Sexism in sport needs to stop

Why in the twenty-first century is there still a problem with females competing in male dominated sports? This weekend, I and seven other ladies were in a taxi on our way to a rugby match which our driver did not agree with. In fact, he quite openly criticised that we played rugby and could not comprehend why women would want to play a sport that was meant for men. Interestingly, he agreed with the concept of equality, just not with the way we were ‘trying to prove ourselves’.

Women shouldn’t play rugby

Unfortunately, comments like these and stereotypes associated with female rugby players are voiced frequently and it is something I have always struggled to keep quiet about. In fact, the whole conversation gave me a flashback to Andrew Brown’s horrendous blog for The Telegraph during the London 2012 Olympics.

In this blog, he voiced his shock at watching females show ‘animalistic aggression’ towards one another. As a former judoka, I was and still am outraged by Brown’s sexist comments, but could do nothing about them. Now that I was sat in a taxi with a man of the same opinion, I had to take my chance.

More women are playing rugby than ever before. The RFU introduced a new strategy this year which aims to increase the number of women playing regular contact rugby from 10,000 to 25,000. A step towards equality has also been taken in professional rugby, with women now being offered professional contracts in England for the first time.

Despite these progressions though, the question of female capability still remains. Sporting associations need to change the way in which sports are moulded to specific genders. Young girls should not be told they cannot play football with boys anymore simply because they have turned eleven.

Even if they have to be turned away, there should be more options for girls to continue this sport; options which were not available to me when I was that age. There are not enough opportunities for young girls to continue in male dominated sports and that needs to change.

Opinions about women in sport also need to change. When I was selling tickets for the annual Varsity match at University this year, I was told by a student that they were not coming to the game simply because the men were better to watch. The game might be played in a slightly different way, but it is still rugby. We train just as hard as the men and we deserve some recognition. It is these opinions that discourage females from trying to succeed in a new sport.

Women should play against men

The taxi driver told us that if we wanted equality, we should play against men. This is not what equality means. Biologically speaking, men are stronger than females which is why the game can be different when we both play. Equality is the opportunity to play the sport we want against other female competitors without any complaints.

This year, Sport England set up a campaign called This Girl Can developed to inspire women to get exercising. Many females fear judgement about what they look like, how successful they are and even what sport they play but this needs to stop.

I play rugby because I love the game, the adrenaline rush and my team mates. I am not trying to prove a point to anyone, I’m just trying to enjoy myself. If sexist comments are discouraging you from playing sport, I urge you to use them as motivation. If we do this together, we might just eliminate sexism from sport.