Girls and Contact Sports: What are We not Discussing?

Recently a wave of excitement rippled through many of the 9 to 12-year-old girls at the Primary School where I work. The girls were presented with the opportunity of participating in an exclusively all girl AFL* training programme during their lunch breaks – the latest example of the way in which girls are mixing it with the boys and claiming their apparent gender ‘equality.’

I could share neither in their excitement, nor in the vaunted claims of this being another positive step towards gender equity in sport. Rather, this for me marked a backward step.

Girls are now raised and educated to compete with the boys, and in this are laying down a foundation for a possible lifetime of competing with men on the terms dictated by a society that drives girls to toughen up and harden their bodies in exactly the same way as boys are exhorted to do – to the absolute detriment of their own emerging femininity.

In 2016 more than 76,000 Queensland women and girls participated in AFL, an increase of 30% and a 140% increase over the last three years (1). Skills training begins at age 5 and modified mixed gender games at age 8. With the establishing of the first eight elite women’s national teams this year, very young girls now have something to aspire to.

“The establishment of a national women’s league will provide a platform to inspire young girls to reach for the stars and provide another avenue for Australian Rules fans to enjoy. Our game will never be the same.” (Mike Fitzpatrick, AFL commission chairman (2))

The ABC News recently ran a news item reporting how the Women’s National Rugby League (WNRL) is to offer female career pathways through to elite player status starting from the age of 6. In 2016 in Australia, 482,000 women and girls participated in Rugby League, an increase of 27% in one year alone. With a national competition planned, the WNRL is the largest growing area in NRL.

For devotees of sport, these figures are to be feted and celebrated, the signs of things to come where men and women have equal status in the sporting arenas and in sporting status and adulation.

For those who prefer to express the precious and delicate nature of a woman and hence, that of girls, this is a sorry indictment of the lack of value we as a society place on femaleness, if not on the complete undermining of all qualities associated with the expression of true womanliness.

Inherent within the girl is the woman that is to be with all of her tenderness, stillness, sacredness and joy. Rather than allowing these qualities to unfold from within as each female child is nurtured and confirmed by the adults in her life to be who she naturally is, we seem to be currently intent upon bludgeoning such qualities out of existence.

Contact sports like AFL and WNRL are the latest, and I feel, most intense, in a long line of extremely harsh and gruelling exercise regimens which serve to harden, masculinise and toughen up girls so that they can claim to have won some type of illusory, physical gender equity with boys and ultimately, with men. The added feature of the physical contact, which is a part of such sports, where hurling one’s body around and banging into the opposition is all part of the game of securing the goal or try for one’s own team whilst inhibiting the same efforts on the part of the competing team, is particularly aggressive and suppressive of the true and delicate nature of a girl.

This applies also to boys and to men so is it the case that, having successfully imposed such false and erroneous rigours upon one gender, we are now further compounding this gargantuan error by imposing the same on girls and then covering this collective madness under the insidiously deceptive ideal of ‘gender equity’?

So… we are effectively free to abuse our bodies in the same way as the men do? Is that what we are saying?

Would the women of ancient Rome have seen it as a step towards their equality had they been invited to enter the gladiator’s forum as ‘equal’ combatants with the male gladiators, or perhaps to be equally thrown to the lions, I wonder?

For every girl the time of puberty is a time to connect with the cycles and joyful responsibility of what it is to live the grace and beauty of a woman (4). How is this possible if our girls have already become desensitised, bludgeoned and numbed within their own bodies due to engaging in certain types of physical activity? How can a young woman connect with her tender sensitivity when she has already spent several years disconnecting from her physicality in order to compete with and mix it with the boys?

Do we really want to raise our girls to become urban ‘GI Janes,’ ever ready for any type of combative action, bullet belt draped around their hips replete not with bullets, but with ‘I can do anything’ tampons?

Or do we want to raise our girls to be the sensitive, self-nurturing, gorgeous women they all are on the inside?

If we choose the latter, do we not then need to seriously evaluate what does and does not support such an unfolding, including the type and quality of physical activity and exercise in which they engage throughout their childhood and especially as they enter puberty? Does what we currently offer support our girls to claim their femininity or does it militate against it? Is this not one of those topics that needs a truly open forum discussion so that we can, as a collective, discuss what we truly want for our children as a foundation for the question, where to next?

* Australian Football League – a contact team sport played in Australia, which has aspects of both Rugby and Gaelic Football

By Coleen Hensey

References:

  1. AFL Queensland. (2017). Female – AFL Queensland. [online] Available at: http://www.aflq.com.au/female/ [Accessed 23 Aug. 2017].
  2. AFL.com.au. (2017). Eight teams named for inaugural women’s league – AFL.com.au. [online] Available at: http://www.afl.com.au/news/2016-06-15/eight-teams-named-for-inaugural-womens-league [Accessed 23 Aug. 2017].
  3. ABC News, Queensland, 12.04.2017 – 7pm bulletin
  4. [online] Available at: http://www.esotericwomenshealth.com/girl-to-woman–festival.html [Accessed 23 Aug. 2017].

Related Reading:
Exposing the Brutality of Rugby
Beverley Carter – from Tough to Tender
My True Tenderness and Delicateness – a Fresh Look at True Gender Equality

397 thoughts on “Girls and Contact Sports: What are We not Discussing?

  1. Men are too precious and sensitive to engage in these rough sports, let alone a woman’s body getting thrown in the mix. Having to tape down their breasts to play contact sport is a great indicator of the gender denial factor that women face and also the brutal activity at hand.

  2. Whilst we live in competition we will always be out of harmony regardless of our sex. The way forward is not in trying to be like another but to be true to your expression.

  3. Such hard contact sports affects women, hardening their body to prove she can just be as competitive in any environment. When women become so driven and hardened their bodies, they can later experience issues with periods, endometriosis and infertility.

  4. Great you bring this point up Coleen. As a community we have to support our children to keep the tenderness they natural are. If we look at women now a days we see an increase in breastcancer.
    The hard bobbels in the breasts show us much more then ‘ just in illness’ . Why we have so much hardness in the breasts, does it relate to the hardness we live in with our bodies? How can we take care our young ones get shown a different way that honours their body?
    Serge Benhayon shows us clearly this new way which is basically not known as it is our natural state of being to live in our tenderness.

  5. We live in a world full of confusion and sadly the only thing that will make us stop and consider the rot that we willingly subscribe to is the escalating rates of illness and disease amongst all.

  6. We certainly need to step back and re-evaluate what we are doing to our young girls and young women and ask ourselves why we are doing it. Why do we jump onto this bandwagon and champion tough contact sports for girls (or even boys!) There is an insidious force out there that does to want the true power of a woman to come to the fore so any mad and brutal scheme that comes to mind gets launched and all in the name of equality! It would be enough to make my blood boil if I weren’t taking great care to be the observer and understander of this.

  7. It is when we start to have conversations about this topic from this great blog we can bring more awareness to the real issues at hand. It is when we choose to ignore or collude with what we feel keeps us comfortable on such a topic that we will continue to see the rise of sports and behaviours that are far from a young girl and women’s natural way of expressing.

  8. Last Christmas I was involved in a family game of back yard cricket, and its time for me to bat and my young niece comes into bowl at me and bam, she bowls me out first ball, well I wasn’t expecting that and because in back yard cricket you can’t go out first ball I get another go. So in she comes at me and I manage to hit this one straight at her and she catches it and I’m out. Her skills were exceptional, she was equal if not better than the boys of her age and I somehow felt, well for a start a little embarrassed that I got out without scoring but also a little sad that sport and competing with each others such a revered thing and now the girls are beating boys at their own game.

  9. There are so many ways to override our natural delicateness as women, recently I was talking to someone who was carrying huge bags around in her grandmothers store when she was 7 years old, and the accumulative hardness is very apparent and how it affected her outlook.

  10. Any contact sport is full on and intense for anyone. When you look at a baby there is not an ounce of that quality in them, we are pure, divine and precious beings that have just entered into the world. For it to get to a point where contact sport is considered normal and fun, for people to go and watch and cheer this on is craziness. I’m so pleased I started to see and feel how far away from who I am when I went into this.

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