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'Designed By Men': Why US Olympic Runner Uniform Is Getting Slammed

Nike recently unveiled the uniform for the US team's track and field participants at the Paris Olympics 2024. However, netizens were quick to point out how the kit for women had minimal coverage and appeared uncomfortable.

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Tanya Savkoor
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Sporting apparel giant Nike, on April 11, unveiled the uniform for Team USA's track and field participants at the upcoming Paris Olympics. However, athletes and netizens were quick to point out how the kit for female athletes had minimal coverage and appeared uncomfortable. The men's and women's uniforms placed side by side showcased a misguided and sexist approach by the designers, as the latter uniform seemed to prioritise aesthetics (as per the male gaze) over functionality. Critics pointed out how the crotch in the women's uniform was cut way higher than the men's apparel, slamming Nike for overlooking women's comfort.

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Recently, several athletes have spoken up about women's uniforms being made "skimpy". For example, in 2019, a Norwegian women's handball team highlighted the requirement to don bikini-like uniforms and stated that they were fined for not adhering. Meanwhile, some gymnasts globally have demanded the freedom to wear unitards instead of leotards. 

Was There A Single Female Designer On The Team?

At a launch event called Nike On Air  Innovation Summit on April 11, the brand gave a sneak peek into the uniforms for men and women across different sports at the Paris Olympics 2024. The first question that most viewers had was "Was there a single female designer on the team?" This is not the first time Nike has been blasted for its impractical design in women's clothing.

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Under images posted on social media, netizens pointed out how the women's uniforms, especially for track and field, looked more like swimming costumes, as the bottoms were as short as underwear. Olympic hurdler Queen Harrison Claye joked that the hair removal salon European Wax Center should sponsor Team USA.

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Nike On Air Innovation Summit| Image: Dominique Maitre/WWD, via Getty Images

Long jumper Abigail Irozuru from England, shared a photo with the comment, "Was ANY female athlete consulted in this team kit?!?‚ÄĚ US champion runner¬†Lauren Fleshman posted, ‚ÄúProfessional athletes should be able to compete without dedicating brain space to constant pube vigilance or the mental gymnastics of having every vulnerable piece of your body on display."

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A comparison of men's and women's uniforms across most sports showcases a bizarre misrepresentation of the female body, which is clearly made to appeal to a male viewer. Not only are most of these uniforms uncomfortable, but they also defeat the purpose of functionality and perpetuate unnecessarily sexist standards for women in sports. 

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For years, women across the world have endured the lack of equitable representation in sports. While they are slowly claiming their space in the landscape, the limited inclusivity and sensitivity towards women's issues still show a wide gender divide. On one hand, men's apparel suggests high-performance activities while women's fits into a visual appeal to the male gaze. 

The present Nike situation shows how not just on the field, but women need a say in board rooms and chambers too. Not only does overseeing the athlete's comfort open a vital conversation around the sexualisation of women in sports, but it also shows a clear lack of understanding of women's bodies, forcing female athletes to adhere to impractical beauty standards.

paris olympics Female Athletes women in sports male gaze Nike
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