‘Banning bathing caps for Afro hair is a stigma’

He thought it was a joke at first. A forbidden shower cap? But when MEP Samira Rafaela (D 66) read the messages again, she was stunned. “Women banned from sport because of their hair… Oh dear. I myself have a huge head of hair.”

Raffaella on Monday sent a letter to the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and the president of the World Athletics Federation, Sebastian, in which she and eleven colleagues in Brussels called for an end to the stigma of black women. Specialized in sports.. The most notable issue they cite following the case of two Namibian runners who are not allowed to participate in sports because of their testosterone levels is soul cap, a swim cap specifically designed for Afro hair that the International Swimming Federation and IOC will not allow during the upcoming Olympics.

According to the sports directors, hats designed to accommodate thick, curly and wavy hair did not match the ‘natural shape’ of the head. In addition, athletes in earlier eras would never have used such a cap or actually needed such a cap, the swimming association said.

it was Guardian Who reported this shortly after a black female swimmer from the United Kingdom qualified for the Games for the first time: Alice Dearing, a 24-year-old open water expert who with her large head could have been a prototype for the creators of the Soul Cap . of Karl.

wrestling in the pool

Two (bald) men, Tokas Ahmed and Michael Chapman, watched a female swimmer struggle with an inappropriate swimming cap during their swimming training session. “It got us thinking,” he writes on his website, after which he found through conversations with his sisters, mothers and friends that women were more likely to face these kinds of problems.

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The standard is not suitable for everyone. From scooter helmets to drugstores that sell almost all shampoos except for Afro hair. Samira Rafaela: Or think about headphones at the meeting in Brussels. It only fits when I wear my hair straight.”

If she were a swimmer, she might not be wearing the swim cap that best suits her in Tokyo. Just a practical constraint? No. In her eyes, and in the eyes of her letter’s co-signers, this issue signifies something bigger. It’s about the blur. Because what is the ‘natural shape’ of the head, and who determines it? “The denial of the Soul Cap together with the explanation is nothing but ignorance and racism,” Rafaella said. In his view, rules that contribute to an even playing field have the opposite effect: exclusion.

level playing field

In Guardian The president of the Black Swimming Association, co-founded by British Olympic swimmer Alice Dearing, said the rules “reaffirm the lack of diversity in the sport.” For example, 2 percent of members of the British Swimming Federation are black. The makers of the Soul Cap think it discourages young people from swimming, they wrote on Instagram. “It’s important to them that they feel they belong.”

Raffaella says: “Such rules say something about the emancipation of black people in swimming. They are represented just as they were in tennis for a long time. As a result, they are never included in the setting of the standard. Done. So now you can say we are changing. It’s 2021.”

The time has come, she says, with the rise of Black Lives Matter and more and more people to recognize the impact of discrimination, including fellow politicians (“thankfully not just those of color”) who wrote on her letter. have signed. Now all those promises of equality can be put into practice, even if it means explaining it one more time, to sports administrators who don’t see the problem with their rules.

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This week, Norwegian handball players were fined for wearing shorts, not bikini bottoms, at the European Beach Handball Championship. did not meet the requirements of IHF Beach Handball Game Rules, resulting in a 150 euro fine on each woman. The Norwegian Handball Federation will pay for it. “It should be a free choice of handball players to wear whatever they want within certain limits. The most important thing is to wear clothes that athletes feel comfortable in.”

“I’m really excited about the dress code in sports,” says Rafaella. “I did athletics myself. Back then you were expected to wear such shorts and tops, but I didn’t. You hear the same stories from gymnasts. As an athlete, you should be able to wear clothes that you feel comfortable in. Not because you have to.”

She hopes the swimming federation will also look into it. “The letter we have sent is to increase the pressure. I’m optimistic it will eventually work with swim caps. “

MEP Samira Raphael (D66) wrote a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). photo Christian Creutz

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