Oversexualized uniforms on women’s teams harm atheletes

From being oversexualized in media portrayals, to being treated with a lack of respect in professional settings, obstacles are constantly being launched at women in everyday life.


From being oversexualized in media portrayals, to being treated with a lack of respect in professional settings, obstacles are constantly being launched at women in everyday life. Instead of being asked of one’s achievements and successes, women are often scrutinized based on how they look and present themselves. Sports and athletics are often considered a man’s field. This, in turn, leads to women having to deal with oversexualization and overall discomfort when trying to perform their sport to the best of their ability.

Although the city of Berkeley is known for being on the progressive side, Berkeley High School (BHS) athletes are still affected by many rules and regulations that are biased against athletes on female teams. The most apparent example of this is the outdated tradition of athletes on the women’s teams having to wear skirts in various sports. 

One of the most influential figures in the history of women’s tennis is Billie Jean King. When she refused to wear a skirt to a match, she was excluded from photos because of what she was wearing. Tiffany Liew, the BHS women’s tennis coach, credits Billie Jean King for setting the standard of female tennis players having the courage to wear something other than skirts, saying, “I think there’s been a lot of gender norm breakers in the professional tennis world for women’s tennis, like Billie Jean King … wearing things other than the skin tight tennis skirts and tennis dresses is pretty normal nowadays.”

Liew makes it clear to the athletes on her team that she encourages them to wear uniforms that they are comfortable wearing. However, Vera Ertel, a sophomore on the women’s tennis team, pointed out the lack of options for these female tennis players. She shared, “For tennis, there’s no pants, or shorts, or anything that would be acceptable to my needs.” The needs she refers to are being able to hold backup tennis balls in tight pockets during matches.

The discomfort of skirt wearing doesn’t just stop at women’s tennis. Field hockey players are expected to wear skirts and are not provided with spandex undershorts when given the uniform. As a gender non-conforming athlete on a women’s field hockey team, Moss Vorobyeva faced various obstacles that other female-identifying players may not have to face. 

“Both from a gender point of view and a physical one, being not a woman on a women’s team, it feels frustrating to have to wear a skirt even when the shorts aren’t provided. They’re also not very size-inclusive. A lot of the sizes are much smaller, and so they’re physically uncomfortable to play in … I think they’re an unnecessary part of the uniform,” Vorobyeva said. 

He generally wore a skirt during field hockey games, but the few times that he did decide to go with shorts, he had to field questions from refs and others. Vorobyeva shared that his field hockey coach was very supportive of his identity and informed them that she would back him to the referees if he ever wanted to wear shorts for the matches. Vorobeyva said, “I think, especially at Berkeley, our coaches are very understanding of the gender nonconforming students on the women’s field hockey team.”

Besides the fact that wearing these skirts do not improve an athlete’s performance, they can also prove to be distressing for those that are insecure about their bodies. 

Ertel had similar thoughts, saying, “I think a lot of people, especially teenage girls, are really insecure about their bodies. And it’s not very inclusive to people who are more modest than others to just make them all wear skirts and tank tops. I think people would join the (tennis) team if they knew that they had the option to play comfortably.”

Liew shared a joke she often shares with her players, which was: “The women’s tennis uniform was made by a man.” She went on to say, “It doesn’t make you more aerodynamic, or functionally better as a tennis player … When I was a high schooler, I definitely felt self-conscious of my body wearing something that was so skin-tight.”