Wimbledon 2022: The diktat of white clothing in sport must be reconsidered for period days

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It had seemed awkward when the boys at his academy didn’t know why Aditi Mutatkar came to practice badminton, wearing dark shorts a few days a month. And doubly embarrassing when they finally figured out why. Because they were laughing. And it scratched his already nervous nerves.

The former international commuter remembers that feeling of annoyance and thinks back to when she wanted to hit back and say, “Chup baitho, period pe hoo (shut up, I’m on my period),” hoping those five words will one day be normalized in a sports setting and prevent lifelong scarring.

As Wimbledon awakes from its long, pristine white slumber to a myriad of voices raising questions about SW 19’s pedantic white garment rule, unrelenting even for female players during their period, the sport is set to take seriously consider its centuries-old traditions. China’s Quinwen Zhang kicked off the discussion by explaining how menstrual cramps affected her during her loss to Iga Swiatek at Roland-Garros. In a summer of discontent, heading to the Slam in white clothes strangely disguised as a ‘tradition’, tennis presenter Catherine Whitaker was quoted in The Telegraph asking ‘if a tradition that has affected men in the same way that women entering their greatest day the period, compelled to wear white, would last.

China’s Quinwen Zhang kicked off the discussion by explaining how menstrual cramps affected her during her loss to Iga Swiatek at Roland-Garros.

Whitaker also raised flags over monitoring the length of women’s bathroom breaks, while Rio Olympic champion Monica Puig was quoted in the same post as talking about the ‘mental stress’ of wearing white at Wimbledon and having prayed before that she wouldn’t have her period at that time. time. Britain hopeful Heather Watson told The Sunday Times she had to leave the pitch once in the past, while worrying: “Oh my God. Hope you can’t see it in the pictures,” while Australian Rennae Stubbs explained that it was something the players talked about in the locker room, while hoping extra large pads and extra padding would do.

Visions in white, gliding for exquisite serve and volley on idyllic green grass, Wimbledon just might be. But the uniform can be a “white mare” for women. The Sunday Times quoted Canadian Rebecca Marino, preparing for her first outing at Wimbledon, as saying: “It’s everyone’s worst fear that you get your period at Wimbledon and don’t know it’s coming. It shouldn’t be awkward, but the white makes it so important. Mutatkar says even practice days were something the young girls wanted to get over with.

Lack of understanding

As badminton ditched the white shorts rule in his mid-teens, Mutatkar recalls his first instance of aligning with the diktat. “It has to be U10s and we would dutifully follow the coach’s instructions to show up in crisp, pressed white shirts and shorts even in training to establish discipline. Then at some point the coaches took the girls aside, asked the boys to leave and told us that “on those days” you can wear colored shorts because there can be stains and stains. embarrassment. Nothing was explained to the boys, so when the “rules” were broken, they whispered among themselves and demanded to know why we were allowed to come in colored shorts. It became awkward and a weird “unn dinon mein (those days)” space. Then they thought something was wrong for four days, then she went back to white and started laughing. I wish it had been addressed openly and the laughter had stopped,” Mutatkar says.

The Wimbledon rules, ironically, had arisen according to the Sunday Times article, to minimize sweat stains on colored clothes in the 1800s. “Listen, nobody wants to stain. But the blood will come. And as it is, sweat and blood are hard to manage when you’re working out, without having to wear white as well,” says Mutatkar.

According to The Telegraph’s Women’s Sports, Russia’s Tatiana Golovin faced a barrage of downright silly headlines like ‘Cheeky Golovin refuses to drop her red panties’ when she showed up in colorful boxer shorts to which organizers responded in 2014 in suppressing colored underwear.

“It’s something that always comes to mind. No one spoke because the women just took care of it,” ST quoted her. The Whites were seen as elegant and true to tradition, and the All England Club, which has otherwise pledged to ‘put women’s health first and provide everything they need’ – by installing dispensers of sanitary products in changing rooms, surprisingly showed no willingness to offer leniency in cases where women are menstruating.

Mutatkar wonders how many women are actually involved in making decisions about wearing uniforms in all sports. “Because men will never even begin to understand what it is or have that perspective. Tradition is fine, but if 50% of your players aren’t comfortable, you should listen to them. Wimbledon and all these federations are what they are thanks to the players, and should exist around the athletes and their performances. Tradition is not green grass and white clothes. It’s the players,” she said.

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Cricket has its own problems

Former Australian cricket international and current United States coach Julia Price, 50, told the Indian Express that cricket comes with its own challenges, such as long hours of batting in Test matches, and that women need longer ‘drink breaks’ to go to the toilet to check if all was ok. “Of course, in our time, we would just deal with it, even if the whites weren’t always comfortable. And even when we were wearing yellow, that would be an absolute concern, so we made sure to take extra protection with extra layers,” she says.

Women’s cricket inherited the men’s whites, but the sport is in a further dead end because the red/pink ball requires lighter clothing for visibility, and just like Wimbledon and its charming traditions, the ‘whites’ test matches are highly sought after. Price is candid when she says female cricketers are relieved they don’t expect to play in white breeches like in the 1970s – “were a bit more exposed than long trousers” – and female cricketers regularly wear “skins” under long pants with rapidly advancing sports technology to meet these needs.

Cricket faced another problem of “see-through blanks” in ancient times, which was solved with denser fabric, and a few other reasons why there isn’t much kerfuffle in the sport. “The Australian heat and sun can be uncomfortable so white made practical sense. But we can keep improving and talking to the players if they want change. Of course women are still fighting to play more to the cricket test to begin with,” she says, hinting at more existential issues.

Price thinks the Wimbledon tradition of all-white attire is fantastic, but recalls the resistance Martina Navratilova faced when she wanted to wear shorts instead of skirts, and says professional teams will always prioritize performance and the comfort of athletes, going beyond taboo conversations.

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