Oh my God, what is she wearing?

Double standards, people who strive for gold, and people who just get old. Also, 7 other things worth your... time!

Elisabeth Seitz has been in the Olympics three times, but this is probably the first you’ve heard of her—and not (directly anyway) for her performance as a member of the German women’s gymnastics team.

Instead, she and her teammates—Pauline Schäfer, Sarah Voss, and Kim Bui—made headlines for what they wore during their latest competition, specifically: “statement-making, full-length unitards” designed to “bring more attention to sexism in their sport.”

“We wanted to show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear,” Sietz told Reuters.

Welcome to the Olympics in a time of awakening—and social media—during which the discrepancies between men’s and women’s sports attire, and the ham-handed shaming attempts both by individuals and organizations, become the shots (about shorts) heard around the world.

Let’s go to the videotape. (Sorry, GenX guy runs this thing):

There’s Paralympian Olivia Breen, a world-class sprinter and long-jumper who has cerebral palsy, who makes the rest of us look like uncoordinated oafs, and who gained a bit of fame for being shamed for wearing short-but-competition-standard briefs.

"When you are competing, you want to feel as light as possible to make you perform better," Breen said afterward.

Next up: the Norwegian handball team (tough sport, trust us), elite athletes from one of the most gender-egalitarian societies in the world, performing at the top of the field, but then—fined €1,500 (€150 per player) for wearing “improper clothing” at the recent European Beach Handball Championships.

“Improper clothing,” in this case, meaning they wore spandex shorts rather than skimpy bikini bottoms. Men, on the other hand, are permitted to wear shorts that “are not too baggy” and which end 10 centimeters above the knee.

Exhibit A (I mean, come on, y’all.):

Here’s Kare Geir Lio, the president of the Norwegian Handball Federation:

Athletic attire “should be a free choice within a standardized framework. The most important thing is to have equipment that athletes are comfortable with.”

Highly controversial, right? Not! (Sorry, GenX guy again.)

Anyway, this resulted in progress (potentially of the “if a cannibal uses a fork” variety, not sure), in that American pop star Pink offered to pay the Norwegian team’s fines as long as they keep racking them up.

Which leads in turn to the observation that: Hmmm, you know what? When you look at dress codes, whether they be in athletics or the corporate world, it’s the women who get the detailed specifications, and the men who get the “Not too dirty, bro? Cool,” standards.

There are two short words that I’ve written about time and again, uttered by Mary Barra, who is not only the CEO of GM, but one of just 41 women running Fortune 500 companies. Those two words are:

Dress appropriately.

This is the dress code Barra came up with way back in 2009, when she was the company’s vice president of global human resources.

(Aside: Barra has one of my favorite LinkedIn profiles, since she rose from co-op student at General Motors Institute of Technology to ultimately become GM CEO over a 41-years-and-counting career, and lists every position in between.)

As for the dress code, we’re talking “was nine pages, now two words.” And Barra’s brevity has been followed—if not expressly copied—by many other companies.

  • At American Airlines, the passenger dress code simply reads: "Dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren't allowed."

  • At Goldman Sachs, it’s all summarized in a dozen words: "[P]lease dress in a manner that is consistent with your clients' expectations."

There are probably others, but I’m sure you have things to do today.

"The big 'a-ha,'“ Barra later said, “was that you need to make sure your managers are empowered, because if they can't handle 'dress appropriately,' what other judgment decisions are they not making?"

This is where we land. Want to know what I’m wearing as I write this? Not a Dad Joke Champion T-shirt, but in fact: a blue T-shirt and tan shorts. Same as almost every day in the summer, unless something big comes up.

Why? It works for me. It’s one less thing I need to think about in order to perform at my peak.

And so what should the German gymnasts, or the British Paralympians, or the Norwegian handballers wear? Whatever they need to wear in order to feel like they’re ready to perform at their peak, too.

They’re going after gold, right? But it feels as if their critics are just getting old.

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