Let’s stop sexualising female athletes
On Monday 19th July, The European Handball Federation (EHF) fined the Norwegian women’s beach handball team. The Norwegian team were fined 1,500 euros (roughly equated to £1,295) for wearing sports shorts instead of bikini bottoms at the European Beach Handball Championships.
The EHF said they imposed this fine on the Norway team because they were wearing “improper clothing”. As a result of Norway’s match against Spain in Varna, Bulgaria, during a bronze medal match the EHF said they would impose a fine of 150 euros per player, for a total of 1,500 euros”.
Norway’s Handball Federation (NHF) have already stated they would pay the players fines.
The EHF stated that Norway were playing with shorts that are “not according to the athlete uniform regulations defined in the IHF [International Handball Federation] beach handball rules of the game”.
Before the Championships begun, Norway had already approached the EHF to ask permission to play in shorts. However, the EHF had told Norway that any breaches of the rules were punishable by fines.
Consequently, there’s now talk to amend current regulations which will be discussed by various bodies in the coming months.
A spokesman for the EHF, Andrew Barringer, has said, “The EHF is committed to bring this topic forward in the interests of its member federations – however, ti must also be said that a change of the rules can only happen at IHF level”.
The issue of clothing in sport has been debated in beach sports circles for several years. Many players find the bikini regulation as both degrading and impractical.
The regulations state:
“Women should wear a bikini where the top should be a tight-fitting sports bra with deep openings at the arms. The bottom must not be more than ten centimetres on the sides”, the regulations state.
One of the Norwegian team players, Katinka Haltvik, spoke to Norweigan media telling them that the team’s decision to wear shorts was “very spontaneous” and that they “felt threatened by the regulations”.
Haltvik continued by stating:
“People cheered on us for going in front of several teams and taking the brunt. Not all teams can afford to pay such fines”, Haltvik said, adding that handball “should be an inclusive sport, not an exclusive one”.
Similarly, during this week, the double world champion para-athlete Olivia Breen was told by an official at the English Championships on that her shorts were “too short and revealing”.
Breen, a sprinter and long jumper commented:
“It made me feel really angry and it’s very wrong…You know they can’t comment on what we can and can’t wear”.
Breen said she had been wearing the same style for nine year and have never had a problem before. Breen stated, “We want to be as light as possible when we’re competing, not having to feel heavy, and to feel comfortable”.
The official came up to Breen when she had finished her competition and had said:
“I think what you’re wearing is very revealing and I think you should consider buying shorts”
Breen adamantly believes male athletes would not receive the same treatment, scrutiny or criticism. After taking to social media to express her feelings, she has stated that other female athletes have told her of similar experiences they have had.
Breen commented further:
“I’m just going to take it as far as I can. I really want to get the message out there and I obviously want to make a change in female sport so people can’t make comments again about what we can and can’t wear.”
An England Athletics spokesperson said: “We are aware of the post and will be investigating as a matter of urgency. The wellbeing of all participants in athletics is of the utmost importance and everyone should feel comfortable to compete and participate in the sport.”