Sex or sport?

LogoI’m not really a sports fan, but one thing that has caught my attention recently is the controversy over uniforms. I know that this is a much talked about topic on social media this week, but I decided to add my two cents’ worth here.

The Norwegian women’s beach handball team garnered support from scores of fans when they protested the European Handball Federation’s misogynist rules by wearing shorts instead of the required bikini bottoms during a championship game against Spain at the European Beach Handball Championships in Bulgaria last week.

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The shorts that the women wore were deemed “improper” and the team was fined €1500! The second photo shows the approved uniform.

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Something is very wrong with this picture! According to the International Handball Federation regulations, “The beach handball female player’s uniform consists of tops and bikini bottoms…the women’s tops (a midriff design) must be close fitting…with deep cutaway armholes on the back. Female athletes must wear bikini bottoms…with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg. The side width must be a maximum of 10 centimetres.” On the other hand, the rules state that male players are to wear shorts, 10cm above the knee, that are not “too baggy”.

Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky, but I’m so tired of living in a world where there are different standards for men than for women; where women are admired first for their sex appeal and not for what they’re capable of doing.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Shortly after the news broke, American singer and songwriter, Pink, took to Twitter to voice her support for the Norwegian women and promising to pay the fine on their behalf. While the European Handball Federation hasn’t backtracked and withdrawn the fine in response to the negative press, they have acknowledged the position taken by the players and announced that the fine will be donated to the Norwegian Handball Federation. They did not, however, state that fines wouldn’t be issued in the future.

The Norwegian gals aren’t the only ones to reject the sexualization of sport. Germany’s women’s gymnastics team is wearing full-body unitards at the Tokyo Olympics instead of the high-cut leotards worn by other teams. They first donned this new look in April at the European championships in Basel, Switzerland. At that time, the German Gymnastics Federation released a statement saying, “The aim is to present themselves aesthetically without feeling uncomfortable.” Perhaps the European Handball Federation needs to listen up! Gymnastics attire with full or half sleeves and leg coverings are allowed in competition, as long as the colour matches the leotard.

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The question is whether or not other elite athletes will follow suit (pun intended)? Change will only happen if the women themselves say “no more” to sexism in sport.