What A Woman Wears On The Tennis Court Is Her Choice

What A Woman Wears On The Tennis Court Is Her Choice

What a sportswoman wears – whose decision is that?


What is more important in sports – the attire or the sport itself?


Let me explain the context of these questions before you answer.


As a child, I remember watching a lot of sports be it football, tennis, cricket or even athletics. But it is only today that some facets of those memories stand out in a way I would never have guessed.


I remember watching Davor Suker standing in the middle of the football field during the FIFA’98 semi-final match bare-chested as the commentator enunciated how the sight of his rippling muscles must be enticing to women. I’m not even rephrasing. These were the exact words spoken. Yes, I kind of have a strange memory. Anyway. I also remember Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and many more male tennis players sitting bare-chested wiping sweat while taking a break in between sets. Again, at that point, it didn’t register to me as something abnormal because it really wasn’t. Well, not until a couple of weeks ago when it was pointed out that a woman tennis player, Alize Cornet, quickly changing her top in the court can be penalised. Apparently, it’s wrong? Well, if that’s the case, I think a lot of penalties are due from the male players. You must have seen Novak Djokovic do that recently so why hasn’t he been penalised too? Also, look at our cricketers itching their crotches on the field, surely that is ‘improper’ too! Why no hue and cry there?


What is the problem then?


Let me tell you. It is the sexualisation of women that has been happening for centuries. Yes, sexualisation by men who now occupy most of the powerful positions around the world. How many women do you think are there in the decision making bodies around the world? Some figures for you:


Twenty per cent (20%) of organisations have achieved gender parity on their boards.


Twenty-five per cent (25%) of organisations have achieved gender parity at the level of senior management.


Take for example the health sector,


Sixty-nine per cent (69%) of organisations are headed by men.


Eighty per cent (80%) of board chairs are men.


Source: https://globalhealth5050.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/GH5050-Report-2018_Final.pdf


That doesn’t prove the point then let me tell you some statistics from 2016 when it comes to sports leadership. Trust me, nothing monumental would have changed in 2018.


Quoting from an article (link embedded) “…research, based on the Sydney Scoreboard Global Index for Women in Sports Leadership, shows that women chaired only 7% (5 of 70) of international sports federations in 2016 (see table below). This is the same as in 2012, so no positive change has been achieved in the past four years. Women occupied 19% (12 of 64) of chief executive positions in 2016, up from 8% in 2012.


So men hold a staggering 93% of chair or president roles and 81% of chief executive positions. This means the key leadership positions in global sports governance and management remain largely elusive for women.”


Is it then a surprise really that women are penalised on what they should or shouldn’t wear? Is it a surprise that a non-issue like what a female player is wearing becomes an issue? Well if you ask me, this is just a ploy for female obedience.


“As women demanded access to power, the power structure used the beauty myth materially to undermine women’s advancement.”

― Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth


This is just a by-product of the beauty myth that has been propagated for aeons now. It is the set of dos and dont’s that women have to adhere to when it comes to an appropriate attire whether at the workplace or elsewhere. At workplaces around the world, women need to dress a certain way to be taken seriously. Have you seen a man fret over what he’s wearing? A man can be taken seriously no matter what he wears. For a woman, she can be underdressed, overdressed or provocatively dressed. Who decides that really? And why should somebody else decide that? I have heard male colleagues dissect a woman’s attire and decide if she is good at her work or worth being taken seriously based on that.


If men are visually aroused by women's bodies then whose problem is that? #Women Click To Tweet


In fact, leave that aside for a while, let’s talk about how what a woman wears is directly linked to respect all around the world. I don’t see a man’s attire being a cause for concern then why this burden on females?


Think about it, why was Serena Williams’ black catsuit banned when it was a medical necessity? Why the ruckus? She is a tennis player who has proven her mettle over the years. When she is on the tennis court all that should matter is how she is playing not what she is playing in. Or, is that wrong to expect?


What a sportswoman wears - whose decision is that? #WomenInSports #Women Click To Tweet


As a woman, I say we must not put our heads down and accept everything without a fight. And I love that Serena Williams has been fighting against this in a tutu. Because let’s face it, these dos and don’ts are never about women, are they? These are about men.


“The beauty myth is not about women at all. It is about men’s institutions and institutional power.”

― Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women


What women wear or look like is something that must be left to the women themselves. Our work, our calibre doesn’t seem to matter as much as our looks or our attire. So much so that a false demarcation has been created pitting us against each other so that we remain forever entangled in this false beauty web.


Our clothes have never been just something we wear. It has been linked to everything around us, everything that is us. What women wear has been linked to the family’s honour. What women wear has been linked to averting rapes. And I don’t need to tell you how wrong that is. But we are taught to believe that what women wear and present themselves in has a lot of consequences. It starts quite early when girls are suddenly made to wear salwar suits with dupattas as uniform as opposed to skirts because obviously the sight of their adolescent bodies cannot be handled by adolescent boys. Nobody thinks of educating boys in that regard or is that too tough a proposition? When a woman visits her in-laws or her in-laws come visiting she is expected to wear decent clothes which obviously doesn’t include shorts. But have you see any man stop wear shorts at home when in the presence of in-laws. Don’t bother, I’ll give you the answer. It’s a no, a resounding no.


So, why should women adhere to any rules? Our body, our choice. Or, is that too much to stomach? Stop trying to shift focus by talking about what we are wearing. We are more than our clothes, always have been.


Tell me, what did you think of the incidents that happened recently on Tennis court? Also, do you have any such incident of your own to share?


What A Woman Wears On The Tennis Court Is Her Choice. Isn't it? #WomanInTennis #Woman #WomanInSports #FeministMondays








This post is part of the #FeministMondays series (previously called #IAmAFeminist series) on the blog. Inspired by a TEDx talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – We Should All Be Feminists, I intend to talk about the need for feminism through my posts, posts on my experience and observation as a female. I intend to talk about issues concerning women.

Join me and let’s work towards a world of gender parity. Remember, each voice counts. Tell me your story.



32 thoughts on “What A Woman Wears On The Tennis Court Is Her Choice”

  1. Agree with your sentiment in this post: women’s bodies have long been, and continue to be, a battleground of male power.

    What a woman can do with her body should be her decision: and what is ‘shameful’ for the woman should be ‘shameful’ for the man, too.

  2. I agree with you completely. Would you believe it if I told you that my 90 year old mother in law who was a Squash champion in her day used to play in a saree till her brother interceded on her behalf and got their parents’ permission for her to wear a skirt! And she was only allowed to do so on strict condition that the skirt was worn only on the court!!!

  3. The US open turned ugly this year. Did you see what happened in the finale?

    Women should be allowed to wear what ever they want as long as it is decent and comfortable. Serena had a problem and yet she was asked to change her clothes. That is plain injustice.

    Men sit bare-chested in the heat and when a female player decided to adjust her top, she was accused of indecency. You think that a sport at a national level would have changed people’s minds, but hell no!

    All this nonsense takes away the sport from sportsmanship. The sport loses its sanctity.
    Soumya recently posted…#FeministMondays | A Penny For Your ThoughtsMy Profile

  4. Life’s really unfair to women, be it on a sports arena, at home or at the workplace. No wonder men never had to don a burqa or be in Purdah. It is disgusting to see these double standards in spite of so much progress we have achieved.

  5. It is really terrible. There is so much attention paid to women’s look and their attire. I wish we would let everyone be. I would say let them allow women to choose their own attires on tennis courts. Shorts if they want it or even other stuff. Why must they strut around in short skirts? Who has decided what is right for them? Perhaps it is time to relook at these things that we have somehow just accepted till now.

  6. This is such a hot topic lately and I’m glad it is because it’s been something that’s been needed to be addressed for so long.

    “We are more than our clothes, always have been.” I love that you ended your post with this statement. It’s so true. Women should not be sexualized. We’ve made a lot of progress but there’s so much more to be done. Double standards still exist, etc.

  7. I believe that every person should wear what they like as long as it decent.Male or Female both. And for something like sports just sounds ridiculous.Even though I don’t watch sports, but still this issue should be dealt immediately.Hope it gets resolved fast.

  8. This is such a broad topic. It’s okay that a woman can wear whatever she thinks is ideal for her.

    But some part of the world are yet to embrace this fact.

  9. Women should wear what they are comfortable with and care less what men think about. I do dress up when I go for tennis lesson. And I dress up for me and feeling good when I play.

  10. Everyone has a damn judgemental opinion. Drives me so bonkers that I just don’t listen to these stupid things anymore!

  11. I’m not overly with tennis and the particular. I did see this on sports center and thought it was crazy.

  12. I so agree with this! I think it’s the same in all cases. I hate how my children’s school has such a strict dress code. It probably makes a lot of girls ashamed of their bodies, and that’s sad.
    Amber Myers recently posted…Hey, It’s OkayMy Profile

  13. This is an issue that unfortunately will never go away. Women will always be judged by what they wear.

  14. I completely agree with you. Every one has the right to decide what to wear. But in most of the countries women are judged by what they wear. This is too sad and shameful.,

  15. ‘Choices’ are challenging for women these days whether its on tennis court or other places. Women should be allowed to wear what they want to. Love the article. I relished every minute of reading this blog as it’s simple writing and the experience is well put.

  16. I wish you posted pictures of outfits that get penalized. I agree with what you said about being able to wear what they want. But I guess sometimes, we have to play by the rules, like having to wear uniform to school. If we don’t like that rule, then we can transfer to another school. Something like that.

  17. Women are questioned everytime. Be it about their dress, their conduct, or any thing else. It is sad to see that nothing has changed even in this modern era. A particular dress code for women in Tennis has again raised a very important issue. Hopefully the world will one day understand that imposing restrictions on women is not going to help anyone. Thanks 🙂

  18. It is like this in so many places. At least the USA is so much further along than many middle east countries, but we’ve got a ways to go.

  19. This is such an insightful post. There is definitely a difference between men and women in so many aspects of life. It never really wants to come out and be said by anyone for fear.

  20. My opinion depends on the situation. If there is a rule about it, we should follow it. If none, then no one should complain about whatever she wears.

  21. Your insight is really true. It’s not about what she wears but how she plays. This shouldn’t be a hindrance to their success. This is a very nice read.

  22. I so much agree with you on this. And women are so conditioned to criticize other women on their choices. I wonder when things will change!

  23. I heard this fuss about women’s outfit in tennis court and I find it ridicules.
    If they got distracted of it, them it is their eyes and minds have the problem not the outfit.
    They should their minds not to get judgmental.

  24. I totally agree, I don’t know why the world is so injustice to women. Women can wear anything as fr as it’s decent.

  25. Nowadays, a raging debate is going on about the type of clothes worn by women on the court while playing tennis. It all started when some people pointed out that Serena Williams was wearing an inappropriate dress while playing in Wimbledon. However, I completely agree with the author’s point of view that whatever a woman wears on the tennis court is completely her choice and nobody has got any rights to complain about the dress she is wearing. Moreover, if the particular women is completely comfortable in wearing any dress, then the spectators or for that matter anybody else shouldn’t comment on her dress. It is all about changing our mindset.

Comments are closed.