August 10 2008

Olympic Beach Volleyball

Could someone please explain the uniforms of beach volleyball to me?

As I was doing my work on Saturday, I had the Olympics playing as my background noise as opposed to my usual cartoons.  As I was watching Womens US Beach Volleyball duo Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh go on to their 102nd straight win, their uniforms, or lack there-of, struck me.  I know these bikiniesque uniforms have been the norm for a while now, but it doesn’t make them any less striking in how little there is to them.

This was contrasted by later in the day seeing the Mens US Beach Volleyball team of Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers in their baggy shorts and tank tops.  Why in the world do the women basically get made into sex objects while the men look like any pair of guys just hanging out on the beach?

The Olympic rules state the men must be in shorts that are at least 10 centimeters above the knees and in sleeveless tank tops.  Todd Rodgers has even said there should be a petition to get the rules changed.  ‘I’m in. I’ll sign,” he told RTE Sports, “It’s more comfortable anyway in this heat.”  Outside of the Olympics, the men do play shirtless, but for some reason the International Olympic Committee requires the shirts.

The women do have the option of wearing one piece bathing suits, but apparently they become a problem when sand gets in them, so bikinis are the best option.  The rules say they shouldn’t be indescent or overly skimpy, but when they are as tight as they wear them, they are unavoidable.  If you do a Google Images search on the women, and all you get numerous provacative pictures of them and very few action shots.

This is not some burning desire on my part to see shirtless men, but I do think it is an odd disparity between two genders in the same sport.  There is no doubt our women’s team are amazing athletes, but this seems horribly over shadowed by them being extremely fit women running around in extremely tight bikinis.  True, the women don’t seem that bothered by it as Kerri Walsh told RTE Sports “I feel I’m empowered. I’m a sportswoman, I’m getting stronger all the time and this is my uniform.”  She went on to say, “I don’t feel exploited at all. Hopefully we’re just encouraging people to be fit and healthy. Our lifestyle is so wonderful.”

If Ms. Walsh feels more empowered, good for her, and I understand the complaint about one piece suits, so why are men forced to play in so much concealment and in a way they find uncomfortable?  Would it be so horrible for them to play shirtless?  Male swimmers such as Michael Phelps are walking around the swimming pool in nothing but a Speedo and skull cap, so obviously the Olympics have no problem with the concept elsewhere in the games.  There are full body suits that swimmers can wear, some of them even causing less resistance in the water as it gives the swimmers a smoother surface, and some of our male swim team does wear partially covering suits.

I guess it is just the double standard I am struck by.  Why not give the women the option of the baggy shorts with a tank top and sports bra?  Why only swimsuits?  Why must the men wear shirts?  This, on the surface would seem to be a subject about comfort, but the longer you look at it, the more the old saying of “sex sells” starts to creep into my head, and I think that is an awful disservice to all the serious athletes effected by these decisions.

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