To: British Gymnastics

Jump towards Equality

Jump towards Equality

The dress codes set by British Gymnastics are discriminatory, and must be changed, to improve access to sport for girls and women.

Why is this important?

Girls are not allowed the same choices in competition clothing as boys. It's important that access to sport should be open to all; regardless of gender, appearance, or any factor that is not performance related.

We believe our children should be able to jump, compete and enjoy the sport they love on an even footing with the boys they train with. Don't you?

Our two daughters have been coached in trampolining for seven years. They are now both competing at regional level; and we love the club, their coaches and the community around this joyful sport.

However, in talking with parents and carers while we watch our children jump, we have become concerned by a clearly discriminatory rule from British Gymnastics.

*The British Gymnastics Rules*

At the moment, boys and men can chose to cover their legs for competing in Trampolining, according to British Gymnastics rules. They can wear gym trousers or shorts.

Women and girls are only allowed to wear a “skin tight” leotard or unitard. The regulations go on to say - “Long tights may be worn (must be skin tight and be the same colour as the leotard).”

What this means is that boys can (and mostly do) wear looser clothing. Girls cannot wear leggings or wear shorts, and this lack of choice has a range of implications that do not impact boys.

*Impact on girls*

If a female child does not want to expose their legs or lower body to view, they cannot compete.

If a child is concerned about sanitary products being visible, secure, and/or leakage during her period, she is very unlikely to compete.

Worse still, girls are often told by coaches not to wear underwear during competition; as if any other clothing becomes visible, points are deducted by judges.

It is not unusual for children to be told to shave leg and/or pubic hair by judges.

Children have been told that they are too fat/thin by coaches and judges.

Girls are routinely being judged on their appearance, not by their ability.

Children are made more vulnerable to safeguarding concerns - especially where language like ‘skin tight’ has no obvious justification except to make children aware of perceptions that are not age-appropriate.

There is no reason for this difference in dress code, especially in reference to the specific condition of clothes being ‘skin tight’. It is not that girls 'should' cover their legs but, if they want to, they should be able to do as their male peers can.

There is no performance advantage for girls in dressing as the rules dictate - and no one claims there are. It is purely 'just how it's been'. However, we think it is time for a change.

*Why the focus on girls, not women?*

Our focus is on children, though we seek to change the rules for the benefit of all those who compete. While adults can make an informed choice about how they present themselves, children are more vulnerable, and organisations like British Gymnastics should be leading the way, not staying stuck in the 1970s.

However, as men fill 70% of the Board of British Gymnastics, all but four are white, none are LBGT, and none are from Hindu, Sikh or Muslim faith groups (based on the most recent, 2013, data) perhaps we should not be too surprised; as this profile is likely matched across clubs and regional organisations across the country. These people cannot be expected to speak for the millions of young girls inspired by Bryony Page, our silver medallist at the Rio Olympics.

It is parents who must pressure for change, so that the rules of this sport allow excellence to be fostered in boys and girls from all communities.

Of course, we are not suggesting that girls cannot wear leotards or that boys and girls should be forced to wear the same thing. Nor are we suggesting that this small rule change will stop sexism, cultural oppression or the sexualisation of childhood.

This petition applies to Trampolining - but the principles involved apply to a broader range of sports and activities that children are involved in. Any rules that discriminate should be changed - to protect all our children and allow them to reach for their potential.

Thank you for your support

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Reasons for signing

  • Thank you for raising this issue. I loved trampolining as a child but my main memories of competitions are feeling extremely self-conscious about my body (including pressure to shave my legs). It's totally unecessary and especially harmful when girls are bombarded with so many body-shaming messages.
  • Very well said: this idea of 'how it's always been' when laid out clearly is really unjustifiable . The objectification of girls and women begins early . It should have no place in sport.

Updates

2017-08-22 13:00:30 +0100

100 signatures reached

2017-06-09 23:02:55 +0100

50 signatures reached

2017-06-08 16:37:31 +0100

25 signatures reached

2017-06-07 20:31:12 +0100

10 signatures reached