Norway’s women’s beach handball team was fined by the European Handball Federation on Monday after players wore shorts instead of the required bikini bottoms during a game over the weekend.
The International Handball Federation requires women to wear bikini bottoms “with a tight fit and cut at an upward angle to the top of the leg.” The sides of the bikini bottoms must not be more than four inches. On the other hand, men can wear shorts as long as four inches above their knees as long as they are “not too baggy.”
A spokeswoman for the International Handball Federation, Jessica Rockstroh, said Tuesday she did not know the reason for the rules. “We are investigating it internally,” she said.
Ms Rockstroh said the organization’s focus at the moment was on the Olympics, not uniforms, and that the organization had not previously received official complaints. She later said 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,” she said.
Norway’s team had planned for several weeks to break the rules to point out the double standard for female athletes. The players wore shorts for Sunday’s bronze medal match against Spain at the European Handball Championship in Varna, Bulgaria.
“I do not see why we can not play in shorts,” said Martine Welfler, one of the Norwegian players. “With so much body shaming and stuff like that these days, you should be able to wear a little more when you play.”
Each Norwegian player was fined 150 euros (approx. $ 177) for a total fine of € 1,500.
Kare Geir Lio, the leader of the Norwegian Handball Federation, said the organization would pay the fine. He said that Norway had repeatedly complained about the requirement for a bikini bottom to the International Federation since 2006. “Nothing has happened,” he said.
Female athletes have spoken out against the double standards of their uniforms many times in recent decades. Women need to wear more revealing clothing in several sports, including athletics, beach volleyball and tennis. In 2011, the Badminton World Federation decided that women should wear skirts or dresses to play at the elite level to help revive fluttering interest in women’s badminton.
In some cases, women have been fined for their uniforms being too long. In others, the uniforms have been too short.
During the English track and field championships over the weekend, Paralympic sprinter and long jumper Olivia Breen said she was told by an official that the running shoes she was wearing were inappropriate.
“I was just chatting with my teammate, really happy, and this official came up to me and she was like, ‘Can I talk to you, Olivia?'” Mrs. Breen said in an interview Tuesday. “She was like, ‘I think , that your panties are too revealing, and I think you should consider buying a new pair of shorts. ‘”
Mrs Breen said she was amazed: “My first answer was’ are you kidding? “And she just said, ‘No, I’m not. And I think you should honestly consider buying a pair of shorts.'”
The exchange left Mrs Breen and her teammate speechless, she added. “It just made me so angry,” she said. “We should not be told what we can carry and what we can not carry. Why would you make such a comment? ”
Sir. Lio from the Norwegian Handball Federation said there was no reason why women should be required to wear bikini bottoms in games. “Women should have the right to have a uniform that they think is suitable to perform in their sport,” he said.
In a 2006 letter to the International Handball Federation, the Norwegian Handball Federation said that the requirement for women to wear bikini bottoms was insensitive to some countries’ cultural norms and could be embarrassing for those who did not want so much of their bodies exposed, according to a copy seen by The New York Times. In handball, a sport that combines elements of football and basketball, goalkeepers should be allowed to wear less revealing uniforms because they use all parts of their bodies to block shots, the letter argued.
Thomas Schoeneich, spokesman for the European Handball Federation, said on Tuesday that the organization is simply enforcing rules set by the International Federation. “Change can only happen at an international level for handball federations,” he said.
The Norwegian Handball Federation proposed to change the uniform requirements for female athletes during a meeting of the European Handball Federation in April. The move was expected to be discussed by the International Handball Federation in November, Schoeneich said.
Welfler, the Norwegian handball player, said that there were players in Norway who did not want to compete at the international level due to uniform requirements. (In domestic tournaments, Norwegian players can wear shorts.)
“It’s really sad because maybe the best players are not participating,” she said. She also said female players were tired of being scrutinized in thin clothing. The focus should be on the game, she said.
Janice Forsyth, associate professor of sociology at Western University in Canada and former director of the university’s International Center for Olympic Studies, said certain uniforms, especially in athletics and swimming, could give athletes a head start. But in the case of beach handball, wearing shorts instead of a bikini would not allow athletes to jump higher or move faster in the sand.
“I do not see how the argument has any weight,” she said. “To say that wearing less clothes that women have to do allow them to be better athletes is just silly.”
Amanda Morris contributed reporting.