Norway’s women’s beach handball team was fined by the European Handball Federation on Monday, because players wore shorts and not the required bikini bottoms. The choice to cover up with shorts came after their requests to change the bikini bottom rule went unacknowledged. The uniform choice is important not only because it reflects the personal preference of the players, but because research indicates there may be a link between revealing clothing and mental and physical performance.
The International Handball Federation rules stipulate that female athletes must wear bikini bottoms, “with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg.” Men’s beach handball players have much more flexibility. The men’s rules state, “The players’ shorts, if not too baggy, can be longer but must remain 10 centimeters above the kneecap.” A spokeswoman for the International Handball Federation, Jessica Rockstroh said.
After complaining about the bikini bottom rule for fifteen years, Norway’s female handball team wore shorts for Sunday’s bronze medal game against Spain at the European Beach Handball Championships. As a result of breaking the rules, each Norwegian player was fined 150 euros (about $177). The Norwegian Handball Federation plans to pick up the tab.
It’s particularly important that athletes are able to perform at their peak levels, and research indicates that the self-consciousness that stems from wearing revealing clothing can impact performance (particularly for women). Psychologists call this awareness of one’s own body self-objectification. Girls and women are socialized to think about how other people see their bodies, which in turn can make women more preoccupied with their own physical appearance.
When it comes to rules about what women can and cannot wear, the Norwegian handball team is not alone in their frustration. From female employees to high schoolers, when it comes to how they cover their bodies, women and girls tend to be more closely scrutinized than their male counterparts. Women are told their clothes are too revealing or not revealing enough.