Tyrieshia Douglas would love to box in the Olympics wearing a short skirt. Not because she has to, but because she wants to.
“We’re women and women should be wearing a woman’s uniform,” said Douglas, a 23-year-old flyweight from Baltimore who survived a rough childhood in foster care to win silver medals at the last two national championships.
Douglas realizes she’s in the minority among female boxers and much of the international sports community, which reacted with outrage and sexism charges when amateur boxing’s governing body encouraged women to wear skirts in recent competitions.
Yet if Douglas wins the US team trials this week and eventually qualifies for the London Games, the 50.8kg fighter would be eager to wear a skirt in the first Olympic women’s boxing tournament. She agrees with International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) officials who have suggested skirts would make women more easily identifiable in the ring.
“I mean, women can wear shorts, but it’s boxing,” Douglas said. “We need to look more feminine. Under the headgear, you don’t know if it’s a man or a woman if we don’t have any boobs. You don’t know until we take off the headgear. ‘Was that a girl? Yeah, that was a girl.’ We’re women and we need to let people know we’re women, because you can’t tell.”
While AIBA officials are expected to issue recommendations on this issue within the next week, the organization says its discussion of women’s uniforms has been incorrectly perceived by outsiders who thought skirts might be required in competition.
In an e-mail, AIBA spokesman Sebastien Gillot said the organization never had any intention of making skirts mandatory, as many detractors apparently believe. AIBA said it had been merely discussing the issue after hearing the complaint cited by Douglas and other amateur boxing fans who said they couldn’t tell which fighters are women, particularly when watching on television.
Gillot said the organization’s rules commission came up with recommendations that were discussed by AIBA’s top brass last month at its commission meetings in Thailand. Those recommendations will be proposed to another executive committee for a decision within the next few days.
Recommendations aren’t rules, and most fighters have said they would ignore any AIBA encouragement to wear a skirt. At most, the London Olympics seem likely to feature the wide majority of the 36 female fighters in shorts, with perhaps a few wearing skirts voluntarily.
“When I go to the Olympics, I’ll be wearing shorts,” said Christina Cruz, who will compete with Douglas and six-time national champion Marlen Esparza for the sole flyweight position on the US team.
AIBA president Wu Ching-kuo received international condemnation for even suggesting skirts. Yet Douglas isn’t the only fighter who agrees with the idea.
Fighters from Poland and Romania wore the skirts in last year’s European Championships and the Polish entrants in an international friendly in Oxnard, California, in December last year were still wearing the outfits, which apparently were adopted by their national governing body.
Mary Kom, a world champion fighter from India, has also spoken in favor of skirts, comparing fighters to female competitors in tennis and badminton who wear gender-specific uniforms — although the Badminton World Federation last year abandoned a rule that would have forced women to wear skirts or dresses amid widespread criticism.