It’s 2021, but the policing of female athletes’ bodies is a practice that continues to thrive. The Norwegian women’s beach handball team is in a battle with the sport’s governing bodies to wear less-revealing uniforms. After the team’s repeated complaints about the required bikini bottoms were reportedly ignored, they wore shorts during a recent game in protest and were fined 150 euros (around $175) per player. It’s similar in theme to another trending story: Welsh Paralympian Olivia Breen recently recounted a competition official remarking that her briefs were “too short and inappropriate.” Sharing her story led other female athletes who have experienced similar body policing to do the same, she said on Instagram.
A Women’s Beach Handball Team Is Fined For Not Wanting To Wear Bikini Bottoms
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For retired soccer player Briana Scurry, the ordeal that the Norwegian team is facing is “enraging” and “absurd” — and not unfamiliar, she told NPR. Scurry, who has played in three World Cups and has two Olympic gold medals, recalled representing the U.S. in the Olympics in the 1990s and the women’s team having to wear “hand-me-down jerseys and shorts from the men’s team” because the sponsor made the uniforms with only the male team in mind.
The women’s skill had earned them a presence on a global stage, yet they were stuck wearing ill-fitting uniforms — an unnecessary distraction that can be demoralizing.
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“You should feel like a superhero in it because you’re representing in a very special and positive and powerful way, and [you shouldn’t] have to worry about the cut of the short,” Scurry said.
Unfortunately, unreasonable expectations aren’t new. One of the most egregious offenses occurred in 2012, when the Badminton World Federation tried (and failed) to force female players to wear skirts in order to “look feminine and have a nice presentation.”
Briana Scurry of the United States plays in an international friendly against Argentina on April 26, 1998, in San Jose, Calif. She says athletes “should feel like a superhero” in their uniforms and not have to worry about how they appear in them.
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On the flip side, the International Volleyball Federation softened its regulations in 2016 to allow players to wear hijabs in a bid to make the sport more welcoming.
In general, the strictness of any sport’s dress code is dependent on its governing body. It’s why some female athletes may have a range of uniform options to choose from, while others, like the Norwegian women’s beach handball team, still find themselves battling antiquated dress codes.