Et Les Femmes?

1967. Katherine Switzer becomes the first woman to run the Boston Marathon – 5 years before women were allowed to run the marathon officially. Considering 1972 was only 47 years ago, female sport has taken huge leaps forward. However, sexism in sport is still surviving, despite the claims of the misogynistic many. But there’s no denying the fact that women (in this country particularly) are at any disadvantage in sports, right?

Wrong.

Although apparently not visible to everyone, female sport is massively underappreciated, underfunded and underwatched. Sport such as women’s rugby, women’s football and women’s golf is hardly ever televised, even at premiership and international level. As we compare this to the men’s televisation; we can see a huge injustice. As we pick up the news, we see endless male sporting achievements and failures; club swaps and even tax evaiders- and yet barely any publication of women’s achievements. But this is the norm, right? We’ve become accustomed to the sexism that the media puts on our plate, and we consume it unknowingly. Happily, even.

Fortunately for us in 2019, there are no limits to which sports women can play. There are, unfortunately, lots of stereotypes which still exist. Women’s rugby, for example, is one packed full of harmful misconceptions.

“Can you even tackle in women’s rugby?”
“Do you play on a full-sized pitch?”
“Aren’t you all lesbians?”

And finally, what is often intended as a compliment but is extremely degrading:

“Don’t you think you’re too pretty to be playing a sport like rugby?”

Now all these questions could be genuine questions, and given the amount of times I have personally been asked these questions, it’s clear to see why there is such a large amount of miseducated (or misogynistic, whichever way you view it) people. Women’s sport is so underappreciated, and it is damaging. To reiterate myself; it was only 47 years ago that women were officially allowed to run marathons.

Forty seven.

The change that women such as Billie Jean King, Nadia Comaneci and Serena Williams have all pioneered at such a rapid pace means that fortunately for young girls such as myself, playing sport is much easier. I first started playing rugby when I was 12, and I have grown to adore it. For me, rugby is essential – I can get all my anger and emotion out in a training session or a game, while still retaining discipline and respect – the most important core values of rugby. Rugby has been crucial for me to develop into the person I am today, and without it I wouldn’t have had the confidence that I do now.

The importance of sport and having a passion for something at my age cannot be understated – it keeps young people like myself away from alcohol and drugs, and provides a release away from the pressures and strains of being a young person in this day and age. So many girls my age drop out of sport because they are too conscious. Conscious of becoming ‘muscly’, of being called names by other people, of being branded and stereotyped and unequally judged by others, just because they do sports. Giving women’s sport more recognition would only push girls to be more involved and more confident to try different sports, particularly sports that are seen as ‘masculine’. And it’s the same for boys too – let’s encourage boys to dance, to figure skate, We must ditch the harmful stereotypes of boys and men being ‘gay’ or ‘puffs’ or ‘soft’ if they do a sport such as cheer leading or ballet or dance. In 2019 this really should not be an issue, but the sexism in sport needs to be addressed. Girls (and boys), do not stop playing sport for anyone. The physical and emotional benefits are worth it.

If you’re interested in trying out rugby, come down to Grimsby RUFC. Ladies training is on a Monday (6:30 – 8:00) and Wednesday (6:30-8:30), as is the girls, who are currently building up a team, so now is the perfect time to start. For more information contact Grimsby RUFC through their facebook page or website: www.pitchero.com/clubs/grimsbyrufc

Article first appeared in the Grimsby Telegraph 23rd April 2019

Article by Young Reporter Charlotte Low