Swim England has removed an article from its website following criticism it was telling women what to wear to conceal a “flabby stomach” or “accentuate curves”.
The website also had “advice” for women with pear-shaped bodies, and carried suggestions for swimwear to “draw attention towards your more appealing characteristics.”
The article, which appeared on the website for the national governing body for swimming in England, was titled “Choosing swimwear for women: Guide to body shapes”.
But Simone Webb, a PhD student in gender studies and who highlighted the article on Twitter, said it “is nothing to do with athletic performance or comfort: instead, the emphasis is on women’s appearance”.
In a letter to the organisation, Webb wrote: “I feel pretty jaded and used to sexism by now, but I was pretty shocked to find this material published by the national governing body for swimming in England.
“This page explicitly states that women wanting to buy swimwear should first scrutinise their bodies for their flaws and buy swimming costumes which make their bodies look as close to a feminine idea as possible.”
Swim England says its mission is to “help people learn how to swim, enjoy the water safely, and compete in all our sports” and to “inspire everyone to enjoy the water in the way that suits them”.
Webb told HuffPost UK: “I’ve not been put off swimming, but I was genuinely surprised and disgusted by the article.
“I was really taken aback that an organisation trying to promote swimming and encourage people to take it up would publish something suggesting that women should be focusing on their bodily appearance rather than, you know, swimming.”
After writing to the organisation and tweeting about the page, the article was taken down and Swim England have apologised, but many women responded to the organisation online.
Catherine Oliver wrote: “You should be supporting swimmers of all abilities, shapes, and sizes, not shaming them!”
In a reply to Webb, Swim England said: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. This is an old web page that does not represent the views of Swim England and the content has now been removed. We apologise for any offence caused and hope this doesn’t put you off swimming.”
When approached by HuffPost a spokeswoman for the organisation said: “The information in the article doesn’t reflect what Swim England stands for, it was from an old article from 2010, and when it was raised to our attention it was removed and we are currently in the process of publishing relevant and appropriate advice.”
The spokeswoman continued: “Swim England wants everyone to feel comfortable in the pool so they can enjoy the many advantages of swimming.
“We rebranded from the Amateur Swimming Association in 2016 and became Swim England, in the process we upgraded our website and the article was pulled through and given a new publication date.”