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The Realities of Being a Female Athlete

Image via Independent UK

When Serena Williams wore a full-body catsuit to the French Open earlier this year, fans of the tennis player were pleasantly surprised by her fashion forward outfit. The catsuit, which Williams said was inspired by the movie Black Panther and the fictional country of Wakanda did not impress the French tennis officials however. The French tennis officials went as far to ban Williams’ catsuit from future matches.

Williams later went on to explain that the catsuit was meant to be functional. After giving birth to her daughter last year, she suffered blood clots in her lungs that almost caused her to die. The purpose of the catsuit was to keep blood circulation going as she played tennis. The French Tennis federations responded to Williams’ catsuit by introducing a new dress code that athletes would be expected to follow. The president of the French Tennis Federation explained that the dress code would not be too strict, but would require athletes to respect the game.

In response to the controversy surrounding her outfit choice at the French Open, Williams competed in her first two matches at the U.S. Open in a tutu. Not only was the outfit a fashion statement, but it sent an important message as well. Some fans of Williams believe her message was that actions speak louder than words, and rather than addressing her banned catsuit with a speech she would use her outfit to make a statement.

Williams’ tutu wasn’t the only clothing related controversy at the U.S. Open. After a match female tennis player Alize Cornet briefly removed her shirt to turn it inside out, and put it back on. Cornet was wearing a sports bra underneath her shirt, and did not reveal anything. The officials gave Cornet a code violation for doing this. Many were quick to point out that male tennis players were allowed to remove their shirt without being penalized. The U.S. Tennis Association later released a statement clarifying that Cornet would no longer be penalized, and apologizing for the situation.

Both Williams and Cornet’s situations are only recent examples of the challenges female athletes must face. Both situations raise a questions about whether race or gender effect the way athletes are treated.

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