In the summer of 2021, Norway’s women’s beach handball team reignited a controversy over glaring gender discrepancies in the uniform requirements of various sports, including their own.
The rules of the sport require women to wear “bikini bottoms” with a “close fit” along with a “midriff design” top, while their male counterparts are permitted to wear sleeveless tank tops and shorts, as illustrated in the diagrams below, which are taken from the International Handball Federation’s official rules of beach handball:
Rejecting those double standards, the Norwegian women refused to wear bikini bottoms during their European Championships game against Spain on July 18, and in response, the European Handball Federation fined them €150 ($177) each.
As part of a wave of outrage against the uniform requirements, and the punishment imposed, a popular post on the online forum Reddit purported to neatly and starkly illustrate the disparities involved in the male and female beach handball uniform regulations.
Underneath a caption that read “Mens beach-handball teams uniform vs. the women’s uniform,” a photograph showed what appeared to be a men’s beach handball team, wearing tank tops and shorts, kneeling and standing next to their female counterparts, who are wearing bikini bottoms and “midriff” tops:
That photograph was genuine, and showed Norway’s men’s and women’s beach handball teams, respectively, before their games against their Swedish counterparts, in June 2019. As such, we are issuing a rating of “True.”
The picture was taken by the photographer Niclas Dovsjö on June 7, 2019, in Ulricehamn, Sweden. It was posted online and on Facebook by the Norwegian Handball Federation, and can be seen in its original context, below:
Norway’s men lost their encounter with Sweden, while their female compatriots won. At the time, the picture prompted an outraged response in Norway, illustrating as it did the glaring discrepancy in uniform requirements between male and female athletes.
In response to expressions of criticism at the rules, and the treatment of the Norwegian women’s team, European Handball Federation [EHF] President Michael Wiederer insisted that “the EHF will do all it can to ensure that a change of athlete uniform regulations can be implemented,” but said such a rules change “could not happen overnight.”