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It’s the Olympics 2016 – So Why is Everyone Talking About a Skirt?

written by Alice Beatty August 11, 2016

tribe correspondent Alice Beatty provides some short, sharp media commentary on medialand’s continuing hypocrisy on women’s attire.
For the next couple of weeks, all eyes will be on Rio as the Summer Olympics kick off and athletes from around the world compete to try and take home the gold. It is an event that captivates everyone’s attention and displays the amazing things human beings can do; it’s a true celebration of different people and cultures coming together. However, despite the incredible achievements the 2016 games has already seen, the internet seems to be preoccupied with something else. Over the last couple of days, everytime I scroll through twitter or look at a news feed, there seems to be a debate over what women at the Olympics are choosing to wear. Yes, you read that right.

Helen Skelton, a BBC correspondent (pictured above), caused an uproar on twitter when she decided to wear a blue mini dress while commentating on the swimming, so much so that people felt the need to discuss whether she was wearing any underwear. I had to ask myself, are people really talking about this? I couldn’t believe that her wardrobe choices were actually becoming headline news and that it overshadowed British athlete Adam Peaty breaking a world record on the same day. How are her clothes this important? Why were people getting so offended by a woman showing her legs in 30C’ weather? I would think that the attention should be paid towards her entertaining presenting that she had to do at two in the morning. Her wardrobes choices are being scrutinized everyday, with even one newspaper commenting on her shoulders being shown, which prompted Skelton’s parent’s to react by saying ‘There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world, I can’t believe people are bothered by Helen’s dress.’ A very valid point, which I would also like support by saying that no one seems to be bothered by her co presenter Mark Foster’s shorts, as he is showing just as much leg as she is, yet he can do it without causing offense?

This unfortunately is not the only time a woman’s choice of clothing has sparked a debate, as the now famous image of a women’s volleyball game has got everyone talking. Egyptian athlete Doaa Elghobashy approached the net as did Germany’s Kira Walkenhorst during their match, and the photo shows the incredible difference between two cultures due to what both women are wearing.

I think this is such a powerful image as it really represents what the Olympics stands for as anyone, no matter where they come from can compete represent their country. However many are discussing the picture and trying to decide which is worse, a woman in a burka or a bikini? Many are saying it shows the extremes of how women are required to look, covered up or showing too much. But what no one seems to be saying is how Elghobashy and her team are actually making history as they are Egypt’s first beach volleyball team to reach the Olympics, which should be an incredible moment no matter what they are wearing. Elghobasy told The Associated Press ‘I have worn the hijab for 10 years […] It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them’. This again highlights what the Olympics should be about as women like this are inspiring younger generations of girls to get into sports as they are examples that women are capable of anything, no matter what their culture is or what they decide to wear.

This will do doubt remain an iconic image from the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and I hope it does for the right reasons because it will inspire so many girls around the world. Women athletes deserve so much more respect than simply being reduced to what they look like and having their body parts sexualised when they are simply dressing weather-appropriately. Their male counterparts never seem to have to deal with this scrutiny, a perfect example being how Serena Williams is portrayed throughout the media. Regarded as the greatest female tennis player of all time, a tournament cannot go by without comments surrounding what she wears, her body shape being labelled ‘like a man’ and comparing it to other female players. Compared to men’s tennis, and someone like Roger Federer, arguably the greatest of all time, I have never heard one commentator discuss his body shape or choice of outfit.

Hopefully one day women will be able to participate in sport with their achievements being the only thing to make headlines instead of what they look like or what they decide to wear.

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