Today my daughter came home and told me about her basketball game. They lost by only nine points to a team full of rep players. It started late which was why she came home in the dark, by herself. Oh, and this is the jersey, which is huge, and doesn't fit. And the ref made everyone take off their undershirts.
The ref said they have to be the same colour for every girl on the team, or players can't wear them.
My daughter is 12.
And in no public place or sporting even or school environment or unbalanced power relationship is anyone allowed to tell her to take off her clothes. Ever.
But my daughter is 12, so she does not yet know that a misguided ref, and all of the incorrect notions of the unbalanced society that the ref represents, is wrong. My daughter just wants to follow the rules and be a good kid and play hard. But today she came home from a girls basketball game with an experience I have tried to guard her from for 12 years. No one has any rights to my daughter or her body. No one has any right to set technical uniform rules against the athletic dignity of a public school basketball team. No one has the right to ruin girls' athletics in the name of an unaccommodating rule that has no bearing on safety or the nature of the game. And, as the referee, the basic job is to ensure fair play and athletic integrity. There is no athletic integrity in using a (minor) technical uniform rule to force a team of 12-year-old young women to take off their clothes.
Two things happened that were good. The referee's profound mistake has forced us to reinforce our daughter's understanding of her personal rights and freedoms (attacks have this effect). She knows that she can and must refuse anyone's request for her to undress, particularly in a public place of education. Another good thing was that the referee at least had the good sense to not ostracize a Muslim player for her religious beliefs about covering her own body. I told my daughter that if that is ever even started, my daughter shall not play. We do not exclude. And if that means an entire team forfeits so that they can retain their dignity and clothe their own bodies as they see fit, so be it. The rules, new to many of these girls and obviously to their coach, are there to ensure teams can proceed safely and on some level of equality. The rules are not there to disadvantage an entire team, or to strip players of their undershirts or senses of self. How dare a referee hold a position of power and use it to dissolve the very principles upon which she claims to operate. How dare she do it to my daughter and her teammates. And how dare she brazenly risk the discontinuation of so many girls' healthy love for athletic participation. And all this, based on the observation of a rule not known or understood prior to the start of the game.
In an era where young women are told from all sides what to do and not do about all aspects of their bodies; and an era in which whole generations of women abandon athletic movement in shame and ignorance; and in an eara where women are routinely taken advantage of in broad power imbalances often upheld by their own peers, we owe them so much more than a degrading reprimand that leaves them scrambling for court time in bras that their mothers would have burned.