The International Handball Federation (IHF) has officially changed its rules governing women’s uniforms following intense backlash* from the global sporting community.
Back in July, Norway’s women’s beach handball team was fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms during a game against Spain.
The European Handball Federation (EHF) handed down a ruling over the “improper* clothing” in the contest, saying the shorts the women wore were not in accordance with the athlete uniform regulations.
The Disciplinary Commission at the beach Handball EURO 2021 decided to impose a fine of €150 ($240 AUD) per player, for a total of €1500 ($2409 AUD).
Meanwhile, male beach handball players are permitted to wear T-shirts and shorts.
The decision sparked criticism from Norwegian officials, who pointed out the uniform requirements for women were not practical.
“In 2021, it shouldn’t even be an issue,” Norwegian Volleyball Federation president Eirik Sordahl, told national news agency NTB.
Norway’s Minister for Culture and Sports, Abid Raja, tweeted: “It’s completely ridiculous … What a change of attitude is needed in the macho* and conservative international world of sport.”
Pop music icon Pink offered to pay the players’ fines, while tennis legend Billie Jean King also tweeted her support for the Norwegian team.
Australian Talitha Stone, who is currently living in Norway, launched a Change.org petition called “Let them wear shorts” that generated more than 61,000 signatures.
Last month, the Sports Ministers from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland wrote a joint open letter to the IHF, as well as other sporting bodies, urging them to review antiquated* dress regulations “and to allow athletes to be dressed in a way that suits performance and comfort”.
And on Monday, the IHF finally changed its official Beach Handball Rules of the Game, allowing tank tops and shorts instead of bikini bottoms and crop tops.
“As an Aussie sports-loving woman living in Norway, I am really disturbed to see the Norwegian women’s beach handball team fined for not playing in bikinis,” Ms Stone wrote in her petition.
“Male players are allowed to play in tank tops and shorts. But the International Handball Federation rules state women players have to wear bikini bottoms ‘with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg’.
“Why should female athletes be punished for wearing an outfit which is functional and practical, allowing freedom of movement without being worried about possible exposure* to a big audience as well as unwanted comments and sexual harassment?
“I hope this is the beginning of the end of sexism* and objectification* of women and girls in sport, and that in future all women and girls will be free to participate in sport without fear of wardrobe malfunctions and sexual harassment.”
Beach handball is a relatively new sport with the first European Championships held in 2000 and the official rules only codified in 2002.
– Additional reporting by Andrew McMurtry and AFP
- improper: not meeting accepted standards, inappropriate, unacceptable
- backlash: strong negative reaction by a large number of people
- macho: masculine in an overly assertive or aggressive way
- antiquated: outdated, outmoded, behind the times, old fashioned
- exposure: having no protection from something harmful
- sexism: prejudice or discrimination based on gender
- objectification: treating someone as an object or thing without feelings, opinions or rights
Which team was fined in July for not wearing bikini bottoms?
Which pop music icon offered to pay the fine for the players?
What was the name of Australian Talitha Stone’s Change.org petition?
What did the International Handball Federation (IHF) officially change on Monday?
When were the first European Championships held in handball?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Was it Right?
Norway’s women’s beach handball team was fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms. Do you think that this was right or fair? Write a paragraph explaining your opinion. Include examples and an explanation that will make your writing very persuasive.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability
Can you think of another example of an unfair rule or unfair treatment in a sport? Create a poster that will help other kids understand why this is unfair and why it should be changed.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical Education, Visual Communication Design, Civics and Citizenship
A Change For the Better
Have you ever felt uncomfortable with the clothes you have been asked to wear? Maybe it was during sport, or maybe it was your parents asking you to dress a certain way.
Connect with the Norwegian players and share about a time you have felt uncomfortable in what you have been asked to wear. Include what you had to wear, why it made you feel uncomfortable and why you had to wear it. Finish with a sentence or two directed at the Norwegian players and how this decision makes you feel.
You will need to consider emotive language to be able to express your feelings, but try not to repeat words or they start to lose their impact.
Remember to re-read your work, carefully checking your grammar and VCOP before sharing with others.