Professional gymnasts were just told they can only compete in “modest” makeup, and what year is this?

For as long as women have been competing in sports, they’ve been subjected to specific—and often sexist—rules about how they can dress. Female gymnasts in particular deal with rigid performance guidelines, and these rules just got stricter. On October 29th, news broke that the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) banned theatrical makeup, only allowing “modest” looks on the competition floor.

Dutch gymnast Céline van Gerner was the first to share the rule, tweeting a screenshot taken during the 2018 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

"Face painting is not allowed," the screenshot read. "Any make-up must be modest and not portray a theatrical character (animal or human)."

The new rule was accompanied by a photo of van Gerner wearing cat makeup during her floor routine at the 2018 European Championships, which Deadspin notes featured music from the musical Cats. Despite the targeted response to her routine, van Gerner seemed pretty chill about the new ban.

"I’m honored to be the FIRST, LAST and ONLY ONE in history who went out on stage in full character!" she tweeted. "Feeling blessed."


Fans, however, were less forgiving.

Several Twitter users called out FIG for sexism, noting that the new rule only applies to women and thus only polices women’s bodies. Some also pointed out that “modest” is a vague word, considering that other gymnasts have worn vibrant makeup in the past.

Others pointed out that the sport has larger problems to worry about.

Several users alluded to disgraced doctor and indicted sexual predator Larry Nassar, who abused young girls for years while he served as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics. In January, the Olympic Committee even demanded that the USA Gymnastics board resign over Nassar’s abuse.

By only allowing “modest” makeup, FIG is limiting its female athletes’ artistic expression and policing women’s bodies in an incredibly outdated, subjective way. Face painting does not affect a gymnast’s performance, and the sport of gymnastics currently has larger problems to worry about. The ban feels absurd and regressive, and we sincerely hope it gets an update.

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