Female athletes face sexist rules too often

In Opinion
Illustration of female tennis player wearing a sports bra and skirt is being pointed at by many different hands.

Alize Cornet, French professional tennis player, was recently penalized at the U.S. Open for taking her shirt off during a break in the match. This incident has sparked a controversy, with many saying this is another example of sexism.

After realizing her shirt was on backwards Cornet decided to quickly remove it and adjust it the right way. The court umpire gave her a code violation and told her, “This is not okay. You cannot take your shirt off on court like this.”

As Cornet made the quick decision to remove her shirt on the court, one commentator stated  “Oh okay, well let’s change right here” and then laughed as if it was an absurd sight. Female bodies are not shameful — had she been a male, no one would have thought twice. The idea that women are allowed to be scrutinized for how their bodies look or how much of it is showing, is an outdated, sexist view that isn’t needed.

However, it is not at the fault of the United States Tennis Association. If a player’s equipment or clothing, not including a racket, becomes unusable, the play may be delayed for a period of time while the player is able to leave the court to fix the problem. However, that player is subject to a code violation, according to the USTA handbook of tennis rules and regulations.

All players, male or female are subject to code violations if they need to leave the court for a clothing or equipment malfunction. Had Cornet left the court to change her shirt, she would have still received a penalty.

Cornet receiving a code violation isn’t sexist, the reasoning behind why she got one is what’s sexist. There is no penalty, stated in the handbook, for a player taking their shirt off on the court. The court umpire seems to be at blame here.

Male professional tennis players like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have had no shirt on while on the court, so it’s unfair that Cornet was penalized for doing the same exact thing.

This isn’t a new struggle for women in the professional world of sports. For decades, female athletes have experienced harsh criticism over clothing and appearance. Athletes like Billie Jean King, former professional tennis player, and Serena Williams, current professional tennis player, are familiar with the kind of sexism and disapproval women face when it comes to their attire and physical appearance in sports.

In 1955, Billie Jean King was denied inclusion in a Los Angeles Tennis Club group photo for the junior tennis players because she wore shorts instead of the traditional dress girls usually wore.

While this would be expected from a time period such as the ‘50s, 2018 would seem to have more hope. However, Serena Williams recently wore a black catsuit to the French Open that has since been banned as a part of the new dress code set in place by Bernard Giudicelli, the French Tennis Federation president.

In an interview with Tennis magazine, Giudicelli stated “I believe we have, sometimes, gone too far. Serena’s outfit this year, for example, would no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place.”

Her outfit should not have been given a second thought because there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. Williams said in an interview with the Independent it made her feel powerful like a “warrior princess,” which is the attitude all female athletes should feel when they play sports.

Putting aside appearance, her catsuit was also created to protect against blood clots. She had developed a hematoma, a swelling of clotted blood, after giving birth to her daughter.  

“What Bernard Giudicelli said about Serena Williams’ catsuit was 10,000 [times] worse than what happened to me on the court,” Cornet said in the 2018 U.S. Open press conference.

When what women wear is the number one topic of discussion in sports, there’s a problem. Their strength and how well they play needs to be the first thing acknowledged. Female athletes deserve to focus on the game rather than worry about sexist rules and codes.  



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