It’s all about letting athletes compete without being sexualized.
As a sport, gymnastics should be all about achieving graceful lines, skillful execution, and flawless form. But for years, the unofficial standard for women’s Olympic gymnastics uniforms has been skin-tight, high-cut leotards, while men have traditionally been expected to wear singlets with looser-fitting pants or shorts on top. In 2021, however, one women’s gymnastics team is subverting the standard: These tweets about the German gymnasts' Olympic uniforms cheer their decision to wear what makes them comfortable.
When competing in the women’s artistic individual all-around on July 25, Germany’s Olympic team (Kim Bui, Pauline Schaefer, Sarah Voss, and Elisabeth Seitz) sported bold, bedazzled unitards that stretched from their elbows to their their ankles. Per The Washington Post, unitards or leggings the same color as an official uniform are permitted by Olympic guidelines, but the choice certainly isn’t traditional. When the German Gymnastics Federation debuted the uniforms in April, they said they were standing up against “sexualization in gymnastics.” The goal, the federation stated, was to “present aesthetically without feeling uncomfortable.”
In an April 23 Instagram post, Seitz showed her support for the uniforms, stating that it was time to set an example for “all gymnasts who may feel uncomfortable or even sexualized in normal suits.” In her opinion, “every gymnast should be able to decide in which type of suit she feels most comfortable — and then do gymnastics,” she added.
People all over Twitter couldn’t help but cheer the team’s uniform choice, with many users supporting the stance against sexualizing femme bodies — not just in gymnastics, but within sports in general.
Even in competitions as prestigious as the Olympics, the policing of femme bodies is nothing new. In fact, less than a week before the German women’s Olympic gymnastics team competed, the Norwegian women’s beach handball team was fined $1,700 for not playing in the required bikini bottoms during the sport’s 2021 Euro tournament. And on July 19, Paralympian Olivia Breen was chastised for wearing briefs that were “too revealing” while competing at the English Championships.
So whether women are wearing “too much” or “too little,” criticism comes either way. Might as well follow the German athletes’ lead — and just allow athletes to wear whatever makes them feel most comfortable while competing.