Penalty pants points

gym judgesSitting on mats beside the trampoline at the gymnastics club championships, we had a clear view of the floor exercise. Girls took turns flipping, skipping and rolling to music. Seated across the floor from us was the judge, clipboard balanced on knee, pen in hand. She gave a slight nod as each girl saluted her at the start of the routine. Her eyes followed the movements, flicking down to her clipboard as she made brief notes, then back up to take in the performance. And a final gentle nod as the girl turned her way and bowed before leaving the floor. The judge’s face expressing earnestness and concentration.

It was the turn of the daughter of the mother sitting in front of us. In her first year of gymnastics, but with eight years of dancing experience, her routine was simple but graceful. As the girl completed a cartwheel in the middle of the floor, from our vantage, she stood for a moment with the judge directly in the background. The judge’s serious mien snapped suddenly into a look of Frankie Howerd-style camp outrage. We had seen the expression and laughed. We had also seen what had elicited the abrupt loss of the judge’s calm, objective visage.

frankie howerdThe gymnast had tugged the bottom of her leotard down over the top of her legs. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, she had incurred a penalty pants point.

The average person carries out a minor adjustment to their undergarments, at least four times each hour* – more often if active. But in the world of gymnastics, any such gesture of self-consciousness means a points deduction. It’s not just the pants: flicking of the hair is cracked down on just as hard. But it’s the penalty pants point that is so at odds with the need to get girls involved in physical activity – currently popularised by Sport England’s, This Girl Can campaign.

At the annual club competition, the girls are instructed to wear their leotards bare-legged. I understand the need for the outlines of the gymnast’s body to be clearly visible as maintaining the correct the angle of limbs to trunk is part of the control they seek to achieve. Loose clothing could also impede the gymnast and potentially endanger her. I just don’t understand why so much flesh should have to be shown. Leggings would enable the competitor’s form to be assessed, without them feeling self-conscious about their bare lower half, which causes the nervous tugging at leotards. Male gymnasts, it’s worth noting, wear shorts or even long trousers.

This Girl Can has a genuinely laudable aim: “it is here to inspire women to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome.” Gymnasts in a competition are, of course, offering themselves up to judgement. I don’t feel any great respect for a judgement that places such an onus on a pre-teen or teenage girl’s ability to resist the temptation to pull her leotard down over her bare legs.

* Made up statistic.

 

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Penalty pants points

  1. That’s terrible and I could not agree more – why do so many sportswomen have to show so much flesh when this is not always the case with their male counterparts? #PoCoLo

  2. What a silly thing to have points deducted for. I agree, girls should also be allowed to wear leggings #PoCoLo

  3. I have seen a movie about gymnast doing a sort or rebellion move to the judge by pulling their bra straps and yes its a deduction. I forgot the title of that film but I remember it when I read this. A nice read. And the issue that you raise is so right. Maybe things should change dont you think as times have to =) #pocolo

    • I googled ‘gymnastics movie’ and the most likely result was Stick It. Can you remember if that was the film? Is it suitable for an 11 year old? Thanks for the comment.

    • Thanks Rachael. Worrying to think how Bouchard would have been treated by the media had she done the sensible thing and told the interviewer to ‘sod off’. Hope it happens soon, though.

  4. I am SO with you on this. I didn’t even realise that penalties existed for pant-pulling – how ridiculous! Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo

  5. Do the boys get pant penalties for adjustments? I suppose they do. What I’m really surprised about is that the girls don’t get to wear leggings if they want to.

    I like your made up statistic.

    #PoCoLo

    • I’m sure the boys do get penalised but without the worry of what they’re exposing, it’s less instinctive to fiddle with their clothing. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Good job this penalisation (so tempted to misspell this word) doesn’t happen in Cricket…

      • Essential part of the game. Cricket urban myth: 1970s Australian captain Ian Chappell was asked by the broadcaster to rearrange himself more frequently when batting as it was popular with the audience.

  6. Tomy Boi

    Just FYI “Stick It” is on UK Netflix and it is a PG

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