Gender discrimination in rugby
By Jessica Berget, Staff Writer
The sports community is unfortunately notorious for being male-dominated and exclusionary to women. This is all too evident in sports like football, hockey, and rugby.
Rougher and more aggressive sports are seen as masculine and thus unfit for women, perpetuating the stereotype that women are weaker than men. This also could be the reason for the use of the “like a girl” insult that is thrown around when men do something that is considered weak or un-masculine. However, despite the fact that women are perfectly fit to play rugby—and in fact do play the sport arguably just as well as their male counterparts—the sexist notion that women are weaker than men, and are therefore not fit to play such aggressive sports sadly still persists.
People have been questioning whether women are fit for the rough and tough sport of rugby for as long as it has been a sport. This debate was put on blast in 2015 when female rugby player Sarah Chester suffered a brain injury from being tackled in a game, which resulted in her death. Regardless of how many men also suffering from fatal injuries in rugby, the case of Sarah Chester was used to justify the idea that women should not be involved in such violent sports. It should hardly be surprising that the possibility of suffering a fatal injury while playing a sport is a risk to any player, regardless of gender.
Even within the professional rugby community, women are not treated as equals to their male counterparts. Women’s sports often get less media coverage because they are seen as less important, making female sports role models unavailable for young sports fans. Women’s leagues also receive less sponsorships, lower wages, and less status than other male rugby players, making women’s rugby second to men’s rugby in both sport equality and society. In spite of the growing awareness of gender inequality in sports—and that women’s participation in sports have increased in the last decade—it is an unfortunate fact that women’s efforts and achievements are much less acknowledged than men’s.
Sports are supposed to embody positive values and morals, like learning mutual respect, fair play, cooperation, and equality. However, sports also have the potential to reflect negative and unethical morals. It can either serve to be a positive influence for inclusiveness, or illustrate the negative prejudices that divide society. By insisting that rugby is too tough for women and is “a man’s sport” these negative stereotypes are perpetuated further, and until inclusiveness for all genders is instilled into all sports—regardless of their levels of aggressiveness—the exclusion of women in rugby will continue to be an issue in the sporting community.