The struggles of finding sportswear for women
When I think about girls doing sports, I think about a ball tangled in a net. Or a shuttlecock taking flight, only to get caught up in a tree branch. What I'm referring to is nuisance – things that are not central to the game but end up becoming obstacles to reaching goals. Of all the countless obstacles between a woman and sports, one is her clothes. Especially when appropriate clothes are hard to find.
A quick walk around the first floor in Bashundhara City makes the gender disparity in sportswear pretty clear. Out of the 18 activewear shops, only 2, Puma and Lee Cooper, have clothing for women. In Lee Cooper, the women's section is a single small rack sitting quietly in the corner. The total number of items for women were exactly two dozen. The numbers were higher in the adjacent Puma outlet but still didn't match up to that of the men's section.
The trend remains the same for online marketplaces, too. In one particular website specialising in sportswear, the men's category showcased 71 products, while the female category had only 31. The ratio is worse on e-commerce platforms like Daraz that do not specialise in sportswear.
This makes it extremely difficult for women to find the items they're looking for. Dipra Marjan, who plays football, complained, "Till date I couldn't find a ready-made jersey that would fit me well – neither too long nor too short."
Given the constricted range of options available for women, they are compelled to make do with men's clothing. But having to cherry pick the smaller sizes from men's sections is challenging as those items were not made with a woman in mind.
Sportswear options are reduced even further for women who choose to wear the hijab. Finding loosely fitted trousers is a common struggle as most of the stores only feature fitted leggings and joggers. The length of sleeves and shirts also make covering up more difficult.
The struggle of finding even the most basic items certainly lowers a woman's expectations. But a Bangladeshi brand named Dour took me by surprise. On their website, they listed 134 items of activewear for women, which included their sports hijab. SheActive is another brand that has a decent collection of sportswear for women. But both brands are outliers and their products also come with limitations.
Regarding the design of the hijabs, Nusrat Jahan Irina, a student of North South University, said, "I wouldn't opt for any of them as they simply are not good looking enough." Dipra Marjan stated similar reasons for not opting for a sports hijab. These challenges have forced women to come up with their own creative solutions. Irina goes for oversized men's T-shirts with sleeves underneath to cover her arms. Dipra opts for a full-sleeved inner-wear underneath her jersey.
The availability of basic amenities is a minimal requirement to build an environment conducive to female sports. Evidently, it's not a level playing field, if women are lucky to get a playing field at all. From having the fields occupied with only males to racks in sports shops dedicated to the same, women constantly have a higher hurdle to cross.
Noushin Nuri is an early bird fighting the world to maintain her sleep schedule. Reach her at [email protected]