With the London 2012 Olympics rapidly approaching, I am eagerly awaiting the inauguration of female boxing as an official discipline. Despite this being a long overdue development, as a beginner to the sport, I am thrilled to see female boxers finally gracing the ring at the most important sporting event of the year.
In preparation, the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) met yesterday to discuss the games and draw up recommendations, including suitable dress requirements. One of the items up for discussion was whether female boxers should have to wear skirts.
Last year, they suggested that wearing skirts would make female athletes look 'elegant' and help 'distinguish' them from their male counterparts. In other words, they are recommending that a female boxer's performance as an athlete should align with her performance as a feminine woman.
This emphasis placed on gendered norms highlighting delicateness and grace is certainly not aligned with the way I understand boxing as a discipline, nor does it fit into the current social reality where women and men are given equal credence as athletes.
What does elegance have to do with boxing anyways? There is nothing pretty about it. Boxing is strenuous, fatiguing and comes with its share of aches, pains, hits and unanticipated smacks.
My body still refuses to forgive me for the aftermath of my first training. The pain in my joints was so visceral that even typing a four-letter word became a cringe inducing task. Any graduate student or self-proclaimed Twitter addict like myself can relate to the level of debilitation this can have on your life!
Nevertheless, there is a particular kind of beauty in roughness. Boxing invigorates and animates every muscle and fragment of flesh in my body. I still remember the astonishment of my coach in reaction to the amount of power I was able to harness in my first punch. What is it about the strength of women that still shocks us?
What is so intolerable about a woman in control of her abilities that makes an organisation like the AIBA want to confine her to a mini-skirt? If there is something menacing about a woman in shorts it suggests that there is still something menacing about a woman in full ability to thrive. While men are taught to apologise for their weaknesses, women are still expected to apologise for their strengths.
In a way, boxing encapsulates everything that is frequently socially discouraged of women.
However in my opinion, there is nothing more satisfying than doing something that isn't expected. When someone expects you to be weak, have the courage to be strong. When someone expects you to be compliant, demonstrate the bravery to resist. If women are told they must be seen not heard, then they must stand up and speak louder. Given that we are often instructed not to fight back, it's about time we enter the metaphorical ring and kick some serious figurative butt.
This petition is not about a piece of fabric, it's about athletes. It's not about their clothing, it's about their credibility. If there's one lesson I've learned through my experience as a boxer is that when someone throws a punch, curling up in the foetal position is not an option. You stand up and you fight. You don't ask for power, you just take it.
Sign the petition on Change.org now and show the AIBA we're not willing to throw in the towel before we've won the fight!
The AIBA's meeting ends 22 January. A decision is expected later this year.