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German gymnastics team protest sexualisation with full-body leotards

German gymnastics team protest sexualisation with full-body leotards

German gymnastics team protest sexualisation with full-body leotards

Germany’s Olympic women’s gymnastics team represented the country wearing full length leotards for the qualifications on July 24, in a protest against the sexualisation of women in sport. 

Germany's team stand together against sexism

Though there were discussions about the wearing of full-length leotards for some time within the German Olympic gymnastics squad, the decision was not taken until shortly before the qualifiers.

The team of four - Sarah Voss, Pauline Schaefer-Betz, Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui -  decided to make a stand against the sexualisation of women in sport together, with all of the team sporting modest leotards for the competition and training beforehand. 

Olympic gymnastics usually sees competitors perform in bikini-cut leotards - an outfit which can stop body-conscious young women from wanting to take part in the sport. "As you are growing up as a woman, it is quite difficult to get used to your new body in a way,” 21-year old Sarah Voss said. “We want to make sure everyone feels comfortable and we show everyone that they can wear whatever they want and look amazing, feel amazing, whether it is in a long leotard or a short one."

Shadow of scandals hangs over gymnastics

The protest comes amidst a troubled backdrop for gymnastics as a sport, since the discipline has become mired with sexual abuse scandals. The 2021 Tokyo Olympic games will be the first competition since the former US gymnastics coach Larry Nasser was jailed for sexually abusing hundreds of gymnasts, including America’s “superstar” Simone Biles. 

Germany’s team aspires to be a role model for the sport, to encourage other women who feel uncomfortable in a short leotard to take up the modest alternative. Though athletes are allowed to compete with covered legs, the option has only really been used for women covering up for religious reasons. 

Germany's gymnastics team did not qualify for finals.

Emily Proctor

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Emily Proctor

Emily studied International Relations and Chinese, and is now undertaking Master's degree in International Security. She enjoys writing, cooking, and playing piano.

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