Sports and Sexism

Women have been facing sexism and other issues in sport for centuries, including not having teams for women, women’s sport being excluded form the Olympics, and less support from fans and sponsors. Now women seem to be a larger target of a new problem: uniforms. We’ve seen this over and over again as the world watches to see what Serena Williams will wear next after she wore a black catsuit that was “disrespectful” to the sport. However, closer attention is being drawn to other sports now. More specifically, the evidence of sexism within organized sport and their uniforms is finally being brought to attention.

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Men playing beach handball (Source: IHF)

One sport in particular that is currently under scrutiny is women’s beach handball. Men’s beach handballers wear shorts and tank tops and the shorts are allowed to be a maximum length of 10cm above the knee. Women however, have to wear bikinis and the seam of the bottoms can be no longer than 10cm and must be cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg. In a recent article, fans are concerned that the athletes are being sexually exploited, saying the girls are basically naked.

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Men’s beach handball uniform per regulations
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Regulation women’s handball uniform

We can see this trend in other sports too. When looking at the Olympic sports, women’s pole vault, track and field, beach volleyball and field hockey all have uniforms that are either significantly smaller/less material, or feminized. In a recent study, they looked at the role uniforms played on the self esteem of female volleyball players. The study found that the revealing uniforms were linked to lower body self esteem and were distracting to the player while they were on the court. If this is a such a pressing issue within today’s world of sports, why haven’t we taken more action into improving the issue? Is the over sexualization of women the way the corporations are making money on women’s sports? Are women’s sports alone not enough to attract fans and viewers, regardless of what they are wearing?

Featured image: source


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