My Thursday column at Healthy is the New Skinny looks at the problem of creeping sexualization in high school girls’ sports:
Take a look through an old high school yearbook from the 1970s. You’ll see the volleyball players with some fairly short shorts – and the guys on the basketball team with shorts that may well be even shorter. The tops are mostly loose fitting; the outfits are comfortable and practical.
But take a look at what high school volleyball players are wearing today – and at what the boys on the basketball team have on! Over the past two decades, boys’ shorts have gotten dramatically longer and their uniforms much more concealing, all without any sacrifice of athletic performance. But even as more and more opportunities are emerging for girls to play sports, the uniforms that they’re required to wear (particularly in sports like track and volleyball) have become tighter and more revealing.
The issue isn’t improved performance. In high school volleyball, it’s hard to argue that French-cut briefs lead to a dramatic step up in anything other than attendance at games. (Many women I interviewed for this piece report that the number of people showing up for volleyball matches or track events rise when schools begin to require skimpier uniforms). The issue is how these uniforms and the expectations that come with them affect young women’s self-esteem.