Skimpy over Safety– Uniform Differences in Women’s Sports

It’s no secret that women’s sports have always been held to different standards than men’s, particularly when it comes to contact sports. Women hockey players aren’t allowed to bodycheck other players. A regulation basketball for a women’s game is one inch smaller than the men’s. Women’s lacrosse sticks have a shallower pocket. People claim these differences are to protect women players, as they are seen as smaller and less muscular than male players, but many differences in sports aren’t to ‘protect’ players. They exist to keep women’s sports at a lower level and to oversexualize the game. Take lacrosse, for example.

Men’s lacrosse is a contact heavy sport. A lacrosse ball is harder than a baseball. Lacrosse sticks are typically made of titanium, aluminum, or fiberglass, all of which create a pretty good sting when you’re hit with them. Players check each other with the stick, and frequently shove at each other in an attempt to pick up the ball. Women’s lacrosse has the same goal. Now consider the potential injuries. Fingers get snagged between two lacrosse sticks being slammed against each other. A hard ball is airborne and can easily hit players. The rush to get the ball can cause players to get their feet tangled up and fall, leading to twisted ankles, broken bones, etc.

In men’s lacrosse, body checking is also allowed. A player can, legally, chase another player down the field while bashing them on the head with the end of their stick. But in men’s lacrosse, players are prepared for that contact. According to the NCAA, male lacrosse players are required to wear the following protective equipment for every game: helmets, protective gloves, shoulder pads, arm pads, mouthpieces, and cleats. In addition, goalkeepers, who are at the highest risk of being hit with the ball, must also wear protective goalkeeper equipment, a throat protector and a chest protector. All of this is to keep players safe from the ball, the hard lacrosse sticks, and other players.

But what about women’s lacrosse? Both games use the same ball and sticks made out of the same materials. The game has the same rules with a few modifications. Women’s lacrosse does not allow body checking. This does not prevent the mad dash to get the ball. It does not stop players from using their sticks to block. It simply means women cannot chase other players down the field while hitting them. All of the dangers of men’s lacrosse are still present in women’s, but the girls are not provided the same level of protection.

Regulation women’s lacrosse uniforms are as follows: cleats, a mouthpiece, and a pair of protective wire goggles. No gloves. No helmets. No shoulder pads. The only player on a female lacrosse team provided the same protection as on a man’s team is the goalkeeper. This means female players are far more exposed for head injuries, broken noses, and injured fingers, despite the meaningless no contact rule. You cannot claim the difference in uniforms is for protection when it is actively causing more opportunities for injury in female players. The reason for the difference is plain to see. In women’s lacrosse, the girl’s entire figure is left exposed, leaving her in nothing but a form fitting jersey and a short skirt, both of which are likely a size smaller than she is comfortable with. People do not care about her safety as long as they can see her shoulders and her exposed hair. A helmet would be too bulky; it would block her pretty face, even if it would protect her from a concussion.

In a Dick’s Sporting Goods ad description for women’s lacrosse goggles, it even says “Vented silicone padding does not absorb sweat or moisture, which minimizes breakouts.” On a men’s lacrosse helmet? “Vented chin strap and visor for cool, dry protection.” The men’s ad focuses on protection, pointing out how their helmet will take an impact. The word protection is never used on the women’s ad, because mere goggles do nothing to stop the impact of a high speed lacrosse ball. Instead they are concerned with how the goggles will impact the girl’s image, rather than her safety on the field.

The uniform differences in women’s lacrosse over men’s aren’t just about oversexualizing the sport– they’re a hazard to the safety of all female lacrosse players. If the rules of the game are adjusted to keep girl players ‘safer,’ then why doesn’t that apply to the equipment? Why do we only adjust the rules to justify keeping girls in skimpy outfits that provide no real protection? The focus of women’s sports should be on the game and how it’s played, not on what she’s wearing, and until women players are allowed the same level of protective gear that male players are, one can only assume people’s attention is focused in the wrong place.

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