Female Athletes’ Skimpy Outfits

by MomGrind

Are female athletes judged by performance, or by hotness?

Looking at their skimpy outfits, the answer seems to be clear. Especially when it comes to beach volleyball.

Beach Volleyball

Image credit: david.bunting

Image credit: david.bunting

As a result, women – and only women – are often photographed from this interesting angle:

Image credit: david.bunting

I have yet to see a male player photographed from this angle and at such a closeup.


Although not as extreme as beach volleyball, female runners are significantly more exposed than male runners.

Image credit: spitfirelas

Image credit: spitfirelas


Roomy tees and bermuda shorts for men, tiny skirts and tank tops for women. Awesome.

Image credit: mandj98

Image credit: vedia

Google search results

It’s interesting to note, that when I performed a Google search for “female athletes,” six results out of the nine results on the first page were some variation on “Hottest female athletes” (there was a single result for “top earning female athletes”). When I performed a similar search for “male athletes,” there were just three “hot male athletes” results.

Lingerie Football League

Photo credit: Evan Romine

Inspired by the Superbowl halftime special, The LFL is a ten team league that will begin play in September 2009.

I guess the main question here is why do individual women choose to participate in this?

One possible answer was given elsewhere by one of my readers, Computer Addict. According to him, these women are “willing participants in an enterprise predicated on making money by depicting women as sexual objects.” He continues, “Is that strange? Far less strange than black slave owners, or anti-Semitic Jews. Personal gains, be it money, power or fame, often trump one’s self-identification with class, gender, ethnicity or race.”

What the athletes are saying

I was curious to know how the women feel about their skimpy outfits, so I contacted a few of them. The reaction in general: “this is not sexism. It’s about performance.” Makes sense, until you consider that the men are able to perform just fine with roomier clothes that provide more coverage.

This is what the athletes had to say:

Donna MacFarlane, a high-profile Australian runner, said: “Competition gear is about feeling comfortable and the two piece outfits are usually the best for ease of movement and to cope with hot conditions. I don’t think outfits should be skimpy just for the sake of it. Women have a choice of what they wear- even in major Championships women are allowed to be more covered up if they want, it’s usually just not practical.”

Heather Bravo, a volleyball player, said: “Does it ever bother me? The outfits themselves do not. When I was first starting off yes they did but over the years I have grown accustomed to them. A form of sexism? I would have to say no. It actually is a lot more comfortable to wear short spandex, of course not when your butt is hanging out the bottom but it is actually more comfortable than basketball shorts. As for the last question (I asked her if people would still watch women’s volleyball if the women were dressed more like the men v.d.).. In my heart I would like to say it doesn’t matter, but this 2008 Olympic volleyball teams got a ton of coverage, and some of that might have been due to their outfits, or that the girls were gorgeous. But I think that womens volleyball will be watched because people like to see girls in a competitive light.. In a masculine way. The fact they are in smaller outfits just eggs the guys on.”

Tamao Nakayama, another volleyball player, said: “Does it ever bother you? I choose ones that don’t bother me. I don’t buy the ones that have big decorative materials (metals, beads and such). Bikinis are better than one piece. Sand gets inside while you are playing, and  with a bikini you can get rid of sand easier. Is it a form of sexism? Don’t know about international organizations, but AVP doesn’t require players to wear bikinis. Neither do other American volleyball organizations, I think. My answer is no. Athletes are wearing whatever they are comfortable with. Will people would still watch women’s beach volleyball if outfits were more like men’s outfits? People who love this sport will continue watching. The viewers who just wanted to see hot bodies will stop watching. Let me ask you this. Why there is no ping-pong TV program? Ping-pong has awesome long rallies than beach volleyball, and it’s fun sport to watch. By the way, it’s not only female players that are getting attentions. All male players play without T-shirt in pro tours. Lots of ladies love to watch them. That’s the reality.”

Finally, Renee Cleary, who is also a volleyball player, said: “I don’t feel that wearing bikinis to play beach volleyball is a form of sexism.  As players, we are free to pick any style of bathing suit or clothes to play in.  I believe that the international league (FIBV) has a 4″ maximum on the hip width of the bottom but otherwise all the tournaments in the US allow players to wear outfits of their choice, including one-piece suits, shorts or leggings. Personally, I wear bikinis that are most comfortable for me to play in.  I prefer Brazilian styles because with less material there are fewer places for the sand to get stuck, and it may seem counter intuitive but this style stays in place better for me.  If I’m cold, I play in a long sleeve shirt and pants. I don’t really know if fewer people would watch matches if women’s outfits were more like men’s but as a player I wouldn’t like this because it’s usually very hot and the material would stick to my legs. Also, shorts create terrible tan lines.”

Do you think these women are refusing to acknowledge they’re being exploited? Are they, as Computer Addict said, willing participants? When they choose skimpy outfits, is it a real choice, or do they feel they’re expected to look a certain way? Am I totally off base here and it’s all about comfort and performance?

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