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Norway’s Women’s Handball Team Wins Fight Against Sexist Bikini Mandate

A photo of the Norwegian women's beach handball team wearing shorts in a team photo, as shown on NBC News

The Norwegian women’s beach handball team has won their fight against the sport’s sexist rules mandating they play in midriff-baring tops and bikini bottoms.

Earlier this year, the team was fined and threatened with disqualification for choosing to wear shorts during a tournament. The fine was not exactly hefty (150 euros each, 1,500 total) but the principle of the issue gained worldwide attention and backlash. Even pop superstar Pink got involved, offering to pay the team’s fine. (The European Handball Federation ultimately said that wasn’t necessary and donated the money to “a major international sports foundation which supports equality for women and girls in sports.”)

At the time, EHF President Michael Wiederer has said the federation was “committed to doing everything in its power to influence the adaptation of beach handball uniform rules” and the Norwegian Handball Federation had reportedly been advocating to change the rules since 2006. But ultimately, the decision regarding uniforms was up to the International Handball Federation. It took this summer’s protest and the massive spotlight that came with it to actually get the IHF to make that change.

Starting next year, the IHF’s guidelines have expanded to uniform requirements for women from the current bikini bottoms to “short tight pants.” There is still a major gender discrepancy in these rules, as male players are only required to wear a “tank top and shorts,” while women must wear “short tight pants” and a “body fit tank top.”

This is a great win for these players and Norwegian Handball Federation President Kåre Geir Lio says that the female players were “very satisfied” with the new rule allowing them to choose the length of their shorts. Still, it would be interesting to hear what logistical justification there is for requiring women to play in “body fit” spandex. Since men do not have the same rule, it would be hard to argue that looser-fitting uniforms impede gameplay.

After decades of digging their heels in over requiring bikini bottoms, it seems like the IHF simply isn’t willing to entirely eradicate the potential for objectification from women’s sports, which is ultimately disappointing.

(via NBC News, image: NBC)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.