Tailoring Our Perception of “Equal” Uniforms

Photo by Annabelle Elmaleh

By Chloe Frantzis

Managing Editor of Arts

I, like many young women in America, started my athletic career by playing some of our country’s most popular sports: soccer and lacrosse. I graduated from kindergarten soccer to the town team, then moved onto the middle school team. Ultimately, I reached the pinnacle of high school sports– varsity– while also playing for GPS, a club team, in the off season.

As for lacrosse, I began as a second grader in my over-sized goggles, skirt, and pink stick (the only color available for beginner girls). Like soccer, I played in middle school, and now high school.

While I have been fortunate to live in a town with good facilities for all levels of sports, in recent years I have noticed the difference between male and female athletics, not from a “who gets the best field” point of view, but from the accessories required.

On my first day of middle school lacrosse practice, I brought my brother’s lacrosse stick because I had grown out of my sparkly pink one.

“No, I’m sorry, but you need a girls stick to play,” was the response from my female coach.

In my 12 year old head rose the question of why there were different sticks to begin with. Boys had tons of equipment, a helmet, and a stick with a deeper pocket, while girls can only use sticks with shallower pockets, goggles, and skirts. Why then, in my liberal, progressive school, are girls still required to wear skirts for uniforms? And what’s with the tight tank tops?

Instead of objectifying females like I felt was happening in lacrosse, my soccer club team does the inverse– creating uniforms that are fixed to male-centered standards. GPS is a very large soccer club and puts a strong emphasis on their diversity and inclusion of both boys and girls teams. Because of this, my family is willing to pay for this opportunity for me.

But when my uniform arrived, I was again astounded.

They had replicate pro-male soccer team’s uniforms, meaning that the shirts were see-through and the shorts were cut narrowly in the hips.  All my teammates, as well as my female coach, are forced to wear these ill-fitting, uncomfortable uniforms, as GPS will only provide uniforms tailored to men.

These inequitable uniforms carry over to create a stigma around the game, detracting from the skill and seriousness of the sport. We think that in Newton– and America as a whole– girls and boys sports are treated with equal integrity. But bias begins at the simple level of uniforms.

I do realize that by funding this soccer club and by running around in a tight skirt, I am only enforcing these male-driven norms, so by continuing to play, am I giving in to these deeply rooted traditions?

This is a moral dilemma I have no solution to. I wish I did, but I just don’t.  I will not stop playing the sports I love because of unjust uniform requirements. Instead I will play harder, faster, and rougher to reach my full potential. But that doesn’t mean I approve of over-feminine lacrosse uniforms and male-cut soccer ones.

Despite the inequality in many areas of America’s athletics, I do believe that we as a country are making an effort to unite and equalize male and female sports. That is why I am choosing to stay true to my sports, and hope that one day, athletics will not be determined by the cut of the uniform, but by the skill of the player.