In response to public outcry, the Alaska School Activities Association has reversed its decision. Read the update here.
Local uproar seeking to punish young female athletes — just for the way they look — is tearing my tight-knit swimming community apart.
A 17-year-old swimmer from Anchorage, Alaska, was disqualified from a race that she won on Friday, because of what officials called a “uniform violation.” Though the teen wore a suit issued by her team at Dimond High School, in accordance with uniform regulations, and it matched the styles worn by her competitors, she was the only athlete who was disqualified. Why, you may ask? Because she was targeted for the way the suit fit her curvier, fuller-figured body.
The incident, which is currently under investigation, comes after more than a year of tensions over the fit of suits worn by athletes at youth swim meets in the state of Alaska. As a swim coach at another school within the district that regularly competes with Dimond High, I’ve watched this scandal divide my swimming community. It has caused my own athletes to be needlessly self-conscious about the appearance of their bodies, which preoccupies them just as much, if not more, than the quality of their performances. What’s clear is that these girls’ bodies are being policed — not their uniforms.
Just look at the modesty standards that guided the referee’s decision on Friday night and compare them to popular brand-name suits worn by other girls throughout the state. Notice the high-cut backs to these suits — they’re not technically in compliance even before they get on the body of a swimmer, yet many high schools use these brands as their team suits. And though the styles are cut in a way that is considered “immodest,” why has only one swimmer been disqualified?