BY ALEX P. VIDAL
NEWPORT BEACH, California — A throwback to the Puritanical era.
The Badminton World Federation shot itself in the foot when it conceived a silly idea of requiring women badminton players at the elite level to wear skirts or dresses.
Hello! Are we in the 21st century or in the Puritan and English Victorian age where nobody would raise a whimper even if a swimmer — male or female — were required to wear long sleeves and jogging pants?
The dress code is not only sexist but smacks of hypocrisy of some proponents who bragged about creating a more “attractive presentation” and making female players “appear more feminine and appealing to fans and corporate sponsors.”
Unless it will be decreed that badminton will soon be played only by nuns and Buddhist monks, the dress code will be viewed as a hindrance to performance as it would limit a player’s lattitude to pursue the shuttlecock when the clothing sticks.
The last time we heard, the sport has gained worldwide acclaim due to the shuttlecock’s unique motion that purportedly kowtows to the Law of Gravity while hurdling the net, not because corporate sponsors and fans were offended and impeached a woman player for wearing provocative outfit.
Greeted with derision and doubts, the dress code still allows women to wear shorts or long pants for cultural and religious reasons. “But these garments must be worn beneath a dress or skirt, which could be cumbersome,” reported The New York Times’s Jere Longman on May 27.
Women wear more revealing outfits than men in a number of Olympic sports like gymnastics, track and field, volleyball and beach volleyball, observed Longman. “Even the bikinis in beach volleyball can be somewhat justified on grounds of functionality (it is easier to clear sand from a two-piece outfit than a one-piece).
“Yet the badminston rule seems to have been devised strictly for reasons of appearance. It was formulated in consultation with Octagon, an international marketing firm,” he added.
It was reported that BWF now finds itself on the defensive, accused of trying to sell a sport by showing more leg and skin. Male players are only required to dress in “proper attire,” Logman quoted officials as saying.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s badminton federation said in April that its female players would not adhere to the new rule because “our religious beliefs and norms do not allow our lady players to wear skirts.” Presumably, Longman wrote, Pakistani women would be permitted to wear skirts over long pants.
Since Muslim women are now playing the sport in large numbers in Arab and Asian countries, it would be a big embrassment if the BWF would implement the dress code despite these complicated issues.
The dress code may be an attempt to revive flagging interest in women’s badminton as the 2012 London Olympics approach.