It seems ridiculous, but in 2021, female athletes are still forced to fight double standards on and off the field.
One of the more egregious examples of this involves the Norwegian women’s beach handball team.
The team repeatedly complained to the sport’s governing bodies about the bikini bottoms that women in the sport are required to wear. These complaints were reportedly ignored, so the team wore shorts during a recent game as a protest. They were promptly fined about $175 per player in US dollars by the European Handball Association.
Singer/songwriter Pink Tweeted support for the team, and offered to pay the fines.
According to the New York Times, Kare Geir Lio, the head of the Norwegian Handball Federation, said the organization would pay the fine. He said Norway had repeatedly complained about the bikini bottom requirement to the international federation since 2006. “Nothing has happened,” he said (In domestic tournaments, Norwegian players can wear shorts).
What unreasonable demand were these athletes making? They were simply asking to be allowed to wear less-revealing uniforms.
A photo of the male and female teams together highlights the absurdity of the uniform requirements.
The men are allowed to wear comfortable-looking shorts and tank tops, while the female athletes are required to wear bikini bottoms and tops that are not much more than sports bras. In effect, the women are forced to display not only their athletic skills, but a lot of skin.
If this were their choice, it would be fine, but the antiquated dress codes are dictated by the sport’s governing bodies.
The European Handball Association and the International Handball Federation’s are on shaky ground if they try to defend their silly regulations, since men and women are engaged in the same sport, but have very different uniform requirements.
The rules are specific, The International Handball Federation requires women to wear bikini bottoms “with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg.” The sides of the bikini bottoms must be no more than 4 inches. Men, on the other hand, can wear shorts as long as 4 inches above their knees.” It is unclear what these rules have to do with ability to compete in the sport.
Despite this, the International Handball Federation appears to be defending its rules. A spokesperson told the New York Times that Norway was the only country that had officially complained. “Globally we know that other countries like to play in bikinis, for example, especially in South America,” the spokesperson said.
Female athletes have objected to the double standards regarding their uniforms for years. Women are required to wear more revealing outfits than men in several sports.
What message does this send to the public, and to female athletes, especially young athletes?
There are signs that women are beginning to demand change. In addition to the Norwegian handball team, German gymnasts decided earlier this year to take a stand against their sexualization by wearing full-body suits. Their decision received support from the German federation (DTB), which advised that female athletes should always feel comfortable in their apparel.
During the Olympics, when so much international attention is focused on excellence, and the best athletes in the world, it’s good to see that women are demanding an end to sexualization and an end to ridiculous, outdated uniform requirements. It’s time for men to join them in demanding change. Anyone who truly appreciates athletic achievement will understand the importance of judging female athletes based on their ability, not how they look in their uniforms.