Another day, another case of girls being punished for having bodies via truly awful, unfair dress guidelines.
The latest case comes from Alaska, where last Friday, a teen girl and top-ranked swimmer at Diamond High School in Anchorage found out she was disqualified from the 100-meter freestyle competition AFTER she had already swam to victory. Officials ruled that her bathing suit showed too much of her butt, the Washington Post reports.
If you’re thinking, how is that even possible? If her bathing suit was too revealing, why let her swim in the first place? Well, the reason for the disqualification gets even more absurd.
According to the WaPo article, 17-year-old Breckynn Willis was wearing a school-issued swimsuit like everyone else, yet was the only one to be issued a violation.
In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, Annette Rohde, one of the officials during the meet, said she had spoken with the ref about the reason for the disqualification. The ref told her it was because the bottom of the girl’s suit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek,” WaPo reports.
In other words, the teen had a wedgie, which anyone who has ever worn a one-piece has likely experienced.
Understandably, people are upset, and think much more is at play than a uniform violation.
In an essay for Medium, Lauren Langford, a swim coach at another high school in the area, thoroughly criticized the ref’s decision. Lauren had coached the teen and her sister, Dreamer Kowatch, a sophomore, and also a competitive swimmer at Diamond High School, when they were younger. Posting a side-by-side of a graphic illustrating appropriate suit coverage for male and female athletes from the Alaska School Activities Association, and a photo of the school-issued swimsuits, she argued that even before they were worn, the swimsuits never complied with the modesty standards, making it more unfair that the teen was punished.
Lauren believes Breckynn was really disqualified for being nonwhite and having a curvy body, and it’s something Dreamer had experienced as well.
“This young lady and her sisters are being targeted not for the way they wear their suits but for the way those suits fit their curvier, fuller figured bodies … They are being targeted not because they are wearing their suits to be scandalous, thus inspiring immorality among other young people, but rather because their ample hips, tiny waists, full chests, and dark complexions look different than their willowy, thin and mostly pallid teammates. Some will argue this has nothing to do with race, but when the same officials targeting these girls have been heard saying that so-and-so white girl also shows too much skin but has never been disqualified for a similar violation the racial facet of this issue cannot be ignored.”
Her essay also revealed that this isn’t the first time Breckynn had been targeted for her body. Lauren said that last season, a team parent took pics of the girl’s backside without her knowledge or consent, and shared the images with others in an email to show that the girl’s attire was “immoral.” She also mentioned that Dreamer had been told that her specific body “is not appropriate for competitive swimming.” Lauren asked people to fight for these girls, so that “perverted adults can no longer single them out or judge them.”
As Anchorage’s KTUU reports, back in August, the National Federation of State High School Associations told coaches across the U.S. that athletes could be disqualified if their uniform isn’t within guidelines and that changing attire would delay the race. For girls, the swimsuits should cover buttocks and breasts. However, the teen was disqualified after she had won the race, and, as Lauren notes, the guidelines never said coverage of buttocks had to be full coverage. KTUU also reports that on Monday, the Anchorage School District confirmed that the teen was wearing a school-approved swimsuit when she was disqualified—the same one she wore at three prior meets this season, where she didn’t receive any violations.
Speaking with KTUU, the teen’s mom Meagan Kowatch revealed that her family has had an issue with the same ref before.
On the evening of the incident, the main referee who was in charge had to leave halfway through the meet. The ref in charge for the rest of the night was the one who disqualified her daughter, and was the same ref who embarrassed her younger daughter for the way her body looked in a swimsuit during a meet last year.
Meagan told KTUU she wants the disqualification overturned, and that she wants the referee to stay away from officiating her daughters’ races.
As the WaPo reports, on Monday, Anchorage School District officials said they’re reviewing the decision, and said that it “appears to stem from a difference of opinion in the interpretation of the rules governing high school swim uniforms.”