What should a woman wear when she is involved in sports? Especially when she is boxing, a sport that is sexualised due to the brutal and attractive clash of femininity and violence? There is no clear answer, but I think that people should overlook both old stereotypes and the current backlash against them.
It was a very interesting experience to publish 3D renders of my main character, Alesia Schumann, recently with her new outfit. She now wears a short white skirt for her professional fights. If I can state with confidence that many people like the outfit, people from both genders were surprised by this "editorial" choice of mine.
Ever since women's professional boxing became a thing, there has been a debate on how they should dress. Back when pioneer Christy Martin was fighting, it wasn't really a question. She wore a top and traditional trunks and that was it. Mia St. John changed that when she became a star in the United States, more for her looks than her skills. Her "hot pink", skin-hugging outfits and pictorial in Playboy magazine (I won't reproduce them here for obvious reasons) made her more of a sexual object than a fighter. When you see clips of her fights, you understand that her sex appeal sold more tickets than her punches.
Since, the way women dress in the ring has received more attention than it actually deserves. It all came to a head when AIBA, the international amateur boxing federation, strongly recommended that women wear skirts in the ring to "differentiate" them from men in competition. Some, such as Katie Taylor, have ridiculed the idea. Whether they are right or not is not for me to decide since I believe that people are free to choose whatever they wear, on the street or in a fight.
What bothers me, however, is that there are always observers of both genders who think that there is "right" and "wrong". Wear "too much" fabric and you are boring, not sexy enough to watch. Wear "too little" and you are "doing it wrong". Hide as much as you can, or you are selling your body.
If you believe in any of these two extremes, you're off the track. Total rubbish. I advocate what the French call laissez-faire. Live and let live would be a loose but proper translation of that expression.
Why do I bring this up? Because what you wear is much less important than what you accomplish, as long as you are not doing nudity. I live in Germany and I have boxed as an amateur, mostly with trunks and occasionally with a skirt. None of them seem to have stopped me from getting things done. Only a leg injury did
More importantly, before, during and after that amateur career, I have looked up to female professional boxers as an inspiration. They inspired me to take up boxing, inspired me to keep doing it, and have kept me interested once I retired from the sport.
How did they handle clothing? Some elite fighters wore the skirt, sometimes short. Others picked outfits that made their bodies insanely attractive.
Exhibit A: Ina Menzer vs. Esther Schouten 2 (2009)
The main focus of this picture is Esther Schouten, on the right. This fighter from the Netherlands is my second favourite after Regina Halmich. Look at what she is wearing. Short skirt and very suggestive top. I don't think that another female boxer looked sexier in a boxing ring while remaining classy. Esther is an incredibly good looking woman in the first place, and her outfit made her an even better sight. If you saw this one live, as I did, your eyes popped out. The photo doesn't show the full extent of it. Yet, she is one of the most accomplished fighters in female boxing history. Nobody would call her a whore who sold her body for a few euros.
Her opponent, Ina Menzer, isn't exactly wearing a Burqa either.
Exhibit B: Ina Menzer vs. Goda Dailydaite (2013)
If you know Ina Menzer, you know that she is one of the best female boxers that Germany ever produced. A technician with a good, clean punch. A role model in terms of fitness, intelligence and skills. Yet, if you look at the following picture, you may say "damn, that skirt is short!"
That thankfully never ruined her career. She earned a title and only lost one fight against Jeannine Garside, a notoriously difficult fighter to deal with. I also congratulate her for using a pair of white Paffen Sport gloves. My faves
Surprisingly, a more universally recognized idol, Regina Halmich, posed for Playboy Germany twice and her ring credentials have remained intact.
With a little perspective, all the women above will be remembered for what they did in the ring, not for what they were wearing. That's what counts.
Don't do politics over this. Women are free to wear what they want. Men aren't entitled to tell them that less fabric is a better thing. Women aren't entitled to tell them to wear something longer. You'll survive even if you don't like the decision.
I am aware that I may ruffle feathers with this little editorial, but I have to get this off my chest. Clothing isn't what makes us succeed or fail in this sport. The sweet science of boxing, which makes you throw, receive and avoid punches, is so much more important than whatever we choose to wear!