly endless ways in which women’s lives are still so different from our male counterparts.
No lie. I had to bring a note signed by my mom that said, ‘my daughter has permission to run around in her underwear’ after a group of us ran in sports bras at practice. That was 1995, I thought things had changed. – Kara Goucher, Olympian.
Outside Magazine Online covered the Rowan University story – interviewing several athletes from the University for their take on what had happened.
They rightly observed that “the incident serves as a reminder that nearly 20 years after Brandi Chastain scored the winning goal in the women’s World Cup final, tore off her shirt, and celebrated on the field with her teammates, a woman’s right to be seen in a sports bra is still hotly debated.”
What’s your take on the great bra debate?
Follow @PoppySports on Facebook and Instagram. We’d love to hear your thoughts.