Law supporting modesty scores points with me
Last updated 9/29/2021 at 3:07pm | View PDF
I still remember the first day I had to wear my poms uniform to high school my junior year.
We had special briefs on under our skirts, but I was still very self-conscious about how short the skirt was - especially while taking off the sweatpants I wore to walk to school. By the time I was a senior, we had new uniforms with slightly longer skirts. And I had adjusted what some might have described as my overzealous modesty.
Under a new state law, I could have worn leggings under my skirt (if only leggings had existed in 1982!). House Bill 120 allows student-athletes in all Illinois Schools to modify their sports uniforms to make them more modest.
"A school board must allow a student athlete to modify his or her athletic or team uniform for the purpose of modesty in clothing or attire that is in accordance with the requirements of his or her religion or his or her cultural values or modesty preferences," the bill reads. "The modification of the athletic or team uniform may include, but is not limited to, the wearing of a hijab, an undershirt or leggings."
Track and field star Ayah Aldadah of Peoria, now a student at the University of Illinois in Champaign, testified before legislators in support of the bill.
"Modest clothes should not be a reason to deny someone participation. It's time that people have the freedom to wear what they deem modest and comfortable without having to ask for permission," said Aldadah, who competes wearing a hijab and leggings.
I learned about this legislation from a press release from Maaria Mozaffar, a civil rights attorney, policy drafter and author who was behind the Inclusive Athletic Attire Act, the first such law to be passed in the country.
A few years back she also proposed creating an Illinois Council on Women and Girls, that would review and give feedback on any state law affecting women and girls. She launched The Skinless Project, an organization founded on the idea that women are more than skin deep. The Pakistani-American also is mom to three children.
As a mom myself, I'm thrilled to see this law on the books. Ainsley never ended up competing in a race during her short stint on the cross country team, but the coach made a point of telling parents some kids choose not to race because the shorts are too short.
If kids think the shorts are too short, why can't the school provide a uniform with longer shorts? Do the shorter shorts really provide that much of an aerodynamic advantage? Is it worth making kids so uncomfortable that they decided not to compete?
Now, it seems, kids will be able to wear bike shorts or leggings underneath to provide a little more coverage.
I hope the same is true for Olympic athletes in Paris in 2024. Women shouldn't be fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms or full-body suits instead of traditional leotards (unless male athletes are going to be required to wear equally revealing outfits).
I am not naive enough to believe that the existence of this new law means all female athletes at public and private schools across the state will be able to cover up the way they want when they want. I'm sure there still will be hurdles with coaches - and not just men - who want everyone on the team to be dressed exactly alike.
But it's a start.
- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected]