Shrinking and Pinking: Skirting Controversy

It seems that often when there's a woman's first in sports, there's some sort of controversy shortly after.  Case in point? Women's boxing. Last month I wrote about the inclusion of women's boxing as an Olympic sport for the first time (for another inspirational story about how this came to be, check out this story about Irish boxer Katie Taylor).  But now the men who run boxing want to make sure that these female boxers wear skirts while they compete. Why? Well, first of all, they claim it's hard to tell men and women apart when you watch a match (I'm not quite sure why this is a problem though).  They also feel, according to a great piece by Christine Brennan, that skirts make female boxers more "elegant."  Polish coach Leszek Piotrowski is quoted as saying, "By wearing skirts, in my opinion, it gives a good impression, a womanly impression."  If you recall, badminton faced a similar controversy over the summer... Which lead them to reverse their decision on women having to compete in skirts at the Olympics. Hopefully the same will happen when it comes to women's boxing.

Then again, at least female boxers have a chance to compete in London next summer. Women's racewalkers don't have that opportunity-- skirts or not.  American Erin Taylor-Talcott has qualified for the US Trials in the 50k, but even if she performed well enough to qualify for the Games (which it appears in unlikely), she would not be able to compete in London.  Because the 50k speedwalking event isn't tremendously popular among men, it seems like giving women an opportunity makes sense. Perhaps in the next quad?

In my home state of Massachusetts there has also been recent controversy because of (lack of) parity between women and men. In this case the issue is allowing boys to compete on a girls sports team. No, not field hockey, which I've discussed before; this time it's swimming. Because many schools only have girls' teams, boys are allowed to compete on those teams. This year a female state record in the 50 free was almost broken... by a boy. If a male had broken the record it is unclear how that would have been handled.  But this is likely a situation that will come up again so some decisions should be made in advance.  I can't help but think that if a girl could possibly break a boys' record we would likely applaud that achievement, so is it fair to punish a boy who doesn't have a similar opportunity?

At the same time, it is wonderful to applaud women's achievements. As various major league baseball decisions are made for next season it's worth noting that the Dodgers recently hired Sue Falsone as the first female trainer in MLB. I'm guessing she won't be wearing a skirt during games though.