Equality – A Rugby Story

By James M.

Sport has always been a very big rock in my life. It is something I personally use for stress relief, my physical needs, social needs, and the list goes on. I’ve played so many different sports at so many different levels, but I have never engaged in a sport more inclusive than rugby. I can still recall the first time I played in middle school, we picked teams to play in a scrimmage out of a hat – gender aside – and played full contact. I was 12 at the time and thought nothing of it. Even to this day, I still practice and scrimmage with people of both genders. Clearly, as I grew up we were separated through gender as is every sport and more so by the level in which you played, but that was it. The biggest difference with rugby is there is no difference in the rules or the way the game is played based on what gender you are, if you’ve never played before or you’ve been capped by your country, and the field, ball, and equipment are all the same.

I recently read an article about an individual who would presumably agree with everything I feel and have stated, but continues to push the barriers even further. Jaye Cora is a winger for the University of Georgia who is gender neutral/trans and prefers the terms “they” and “them” instead of “he” or “she”. Jaye was actually on the verge of giving up on sports because they thought they would never be respected, until they found rugby. Even at the highest level of rugby they look to be as inclusive and fair as possible, with World Rugby`s Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and Disorders of Sexual Differentiation (DSD) Policy as well as the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2015 between World Rugby and the IGR (international Gay Rugby) . These are all ways in which rugby as a sport and culture is trying to be accepting of every human.

I wanted to share that little story because it shows you that not only is rugby gender neutral in the sense of how the game is governed, what you play on, and what you play with but it is breaking barriers past that. Rugby, I believe, is a leader for sports in the sense of equality for all. It’s funny because society tends to stereotype women as individuals that don’t enjoy aggression, that don’t like getting dirty, and rugby throws these stereotypes right out the window and I’ve seen that first hand. Society tends to paint a picture that portrays woman as someone who would rather have a nice evening in reading a book and having some wine, but if you are the kind of person that would rather be covered in mud and bruises and enjoy a few cold beverages after a hard fought game rugby says, right this way. Rugby’s not only a game but it’s a culture and until you are immersed in it it`s hard to fully understand how accepting it really is because of its hard exterior.

So if one of the toughest sports on the planet is so open to equality, what’s taking so long with all the other more mainstream sports like hockey, football, and baseball? Females at a younger age can play with boys and it can be full contact, but when they get older and it switches to all-female you take away the hitting (in hockey), or the over hand pitching. This just doesn’t make sense to me. There is a bright side – more frequently we are spreading light on these issues of inequality and asking the right questions and I believe that if we continue to do so we will see a significant change to what society considers the norm, just hopefully it will be sooner than later.

References:

World Rugby signs historic agreement with International Gay Rugby. Retrieved February 17, 2017, from http://www.worldrugby.org/news/59705?lang=en

Defabio, A. (2016, March 02). Trans Community Weighs in on USA Rugby Rules. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.goffrugbyreport.com/news/trans-community-weighs-usa-rugby-rules

Molnar, G., & Kanemasu, Y. (2016). Challenges of Exploring Women’s Resistance in Post-colonial Hegemonic Masculinity.

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One response

  1. Great post! Form my sporting experience with many different sports I have to agree that many of them are behind rugby in terms of equality. There are so many differences in rules between women’s games and men’s games and some of them have negative consequences. Women’s ice hockey has the no contact rule however a female hockey player is one of the most at risk athletes for concussions because the game is so physical. When growing up playing male hockey you are constantly expecting to be hit because that’s the way the game is played, so when you are hit your ready for it. In female hockey you can still be hit even though it’s against the rules and this time your probably going to get hurt, as you weren’t expecting the hit. Soccer can also be discussed; the world cup is a major event and the men play on grass however the women were being forced to play on turf. Turf also has a higher risk of injury, as cleats grab into is easier than grass. This results in an increase in knee injuries. Rugby is probably one of the only sports where every rule is identical and I really respect the sport for this reason even thought I never got the chance to play.

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