Women in Sports: Why Can’t We Play Full-Contact Rugby?

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Imagine an intense, competitive sport match in a stadium full of enthusiastic crowd. Normally what comes into mind is an image of a popular sport league, such as Premier League, NBA, and Major League Baseball. It is an uncomfortable truth that the vast majority of professional sport leagues are male dominant. However, professional industry isn’t the only area where women are not given equal opportunity in sport. The society that we live in tends to limit the spectrum of sports that women can play.

In many schools, boys have an option to play baseball whereas girls only have the option of softball. The conventional norm basically says that baseball is for men, and softball is for women. Likewise, tackle rugby is for men, and touch rugby is for girls. Softball was originally invented as an indoor version of baseball: it uses a smaller size of field, a bigger ball, and a different pitching style that reduces the speed of the ball. To put it simply, softball is a modified, more accessible version of baseball. In the case of touch rugby, it’s different from full-contact rugby in that any tackles or physical contact with intention of harm are restricted by official rules. This idea sheds a light onto some unnoticed aspects of gender inequality in sports. A lot of girls usually don’t recognize softball or contact rugby as options —especially when they want to pursue career in sports— because there is no university that offers baseball or contact rugby scholarships to girls. Societal norms discourage women to play certain sports, and that results in the society eventually setting the “default” sport for different genders.

Society limits women’s access to “more dynamic” sports. The assumptions and prejudices against women’s physical capabilities cause females to be underrepresented in some sports that they play. The main basis of these societal norms, again, comes from those stereotypes: because women have lower level of physical capabilities than men, some sports must be adapted before being introduced to women.

In Marymount community, both sport and gender equality are crucial aspects of students’ well-being. However, the concept of some extracurricular activities seems to follow the gender norms that exist within our society. This is seen through the fact that the option of full contact rugby isn’t available for students.

Mr. Kell, coach for MMI touch rugby program, explained the reason why the school restricts access to full contact rugby by mentioning the lack of “facilities and coaching qualifications”. According to him, another main reason for the introduction of touch rugby in Marymount—rather than tackle rugby—includes the concerns for safety which directly come from the students themselves. Mr. Kell said, “having voiced the idea from students, the reaction was a lot warmer to touch rugby than it was to full contact rugby.”. Mr. Kell said the biggest difference between touch rugby and tackle rugby would be the “mentality, because you’ve got to be comfortable being hit and you’ve got to be comfortable hitting other people. The fact that you’re actually going to run in to someone and hit them hard and take them down to the floor can be quite scary. Regardless of your gender, it’s the mentality that you need in order to play full contact rugby.”.

In general, it is true men are physically stronger than women, and this is a biologically correct statement. However, it doesn’t mean we should restrict what different genders are capable of. Both men and women can run a marathon, dive from 10-meter-high platform, and can score a buzzer beater. Therefore, we can also play tackle rugby. We shouldn’t limit our options just because “that’s what everyone does.”

 

Bibliography

“Cricket, Baseball, Rounders and Softball: What’s the Difference?” BBC Radio 4, BBC, 2019, www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2HdVkSClhXdp5CsD3JJ093T/cricket-baseball-rounders-and-softball-what-s-the-difference.

Span, Emma. “Is Softball Sexist?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 June 2014, www.nytimes.com/2014/06/07/opinion/is-softball-sexist.html.