Campaigners are urging Wimbledon organisers to drop the tournament’s strict all-white dress code over concerns for female players who are menstruating.
A group of protesters wearing white skirts with red undershorts arrived at Wimbledon’s main gate on Saturday, before the ladies’ singles final between Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina.
Recreational tennis player Gabriella Holmes, 26, and footballer Holly Gordon, 28, said they organised the campaign, Address The Dress Code, to highlight the anxiety that women face when competing in traditional whites.
Speaking to the Guardian, Holmes said the pair began calling for change after opening up to each other about the challenges of playing sport while menstruating, citing it as a major reason young girls stop taking part when they hit puberty.
She says the tournament’s dress code has become stricter in recent years, including after France’s Tatiana Golovin wore red shorts under her skirt at the 2007 championship – inspiring the protester’s outfits – sparking widespread media attention.
“You can uphold tradition and still move with the times. There’s no point upholding tradition just for tradition’s sake,” Holmes said.
“They have got more strict over the years. Actually, often the dress code has become stricter as a reaction to players wearing different things. We don’t want to go back. We want them to move with the times.”
Holmes and Gordon were among those gathered outside Wimbledon on Saturday, holding banners with slogans including “About bloody time”, “Address the dress code” and “You can do it Ian Hewitt”, referring to the chairman of the All England Club.
She added that one option could be allowing women to choose to wear Wimbledon’s colours of purple and green as an option for undershorts.
“We’ve come down today because we want Wimbledon to address the white dress code that doesn’t take into consideration female athletes on their periods,” Holmes continued.
“We want to make it really known to Wimbledon that the rules they are making at the top, they’re all already filtering down to grassroots levels. We are already seeing tons of young girls who drop out of sports when they start their period or by the time they’ve hit puberty they’ve stopped sports altogether.
“We think it’s the time to address those barriers for young girls getting into the sport and it starts at the top, so that’s Wimbledon. We want women to be able to focus on the tennis and on the sport and not have to worry about other factors when competing at this level.”
Speaking to PA news agency, Gordon added: “The conversation around women’s sport, in general, is becoming bigger so this conversation shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
“We’re not hoping to drastically change the all-white dress code we just want to kind of amend it and keep in mind the practicality for women instead of keeping up traditions essentially for tradition’s sake.
“We ultimately want it to be the women’s choice about what would actually alleviate any stress or shame when it comes to competing professionally in front of the world.”
The British doubles star Alicia Barnett recently opened up about the stress of having to compete in white while on her period.
“I do think some traditions could be changed,” Barnett told PA news agency last week, saying that as an advocate for women’s rights, “having this discussion is just amazing”.
A Wimbledon spokesperson said: “Prioritising women’s health and supporting players based on their individual needs is very important to us, and we are in discussions with the WTA, with manufacturers and with the medical teams about the ways in which we can do that.”