The gloves are off!
It’s hard to imagine a more featherweight question to pose to the hard-hitting sport of women’s boxing: What should female boxers wear in the ring while they bludgeon each other in their Olympic sports debut in London this summer?
The Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) has managed to supersize the dilemma into an issue of global proportions.
Shorts. Or short skirts. That is the question.
The AIBA governing body arrived in Thailand Jan. 18 to discuss this and other issues until Jan. 22. They will then render their decision to the organisation’s executive committee which will render their final decision in July.
The AIBA favours skirts, noting that not only do they differentiate the women boxers from their male counterparts - as if anyone needed a miniskirt to tell the difference - but that skirts are “more elegant” in the decidedly inelegant sport of boxing.
Meanwhile, the women boxers and many of their supporters are furious that this is even on the agenda. As of Jan. 18, nearly 52,000 people - from Christchurch, New Zealand, to Lincoln, Nebraska, in the United States - signed an online petition on Change.org, demanding that Olympic boxers should not be forced to wear skirts. The petition drive is led by Elizabeth Plank, a London-based amateur boxer.
“This petition is not about a piece of fabric, it’s about athletes. It’s about their credibility,” Plank told Change.org. “If there’s one lesson I’ve learned through my experience as a boxer is that when someone throws a punch, curling up in the foetal position is not an option. You stand up and you fight. You don’t ask for power, you just take it.”
Marianne Marston, a professional boxer who runs classes for women in London, agrees.
“Unfortunately, it’s sometimes difficult for women to go into boxing gyms and be taken seriously. As soon as guys see women in make-up and revealing clothes then they begin to pay them unwanted attention. If female boxers are forced to wear feminine apparel then this will create more problems in gyms,” she told Change.org.
Not everyone agrees. “I prefer to wear a skirt because they are more comfortable,” boxer and designer Laura Saperstein said in a report by the BBC.
Whatever happens, it looks like skirts are not the most popular choice for most female boxers. Although the AIBA recommended boxers to try skirts last year, at the European Championship in October, only Poland and Romania shunned the shorts, according to the BBC.
Stay tuned to see whether the AIBA is beaten to the punch by the women boxers or throws in the towel.