Life
Official strips high school swimmer of win based on body type
A 17-year-old high school swimmer is making headlines because of an unfair ruling by an official that her standard-issue uniform didn't fit appropriately.
Jessica
09.23.19

Female students bear the brunt of people’s inability to control their judgment, opinions, and emotions. From unequal dress codes that punish girls with more feminine figures to simply putting the blame on them for how others feel when they look at them, girls just can’t get a break.

And while you may feel like there should be certain standards in the classroom, one story shows just how ridiculous and biased these rules really are – partly because it involved a school-issued athletic uniform.

Breckynn Willis is a high school student at Dimond High School in Anchorage, Alaska. She’s on the swim team (as is her sister, pictured below) and therefore wears the same exact standard-issue bathing suit as everyone else.

Screencap via KTUU
Source:
Screencap via KTUU

In September of this year, a swim competition official made what can only be described as a really unwise (yet eye-opening) decision.

Willis had just won the 100-meter freestyle event, yet her win was expunged based on what the official called “a wardrobe violation.”

Screencap via KTUU
Source:
Screencap via KTUU

Keep in mind that all swimming uniforms are exactly the same. The only thing different? The shape of Willis’ body.

Willis is an athlete. She’s in great shape. She just happens to be curvier than her teammates. And for some reason, a female’s curves feel threatening to people who can’t control their thoughts and judgment.

As you might imagine, most of the people who heard about Willis’ disqualification were furious and protests from parents and coaches forced the Anchorage School District to open an investigation into whether the judge’s decision was discriminatory.

And of course it was.

While the judge wasn’t satisfied that the uniform she was forced to wear covered enough of her backside, Willis had worn the uniform multiple times before with no issues.

Not only was her disqualification overturned, but the school district is calling for the offending judge to be de-certified. After all, if you can’t look at an athlete and see anything other than their athletic prowess, you don’t belong in that position.

And the rules themselves will likely change as well – even though the verdict was that the judge misapplied them and should have taken the issue up with her coach prior to the event.

The school distric told the UK’s MailOnline:

“The Anchorage School District has concluded that our swimmer was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body. We cannot tolerate discrimination of any kind and certainly not based on body shape. This disqualification was heavy-handed and unnecessary.”

Screencap via KTUU
Source:
Screencap via KTUU

A fellow official said the judge’s explanation for her decision was that the bottom of Willis’ suit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.’’ In other words, she had a wedgie. Big deal.

After hearing that, it was clear to the other official that this was going to “blow up.”

Even a coach from an opposing team lashed out at the judge for her actions. West High School’s swim coach Lauren Langford wrote in a blog post:

“All of these girls are all wearing suits that are cut the same way. And the only girl who gets disqualified is a mixed-race girl with rounder, curvier features. I was filled with so much anguish over the way these young girls have been forced to suffer.”

It appears no one else noticed what the judge did – or they simply weren’t offended by it.

But this judge had also made comments the previous year about Willis’ sister’s body during a swim meet, indicating to some that racism may be at play as well since the girls are mixed race.

Screencap via KTUU
Source:
Screencap via KTUU

Langford’s Medium post perfectly describes how toxic this kind of discrimination can be for young women:

“Girls of all shapes, sizes, and races are worrying about their suits like never before… And in a world where young girls are told at every turn that the skin they’re in is not good enough for a thousand reasons, the last thing we need to do in youth athletics is to add to that unhealthy dialogue around body image. One young lady expressed at a meet last season that she felt she needed to go on a restrictive diet and put in more time at the gym so her backside would be smaller and therefore more appropriate by the standards of what is being called ‘the modesty rule,’ as defined by this small but vocal group of people.”

Screencap via KTUU
Source:
Screencap via KTUU

And what happens as a result of these utterly subject so-called “modesty rules”? Langford believes they are technically well-intentioned but easily get misinterpreted. As a result, female athletes suffer.

She continued:

“If she starves herself, she cannot compete at her highest level; if she does succeed, it’s almost certain that some of her teammates will try to do the same. If this becomes the norm, girls swimming in Alaska will suffer. We cannot allow our organization to become one that engages in body-shaming — it should promote a healthy body image for all athletes.”

Screencap via KTUU
Source:
Screencap via KTUU

Langford said punishing girls for the shape of their bodies is “nothing short of racism, sexism, body-shaming, and child abuse.”

For now, it looks like there will be one less toxic official in Alaska, but that doesn’t mean the same thing doesn’t happen elsewhere in schools around the country.

Be sure to scroll down below to see news coverage of the controversy.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

By Jessica
hi@sbly.com
Jessica is a writer at Shareably.
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