Feminine athletes throughout the globe have lengthy talked about feeling sexualized by each the media and sports activities followers, typically due to the tight, revealing clothes that’s sometimes required of them.
So it was a small however vital victory for the Norway ladies’s seaside handball crew this week when in an act of defiance, they chose to wear shorts instead of the standard bikini bottoms. In keeping with International Handball Federation rules, ladies’s bottoms should have “a detailed match” and be “reduce on an upward angle towards the highest of the leg.” As properly, the aspect width of those bottoms should not exceed 10 cm. The crew was in the end fined 150 Euros every by the European Handball Federation for the gesture.
“We’re … very proud about making an announcement within the bronze remaining by taking part in in shorts as an alternative of required bikini bottoms!” they mentioned in a statement released through their official Instagram account. “We actually hope it will lead to a change of this nonsense rule!”
And “nonsense” is true — there’s a blatant double normal by way of what clothes ladies are anticipated to put on within the sport. The boys’s uniform consists of a tank high and shorts that may be far longer and dishevelled, as long as they “stay 10 centimetres above the kneecap.”
— Dr. Ji Son (@cogscimom) July 20, 2021
However this concern is neither new, nor distinctive to seaside handball. Video games like tennis, volleyball, monitor and gymnastics all see ladies extra scantily clad than their male counterparts. And in that sense, there is a a lot bigger dialog available concerning the ways in which ladies in sports activities are pressured to adapt to weird guidelines round their very own our bodies, typically with little recognized logic behind the conventions.
Earlier this yr, German gymnast Sarah Voss also took on this issue by choosing a full-length bodysuit versus the usual leotard.
“For us, it was vital above all to succeed in younger athletes as a result of it is typically mentioned that a few athletes proper now don’t wish to proceed within the sport throughout puberty because of the gown code,” Voss mentioned in an announcement.
So how did these guidelines come into impact within the first place, and what’s the reasoning behind them? The argument has been made that skimpier outfits make for larger vary of mobility, in addition to permitting for athletes to remain cool throughout out of doors sports activities in excessive temperatures. And the apparent query right here is: Do males not get scorching, or want to maneuver round freely?
The reply turns into clear when you think about that girls’s sports activities have lengthy existed as a not-yet-fully-accepted subset of what has traditionally been seen as a person’s subject. And with regards to look, feminine athletes are both masculinized and ridiculed, or propped up as eye sweet for male viewers. Take the 2004 statement from former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who prompt that girls in soccer put on tighter shorts to “create a extra feminine aesthetic” and improve the recognition of the sport.
And with all sports activities being filtered by the male gaze on this method, it’s no shock that sexist and retrograde guidelines proceed to pervade them, compromising ladies’s capacity to compete in a wholesome and truthful surroundings.
Bravo Norwegian Girls’s Seaside Handball crew for standing as much as the foundations relating to the hypersexualized uniforms feminine gamers are anticipated to put on whereas taking part in. There isn’t any excuse for forcing ladies to put on tiny bikinis whereas males can put on shorts. Sufficient is sufficient! pic.twitter.com/3j0guEbe8U
— JaneDoeMD (@Caerage) July 21, 2021
After a long time of fighting to be taken seriously in the sports world, the impacts of this hyper-sexualization and commodification of ladies’s our bodies may be severely damaging. A 2017 survey by BT Sport discovered that 80 per cent of elite feminine athletes in the UK felt stress to adapt to a sure look and physique kind, with 87 per cent of respondents saying the stress to current a sure kind of physique picture had influenced their weight-reduction plan.
Extra just lately in 2020, 77 per cent of feminine athletes who responded to the BBC’s Elite British Sportswomen’s Survey mentioned that they have been certainly aware of their physique picture. (It’s value noting right here that in Olympic seaside volleyball, the rules were changed in 2012 to permit ladies to decide on their very own outfits — however with such a protracted historical past, and the societal expectations positioned on ladies athletes to current themselves of their most hyper-feminized kind, how a lot of a alternative is that?)
And with so many requires change from athletes and feminist teams through the years, it’s laborious to think about why regulatory our bodies are so immune to altering these guidelines. For its half, a spokeswoman for the Worldwide Handball Federation, Jessica Rockstroh, mentioned this week that she didn’t know the reasoning behind the uniform guidelines, and that they’d be “looking into it internally.”
Hopefully, the actions of the Norwegian crew and the assist they’ve garnered by social media are indicators of progress on this entrance, and a transfer towards making a safer surroundings for girls athletes on the entire. The earlier these guidelines disappear, the earlier feminine athletes can compete in an environment the place they really feel each valued and safe — one thing that their male friends have lengthy been afforded.