Capitalism that is unhitched from Christian morality turns the human body into a commodity to be marketed, bought and sold. This is one reason why our culture has rapidly pornified. This is also why your high school daughter is running at track practice in nothing but a pair of underwear-sized compression shorts and a sports bra and no one bats an eye.
When you combine the unrestricted capitalistic commodification of the human body with women’s natural desire to be looked at by men (which is not a sinful desire when properly restricted), we can see why women’s dress in athletics has devolved from this:
The immediate cry is that it is impossible to “move freely” in more substantial attire. This is, of course, complete crap.
Exhibit A – If men can play volleyball in these shorts…
…why can’t women?
Of course, if you really want to destroy the They just dress like that because it’s easier to move! argument, you have to use the women’s beach volleyball team outfits versus the men’s:
Why do female athletes dress like this? They do so because they’ve been pushed to over time by the television marketing executives who broadcast the sporting events – because let’s be honest, women’s sports are kind of boring compared to men’s sports if you’re just looking at pure athleticism, hence the invention of volleyball shorts to get men interested in watching women’s sports.
I don’t think the marketing execs literally sat down one day and decreed women athletes were henceforth to dress like sluts. Saying It was the TV executives who did it! is just a shorthand way of saying that it was a progression: one female athlete dressed a little more risque, more men watched any future events she participated in, thus more advertising dollars rolled in, so the television stations covered more of that sport to cater to the advertisers, which led to more money for the athletes, whose advertising sponsors then required them to wear skimpier uniforms in order to gain more viewers…this is what I mean when I say women were pushed into dressing immodestly by marketing executives.
And though they probably didn’t come up with the idea of such skimpy attire all on their own, it likely isn’t that hard to “push” a lot of women into it, as most women have a natural desire to be looked at by men. To understand how this natural desire is harnessed by marketing executives, consider that one of the first things the U.S. Women’s Volleyball team did when they got back from the Olympics was pose nude as a group for ESPN’s “The Body Issue” (sorry, I don’t want to post the nude image here even though technically everything “naughty” is covered).
There is no word from ESPN on when we can expect a similar photo from the Men’s Volleyball team.
It’s not that male athletes are more moral than women when it comes to how they dress. It’s just that photos of the Detroit Lions draped nude over one another and sporting nothing but a few strategically placed footballs isn’t going to sell a whole lot of beer.
In fact, I googled “ESPN the Body Issue men” (for research purposes only, I assure you), and I found NO group nude shots of men. The men get the Women’s Volleyball team and the Women’s Water Polo team, and what do the gals get? That’s right, Prince Fielder. Gee, thanks ESPN (I jest of course – I don’t actually want to see nude groups of male athletes).
Why, this definitely wasn’t about marketing women’s sports to men as softcore porn at all! Ha.
But here is the much more serious fall out: Olympians and professional athletes set the standards for what younger athletes wear, and it becomes first acceptable and then required for them to dress immodestly. If a girl wants to play on her high school volleyball team, she will be required to wear those immodest shorts because they are part of the uniform.
This gives a parent two choices: allow her to play in the immodest shorts or pull her off the team. And since the attire for most girls’ sports is getting skimpier and skimpier, there aren’t a lot of other sport options that are much better at this point (girls’ basketball is still pretty modest).
My own rationalization has been this: I tried and tried when they were younger to bring this issue up to coaches and fellow parents only to get strange looks from them, so I gave up and gave in. My husband and I were discussing this recently, and he talked about averting his eyes, depending on where he’s sitting at volleyball tournaments, just before the serve when all those fifteen-year-old girls crouch forward in their volleyball shorts.
I got my own taste of that recently when I went to pick up my high school daughter from track practice on an unusually warm day; not only were groups of girls running in compression shorts and sports bras (my daughter kept her shirt on, thankfully), but the young men were shirtless in running shorts. I decided it was appropriate for me to look away from the half-naked young men running past me back up to the school.
To mention this to others is to get a defensive reaction – What’s the matter with you, are you such a pervert that you find sixteen-year-old boys in nothing but running shorts too sexual to look at without feeling that it’s kind of wrong to look? Anyone who questions the modesty of under-aged athletes in such skimpy attire is immediately shamed into silence by insinuations about their character.
But I do think it’s wrong. I don’t think we should allow our children to be marketed this way and I don’t think we should train our daughters to attention whore for the male gaze like this. The problem is that we are being trained to slowly accept more and more immodest athletic attire; we are first anesthetized to it by seeing it on television on professional athletes and then eventually it trickles its way down to high school and junior high athletes, where first it’s a few kids wearing it and eventually it just becomes part of the standard uniform. At what point do we as Christian parents draw a line in the sand and say, “No farther”? It’s not an easy and straightforward decision, but we should at least be aware of the underlying dynamics and understand that this is the end result of capitalism unfettered from morality.
(For an interesting discussion – some of which I agree with and some of which I don’t – on modesty and dress, start with Cane Caldo’s recent post Of Pants and Passions and continue through his series of posts on the issue, including a discussion about athletic wear).