Model Rain Dove Highlights Olympic Uniform “Sexploitation” In Photo Series

As the reportage coming out of Rio 2016 made abundantly clear, sexism against female athletes is still unfortunately going strong. However, model Rain Dove found a striking way to call it out. Dove’s photo series comparing men’s and women’s Olympic uniforms highlights what she calls the ongoing “sexploitation” of female athletes, whose uniforms are often designed to show off their bodies in ways men’s uniforms just aren’t.

Dove, who identifies as genderqueer and describes herself as a “gender capitalist” on Twitter (but goes by the pronouns “she” and “her”), has modeled both men’s and women’s fashions throughout her career. She’s also involved in activism around breaking down harmful gender norms such as North Carolina’s anti-trans bathroom legislationSo, she was a perfect choice for a photo series that at its core deals with issues regarding gender, clothing, bodies, and discrimination

The photo series shows that men’s uniforms are looser fitting and afford a considerable amount of coverage. No bare midriffs or tiny booty shorts there. On the other hand, women’s uniforms are much more skintight and revealing: shorts are shorter, tops are smaller, and toned abs, legs, and butts are much more on display. The worst offender, BTW, is beach volleyball, where it’s all about the body for women but not men.

14095918_1850913731804084_716157897679132213_n
CREDIT: Rain Dove/Facebook (Photo by Mark Wijsman)

For years, the official uniform for women’s beach volleyball was a bikini or one-piece swimsuit, until it was relaxed in 2012 to include shorts and tops with sleeves. By contrast, men in beach volleyball have long been allowed to compete in long shorts and comfy tank tops. Many female athletes still choose to compete in crop tops, bikini bottoms, and similarly heat-friendly attire, which of course is fine. But why were women required to wear skimpier clothes than men in the first place? Well, we know why.

Gymnastics isn’t much better, at least not below the torso. Sure, women wear sleeved leotards and men go sleeveless, but men get to wear pants. Women’s leotards are cut to show the maximum amount of leg. This one’s particularly troubling given that many competitors in women’s gymnastics are actually under 18; in other words, kids. Just let the children wear some pants regardless of gender, dammit.

14045718_1850913808470743_1251840735527717845_n
CREDIT: Rain Dove/Facebook (Photo by Mark Wijsman)

Even though the Olympics is supposed to be a celebration of athletic skill, Dove says that for female athletes, it’s objectification first, talent second. As she told NBC, “People want to watch women not because of their skills but because of their bodies.”

Will future Olympic Games feature more gender-equal uniforms? It depends on whether the Olympic committees treat this photo series and other statements against sexism as the wake-up calls they are. Let’s hope the Olympics, and the world of sport in general, will do the right thing and start giving female athletes the equality they deserve.