With the 2012 Olympics fast approaching, the Badminton World Federation is trying to pretty up its oft-overlooked sport, and courting controversy in the process. In an effort to draw more fans and sponsors, the federation has decreed that, starting this week, elite-level female players must wear skirts and dresses. The new rule has been slammed as sexist and offensive — especially to the many Muslim players who must dress modestly for religious reasons. (They've been told that they can wear pants underneath their dresses and skirts.) Is this dress code over the line?
What's the big deal? The goal is for women to "look nicer on the court and have more marketing value for themselves," says Paisan Rangsikitpho, the deputy president of the Badminton World Federation, as quoted by The New York Times. We think the sport deserves more viewers, but this isn't about selling sex. We just want female players to look "feminine" so they'll be more "popular."
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This is blatant sexual discrimination: It's "wildly sexist to focus on the women's appearance, not their athletic ability, to lure new fans and TV viewers," says Margaret Hartmann at Jezebel. This is clearly an attempt to use sex to promote the sport, and an offensive one at that, especially given that only two of the Badminton World Federation's 25 council members are women. I have a "pretty wild idea." Let's try to get attention for female athletes by focusing on what they do and who they are, not how sexy they look in a skimpy skirt.
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And it won't be tolerated: This edict is just plain "bizarre," says William Kings, a spokesperson for Badminton England, as quoted by The Guardian. The federation's diagrams showing how Muslim women can just wear the skirts over pants are "embarrassingly laughable." If this dress code isn't overturned, "we will be making a very strong protest."
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