White clothing diktat in sport needs to be reconsidered for period days

It had felt awkward when the boys at their academy didn’t know why Aditi Mutatkar came to badminton practice, wearing dark shorts a few days a month. And doubly embarrassed when they finally found out why. Because they giggled. And it tugged at her already nervous nerves.

Recalling that feeling of irritation, the former international shuttler thinks back to the times she wanted to shoot back and say, “Chup baitho, period pe hoo (shut up, I’m on my period)” hoping that these Being like this five words a day is normalized in a sporting environment and lifelong scarring is prevented.

As Wimbledon awakens from its long, pristine white slumber and countless voices raise questions about SW 19’s pedantic ‘white clothes only’ rule, which is adamant even for players during their period, the sport faces a serious reckoning of its age-old traditions. China’s Quinwen Zhang started the discussion, speaking about how menstrual cramps affected her loss to Iga Swiatek at the French Open. During a summer of dissatisfaction, as she curiously dressed as “tradition” to go to the slam in white, tennis announcer Catherine Whitaker was quoted in The Telegraph as asking “if tradition has influenced men as much as it has influenced women who participate in their slam.” Biggest day started a period being forced to wear white would last.”

China’s Quinwen Zhang started the discussion, speaking about how menstrual cramps affected her loss to Iga Swiatek at the French Open.

Whitaker also raised flags against policing women’s toilet breaks, while Rio Olympic champion Monica Puig was quoted in the same publication as speaking about the “mental stress” of wearing white at Wimbledon and having previously prayed that she would her period would not get there time. Britain hope Heather Watson told the Sunday Times that she’s had to come off once in the past while worrying: “Oh my god. Hope you can’t see that in any picture,” while Australia’s Rennae Stubbs said it was something players talked about in the dressing room while hoping extra-large tampons and extra padding would do the job.

Visions in white gliding on idyllic green grass for exquisite serve and volleyball could well be Wimbledon. But the uniform for women can be a “white mare”. The Sunday Times quoted Canadian Rebecca Marino, preparing for her first Wimbledon appearance, as saying: “It’s everyone’s biggest fear that you get your period at Wimbledon and you don’t know it’s coming. It shouldn’t be embarrassing, but White makes it so.” Mutatkar says even training days were something young girls wanted to deal with.

lack of understanding

While badminton let go of the white shorts rule in her mid-teens, Mutatkar recalls her first instance of conforming to dictation. “It has to be U10’s and we would dutifully follow the coach’s instructions to come to training in crisp white shirts and shorts to set the discipline. Then at one point the coaches pulled 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 embarrassment. Boys weren’t explained anything, so when ‘rules’ were broken, they whispered among themselves, asking why we were allowed to come in colored shorts. It got awkward and a weird space “unn dinon mein (back then)”. Then they thought something was wrong for four days, and then she switched back to white and started giggling. I wish that was addressed openly and the giggles stopped,” says Mutatkar.

Ironically, according to a Sunday Times article, the Wimbledon rules were created to minimize sweat stains on colored clothing in the 19th century. “Look, no one wants to defile. But blood will come. And anyway, sweat and blood during sports is disgusting without having to wear white as well,” says Mutatkar.

According to The Telegraph’s Women’s Sports, Russian Tatiana Golovin faced a barrage of downright idiotic headlines like “Naughty Golovin refuses to drop her red knickers” when she showed up in colored knickers, to which organizers responded in 2014 by banning colored underwear proceeded.

“There’s always something on my mind. No one spoke because the women just took care of it,” she quoted ST. Whites were considered noble and traditional, and the All England Club, which otherwise advocates “priority to women’s health and giving them everything they need” — installing sanitary dispensers in dressing rooms — has surprisingly not had the willingness shown to offer some leniency in cases where women get their periods.

Mutatkar wonders how many women are actually involved in decision-making when it comes to wearing uniforms in all sports. “Because men are never going to even begin to understand what this issue is about or get that perspective. Tradition is fine, but if 50 percent of your players don’t feel comfortable, you should listen to them. Wimbledon and all these federations are what they are because of the players and should exist around the athletes and their performance. Tradition is not green grass and white clothes. They’re players,” she says.

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Cricket has its own problems

Former Australia cricket international and current US coach Julia Price, 50, told The Indian Express that cricket presents its own challenges, such as long batting times in Test matches and women needing lengthy “drink breaks” to scurry to the washroom, to check if all was ok. “Sure, in our time we’ve just come to terms with it, although white people weren’t always comfortable. And even if we were wearing yellow, it would be an absolute problem, so we made sure we had extra protection with extra layers,” she says.

Women’s cricket has inherited the all-white men’s style, but the sport finds itself in an additional impasse because the red/pink ball requires lighter clothing for visibility, and much like Wimbledon and its charming traditions, the ‘whites’ become very popular in Test matches aimed at. Price is blunt when she says women cricketers are relieved they no longer have to play in white trousers like they did in the 1970s – “were little more exposed than slacks” – and cricketers routinely wear “skins” under slacks as sports technology rapidly advancing to meet these needs.

Cricket had another “see-through white” problem in the olden days, which was solved with denser fabric, and a few other reasons why there isn’t much of kerfuffle in the sport. “Australian heat and sun can be uncomfortable, so white made practical sense. But we can keep improving and talk to players if they want changes. Of course women are still just struggling to play more Test cricket to get started,” she pauses, hinting at more existential issues.

Price thinks the Wimbledon tradition of all-white attire is fantastic, but recalls the resistance Martina Navratilova encountered when she wanted to wear shorts instead of skirts, claiming that professional teams always prioritize athletes’ performance and comfort without having taboo conversations.

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