Nike's US women's Olympic team outfits criticized for being 'born of patriarchal forces'

ByBen Church
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Nike's US women's Olympic team outfits criticized
Nike's new outfit design for the US women's Olympic team has been widely criticized on social media by athletes and fans alike.

Nike's new outfit design for the US women's Olympic team has been widely criticized on social media by athletes and fans alike, with one former US athlete describing it as a "costume born of patriarchal forces."

Images of both the men's and women's outfits dressed on mannequins were made public last week as part of a kit launch ahead of Paris 2024.

The picture of the women's leotard on display had a high-cut bikini line and triggered a wave of criticism.

"Professional athletes should be able to compete without dedicating brain space to constant pube vigilance or the mental gymnastics of having every vulnerable piece of your body on display," former US track and field athlete Lauren Fleshman wrote in an Instagram post.

"Women's kits should be in service to performance, mentally and physically. If this outfit was truly beneficial to physical performance, men would wear it.

"This is not an elite athletic kit for track and field. This is a costume born of patriarchal forces that are no longer welcome or needed to get eyes on women's sports."

Other athletes have also voiced concerns, including US long jumper Tara Davis-Woodhall, who posted a comment on Instagram which read: "Wait my hoo haa is gonna be out."

Nike told CNN in a statement that the leotard design will be one of a range of styles to choose from, in addition to tailoring options available for the upcoming Olympic Games.

In a press release last week, Nike said all its designs were produced in partnership with athletes' needs.

"Working directly with athletes throughout every stage of the design process, Nike designed garments to ensure fit across a range of body types and style preferences, and infused real-time feedback throughout the entire product development cycle," John Hoke, Nike Chief Innovation Officer, said in the release.

A spokesperson for USA Track and Field (USATF) also told CNN that the outfits in the launch were just two of many options "including 50 unique pieces."

"Athlete options and choices were the driving force for USATF in the planning process with Nike," USATF said in a statement.

"USATF is also aware that Nike consulted with athletes throughout the design process to ensure that all athletes are comfortable and that the uniforms are well-suited for their respective events."

Olympic champion pole vaulter Katie Moon, a Nike athlete herself, said the picture of the outfit on the mannequin was "concerning" and "warranted the response it received" but confirmed other options were available to athletes should they choose.

"If you honestly think that on the most important days of our careers, we're choosing what we wear to appease the men watching over what we're most comfortable and confident in, to execute to the best of our abilities, that's pretty offensive," she wrote in a post on Instagram.

However, in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Fleshman posted a photo that read, 'Citius, altius, fortius, sexiest," a play on words in reference to the former Olympic motto of "Faster, Higher, Stronger."

Her post was headlined: "New Olympic Motto released in honor of new Team USA Track and Field Uniform reveal!"

The criticism comes amid a long-running call for change that centers around an over-policing of women's apparel or outfits sexualizing women's sports.

At Tokyo 2020, for example, the German women's gymnastics team refused to wear bikini-cut unitards in favor of full-body versions, in what the German Gymnastics Federation branded a statement against "sexualization."

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