>Is there enough leg room on the court?


By now, all of you must’ve heard about the Badminton World Federation’s new rule for women players making skirts compulsory on the court to popularise the sport. Now, in India there’ve been reactions from the badminton players supporting and showing dissent against the new rule. While Saina Nehwal doesn’t think her wearing shorts or skirts on court will affect the number of people watching her, Aparna Bopanna and Jwala Gutta have no problem with the new directive. The latest is that due to stiff resistance from Indian players, the BWF has pushed back the date of implementing the rule.

But the resistance is not so much to the spirit of the rule as to wearing skirts, and I think that’s just missing the point. Why is no one questioning the BWF’s rationale that a woman’s sport must be glamorous in order for it to be popular? Why is no one asking how the Federation plans to popularise men’s badminton? Surely, not by having them play shirtless! So why then should a woman’s sport be subjected to such a ridiculous assumption?

At the end of the day, what we’re doing is objectifying women who’re in a sport because they can play the sport, not because they can look a certain way. If more people watch badminton because there’s more skin at display on the court, what’s being popularised is not the sport but the notion that women are objects on display.

I’m ready to convert to another point of view – one that convinces me that there is nothing sexist about this move and that if they had to make a men’s sport also popular they would glam it up. I agree, glamour attracts a lot of eyeballs, a lot. But that’s no justification for us to ask women with a certain skill set to pander to such demands. What happens next? Do we ask women wrestlers to look more feminine because that would attract more fans, and do we ask women basketball players to wear body-hugging racer-back tees? And the men can continue to be sloppy, muscular and just good at their game?

If a sport has to be popularised, there must be other ways to do it. If cricket is so hugely popular in countries like India, it’s because we’ve had players who can win us matches. There’s glamour in the game, but that’s come because of the sport’s popularity. And even then, Sachin is by no stretch of imagination what you call glamorous. Neither was Kapil Dev. So what’s the connection?


14 responses »

  1. >I think the move is totally ridiculous and stupid. I agree that glamorization sells but for that all BWF needed to do was call someone like Lalit Modi, he would have brought some cheerleaders and loads of glamor quotient.

  2. >Wow!!And to think I was only sorely ticked off by that news item!You've surely put forward some really relevant arguments (and put them very well indeed).It was indeed shocking that the BWF thought about women's badminton but totally ignored the men!So now, its no more about talent, its about the looks.LOVED your last stanza!:)

  3. >@Prats: I don't know… Would you not watch the IPL if there were no cheer girls?@weourlife: Oh yes, what of comfort?@momofrs: I'm glad this makes sense to more people than me.

  4. >Sometimes, people live for controversies. I think everyone has an opinion about something that hasn't got anything to do with them.Shorts, skirts, pants. They'll still have a problem!

  5. >thanks for writing about this-wasn't aware of it at all. it is asinine to say the least. i used to be a national badminton player in my last life and we all used to wear shorts simply cos skirts were just not easily available or affordable. and i remember back then, it really didnt matter what we wore-it was all about the game. you hit the nail on the head by asking about the fairness-why leave out the men? players, particularly the seeds all over should revolt, not take this lying down. its amazing to see how sexist the world is becoming with progress.

  6. >Glamor sells and nothing sells like a woman's glamor in the world we see today. It is not absurd, it is commercial. That's what the whole thing is about – making more money, getting more TRPs and much more. Reality is that whether it is in sports, ads, retail, market, whatever – a woman is seen as a commercial commodity. That is where the problem really lies.Personally, I think the sports persons concerned should take a strong, principled stand rather than say that it is in the spirit of the game. We all know that it isn't about the game at all.

  7. >@Dee: I get your point, but what's the relevance of that in this context, I think I missed.@sukanyabora: Yes, ironical how every time we take a step forward, we seem to take two backwards.@Sanand: Yes, even if the women are more than happy to be wearing skirts on the court, they should protest against the sexist move.

  8. >I had similar thoughts, (but no clear answers) – including whatever works was fine, if the players were fine with it. Glamour does help, but glamour can be got without harming the game (in case the players aren't comfortable)… but I also agree, "If more people watch badminton because there’s more skin at display on the court, what’s being popularised is not the sport but the notion that women are objects on display. "Male and female cheerleaders, and some media attention might help a sport that isn't as popular as cricket is, but again, what about the sport then? Should a sport depend on being popular? Maybe they could do something like the IPL for women's badminton and see how it goes? Cricket unlike any other sport does not seem to need glamorization much… and most other sports are not popular – whether men play or women. I wonder if what happens to acting, singing, artists, authors, journalists and dancing applies to sports too? There are serious actors (male and female) – they work in art films, they act better than the 'stars' who make more money, and are seen as more glamourous (not necessarily better looking).

  9. >I do not get the reason behind glamorization. We love badminton for the sport and not for what the sportsperson wears. I am really surprised that the players association didnt boycott the board. So what next now, if skirts do not pull in the crowd, are they going to ask them to wear something smaller?

  10. >Damyanti: Thank you.@IHM: You've raised several points and I'd like to answer them one by one:1. You're right, whatever works is fine, but my point is, at what cost?2. While a sport doesn't need to depend on its popularity, trying to popularise a sport seems like a good move to me.3. Except for soccer and cricket, I'm not sure any game has the kind of fan following to make an IPL-like tournament successful.4. As for the actors, I think they get to choose how they position themsevles. A Shabana Azmi may not look for glamour, while say a Katrina may be okay with being pegged initially as a glam doll. But it's what you choose. Here, the baddie players have chosen to play the sport. I don't think we can compare the two.@Rambler: Yes, what next?!

  11. >Hey I just found your blog in indiblogger.You have a really nice blog going on.Do have a look at my blog :)http://beauty-n-d-blog.blogspot.com

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