Norwegian Handball Team Fined For Protesting Sexist Uniform Rules
Yes, you read that right.
This Monday, the Norwegian team at the European Beach Handball Championship was fined 1500 euros for refusing to don bikini bottoms. How was your start to the week?
The Norway team sported spandex cycling shorts instead of the traditional uniform of bikini bottoms at a match in Bulgaria to protest sexist uniform regulations. The International Handball Federation rules that female athletes are required to wear bikini bottoms “with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg.” The rulebook also states that “the side width must be a maximum of 10 centimeters.” On the contrary, male athletes are permitted to wear shorts falling four inches above the knee. To mitigate backlash, the Norwegian team even informed the European Handball Federation of their decision ahead of their match against Spain.
In a statement to the New York Times, Norwegian player Martine Welfer said, “I don’t see why we can’t play in shorts.” The Norwegian Handball Federation announced their support for the team’s protest against the objectifying rule on social media, stating, “We at NHF stand behind you and support you. Together we will continue to fight to change the rules for clothing so that players can play in the clothes they are comfortable with.”
However, the European Handball Federation’s disciplinary commission declared the opposition “a case of improper clothing” since the team’s uniform was “not according to the Athlete Uniform Regulations defined in the IHF Beach Handball Rules of the game”. The team has since been asked to pay a penalty of 150 euros per player- a total of 1500 euros.
Despite the Norwegian team’s defeat in the bronze-medal game, their demonstration has garnered international support. “We are overwhelmed by the attention and support from all over the world! We really hope this will result in a change of this nonsense rule!”, the team proclaimed.
Sexist and objectifying uniform regulations have long pervaded women in athletics. Female gymnasts representing Germany in the Tokyo Olympics donned full-length bodysuits to take a stand against the the sexualization of women athletes on 25th July. Meanwhile, British Paralympic sprinter Olivia Breen was slammed for wearing shorts that were deemed “too revealing” by a tournament judge. Double standards in dress codes have plagued women in athletics for decades, while their male counterparts seldom fret over uniforms. Why is bodily agency so controversial when it comes to women?
Too modest. Too revealing. When will female bodies stop being scrutinized, sexualized and politicized? Let bodies be bodies!