Shorts Or Bikinis? When Women’s Clothes Become More Important Than The Game

norway women's handball team

The Norway women’s handball team has been fined 1500 euros for “improper clothing” at the recently concluded European Beach Handball Championships. Bizarrely, the impropriety alleged by the fining authority European Handball Federation (EHF) has to do with the difference of only a few inches of cloth. As much – rather little – as that between bikini bottoms and shorts.

With their playing comfort in mind, the Norwegian players opted for the latter against bikinis, which are the ordered athlete uniform sportswomen are expected to stick to in beach handball.

Which raises a laughable question: Bikinis or briefs, how does it matter? 

How much relevance do dated diktats hold today? If prizing comfort over regulation without hampering the usual functions of the game is an option, then wouldn’t athletes exhibit better skill if they made that choice? Also to think about is how much of the regulation exactly can be contextualised within the history of sexualisation of women’s bodies in sport?

Whose gaze are these ‘sexy’ bikini uniforms catering to? 

Norway Women’s Handball Team Made A Decision – And They’re Not Bowing Down Now

Any arguments of increased agility or swift movement offered by bikini bottoms that shorts allegedly cannot provide are a dud. Primarily, because men’s handball teams are allowed shorts in the game. Must they then be shifted to bikini bottoms too, for all the wholesome benefit the outfit supposedly offers?

If anything, bikini bottoms – with their flimsy, unfixed design – have more potential for discomfort and impracticality than shorts ever will.

The redundant worth of the dress code was made amply clear by Norway’s Handball Federation (NHF), which had said in advance they were ready to pay whatever fine the EHF would impose on their players for choosing shorts over bikinis. “We are very proud of these girls who during the European Championships raised their voices and announced that enough is enough!” the NHF has declared.

And now, they are even pushing for solid reform that will change the way women athletes’ uniforms figure in sport. A motion put forward by Norway about impractical dress codes for sportswomen will reportedly be deliberated over at the International Handball Federation level.

Across sports – tennis, swimming, surfing, racing – women’s bodies are objectified, taking precedence above all else, including their skill in the game. They are considered first women, then sportswomen – and that order dictates the way audiences (especially male) perceive them. A burden, to excel at their sport, but more to look sexy while doing it.

The adamant decision by the Norway women’s handball team to put their foot down firm on the sexist traditions in sport is a booming statement that says – no more. Enough.

Views expressed are the author’s own.