GERMAN gymnast Sarah Voss made a statement recently. A statement about equality in the world of gymnastics.

Voss did not break any rules, at least not in terms of performance. But she did break expectations and tradition.

Voss wore a full-bodied suit in the European Artistic Gymnastics Championship.

Apparently, girls and women have only covered their legs in international competitions on religious beliefs.

Voss received unconditional support for her actions around the globe, but more importantly from her teammates. In fact, two of them followed her example during the final.

A spokesperson for the German Federation (DTB) said the demonstration was a stand against “sexualisation in gymnastics.”

The issue of sexism is only one of several controversial topics that has plagued the sport in recent times.

Issues of authority, control, eating and psychological disorders, training regimens, the relationship between coach and athlete have all come under scrutiny.

Worse of all is the sexual exploitation of girls who are biologically and psychologically kept pre-pubescent.

“We hope gymnasts uncomfortable in the usual outfits will feel emboldened to follow our example,” said Voss.

“We women all want to feel good in our skin. In the sport of gymnastics it gets harder and harder as you grow out of your child’s body. As a little girl I didn’t see the tight gym outfits as such a big deal. But when puberty began, when my period came, I began feeling increasingly uncomfortable,” Voss lamented.

Clearly, there is a serious problem in a sport that values biological retardation so highly. Wearing skimpy outfits are part of the exploitative process.

The German Federation agrees. It stated that sport and gymnastics should be arenas where female athletes felt comfortable in their clothing at all times.

Voss posted a message on Instragram, explaining that the decision was “close to the hearts of the team.” Her average performance on the beam seemed incidental.

“Feeling good and still looking elegant? Why not?” she said.

According to the International Gymnastics Federation (IGF) gymnasts can wear a “one piece leotard with full-length legs – hip to ankle,” if it is of an “elegant design.”

The German team also won support from the Dutch. It appears points are deducted during a performance when a gymnast adjusts the leotard to make it more comfortable.

Voss believed it was important she and others acted as role models for emerging gymnasts. It was time to assert their rights, especially regarding sexism and exploitation.

US gymnast, Simone Biles, was one of many gymnasts sexually abused by sports doctor Larry Nasser over several years.

Biles will compete at the Tokyo Olympics later this year. She plans to use it as a platform to address the issues rife within the sport and give survivors a voice.

Is this a portent for things to come in all women’s sports? Will we see the eradication, on symbolic and moral grounds, of skimpy outfits in the high jump and long jumps, often the source of sexualised material on social media?

Ludo Aequitas – Equality Through Sport – welcomes your views


Image via The Independent

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