It's time to give due credit, argues Wasps Ladies fly-half Flo Williams
“WOMEN’S RUGBY is a waste of time.” But it inspires the future generation of women to believe they can be whoever or whatever they want to be.
“Women’s rugby isn’t a proper sport.” But it teaches girls that they’re physically able to compete in contact sports and to build their bodies for a physical purpose, not only to ‘look pretty’.
“Women’s rugby is rubbish compared to men’s.” But it instils confidence in girls to challenge societal norms and be confident in carving their own future.
The stories surrounding women’s rugby are a small example of the day-to-day gender stereotyping females go through. For example, being in a bar when that really friendly bloke asks what sport you play, then continues the quizzing including, but not limited to, questions like: “Oh I bet you couldn’t tackle me”, “Like actual full-contact rugby?”, “So which of you are lesbians then?”.
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Sometimes it’s just easier to not mention you play.
Unfortunately, the inequality in women’s rugby does not stop in social settings. The media have an extremely big part to play in the growth, and likewise stagnation, of the sport. To champion female rugby players, individually and collectively, in mainstream media allows society to get to know these faces, to begin to follow and support them in their sporting journeys. The media have the power to change how society sees women’s rugby.
“The opportunity to portray players as equal to the Irish rugby fanbase was lost”
A recent missed opportunity in the media saw the initial Irish rugby jersey launch only use male players and an e-fit on a model for the women’s jersey. The opportunity to portray these players as equal, alongside each other, to the Irish rugby fanbase was lost. This feeling was hugely recognised in the women’s rugby community across the world and the #enough movement was born.
Those female Irish players were more than enough to wear that jersey and we have had enough of the same unjust scenarios happening in the media.
Thousands of female players, from the grass-roots game to World Cup winners, posted stories and images across social media with the #IamEnough and #enough hashtags. To the credit of Canterbury – the Irish kit provider – they supported this movement, issued an apology and changed their brand pledges to always include female players in media/kit launches. Although it’s disconcerting that a global movement and a hugely negative social media reaction had to take place for equal representation to become the norm.
The power of the women’s rugby community came together and the impact demonstrated the accumulative feeling of ‘we have had enough of this’.
“Women’s rugby is a waste of time.” But it creates a powerful collective that inspires from within.
This article originally appeared in the November 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.
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