Strict rules: Tennis players must wear white, even when menstruating during Wimbledon

Wimbledon / Photo: EPA-EFE

With the beginning of Wimbledon, the athletes made it clear that today more than ever they are ready to change the age-old traditions of the tournament, especially those that directly negatively affect the athletes, including the dress code.

Wimbledon's strict all-white dress code has been in place since the Victorian era, but its sustainability is now being questioned. The rule was originally enforced because any trace of sweat was considered indecent or inappropriate.

elis mertens
Ellis Mertens / Photo: EPA-EFE/KIERAN GALVIN

Just imagine how difficult it is to observe this tradition when you are a woman and have your period during the tournament? The fear of female tennis players that menstrual blood can be seen on their white clothes during the match has always existed, but no one talked about it.

"I can't imagine on the biggest day of my life, during my period, having to wear white," said sports reporter Kathryn Whitak in an interview with the British "Telegraph".

The former tennis player and Olympic champion Monica Puig in response to the discourse, she commented on Twitter about the stress female tennis players experience while wearing white during a tournament.

Monica Puig
Monica Puig, 2019 / Photo: EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA

The current dress code completely ignores the impact that menstruation can have on female athletes. Just last month, the tennis player Zheng Qinwen revealed how menstrual cramps affected her performance. After the disastrous defeat of Zeng by Iga Sviatek at Roland Garros, she told reporters, "I can't play, my stomach hurts too much," according to CNN.

"I would like to be a man on the field so I don't have to suffer from stomach pains. I think I could enjoy it more, run better and hit harder," she continued in the statement.


The tennis uniform isn't the only thing that disproportionately affects female athletes. Players may leave the court twice to go to the bathroom during a match (while doubles teams must share the allotted number of breaks). The limited toilet breaks during the match also indicate that women's needs were not taken into account. It directly indicates that female athletes must wear additional protection – more pads or tampons with larger sizes, which is certainly not a solution, especially if the woman is in the first days of menstruation.

The British tennis player Heather Watson told BBC Sport that while she enjoys the traditional element of wearing white, the very thought of having her period during the tournament is stressful for her.

"I'll probably be on the pill just to delay my period so I don't get one during Wimbledon," she said.

Heather Watson
Heather Watson / Photo: EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN

Of course, you can always use the well-known answers as an argument: "If they could hold out until now, why all this now?" Spoiled." The answer lies precisely in this – no one has to suffer something that directly affects performance and that affects the mental and physical state of tennis players during the game. The fact that it hasn't been talked about publicly until now is just proof that we live in a society that is ignorant and that still sees a woman's menstrual and reproductive health as something that must be hidden and that she should take care of herself - in secret.

According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, 93% of female athletes report symptoms during menstruation, and 67% believe that these symptoms reduce their performance. And it's not just women's periods that are affected, pads can cause irritation and tampons can cause discomfort especially with increased physical activity.

Tatjana Maria
Tatiana Maria / Photo: EPA-EFE/KIERAN GALVIN

Painkillers aren't always an option – some are banned in sports because they contain performance-enhancing substances, and those taking approved painkillers can experience side effects. The bottom line is that it all rests on an age-old dress code designed by men and the rules they set.

Maybe women didn't feel strong enough to speak up at the time, but all current events show how powerful women's voices are today and how willing they are to prevent any negative impact on their health and safety, of course it's inevitable that those in charge must also respond in the specific case. deal with when female athletes rebel in a sufficient and organized manner.

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