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Monday, 14 December 2015

Is It Sexist: AFL 9s


I've said many times in the past that the current movement for gender equality would be a lot further ahead if we could all come to an agreement on what that actually means. I come across situations all the time that some people say are sexist, others say are natural and others still say are nothing but witch-hunts. I've come across one of these situations in a game called AFL 9s.

AFL 9s is a social version of the game of Aussie Rules Football. It requires 9 people per side, at least three of them need to be girls and the game is non-contact. If the ball touches the ground, it's a turnover and only a designated forward can kick a goal.

The main marketing push that the AFL is going for with this game is that "It's the game for everyone." The underlying message is that women and children can play without worrying about their safety among the big, fit, rough men who also play. The rules are specifically designed to include them,

I joined this game as an umpire so I could keep myself match-fit during the off-season. But it's taken me a very long time to get used to it. For the first few weeks, the game-day manager was approaching me at the end of each half and saying things like "That marking contest in front of the goals between the guy and the girl - I would have called that contact on the guy. He got too close to the girl when he caught that."
"Well there was no actual contact, so I let it go..." I'd reply.
"Yeah, but you've got to let the girl have it. If it was guy-on-guy you'd let it go but with those ones you should give it to the girl."

I'll be umpiring the grand final tomorrow night, and I still haven't gotten the hang of policing a different set of rules for the women as I do for the men. Thankfully, the GDM has given up on telling me to be more lenient on the girls, so it's not really an issue. But what do you think? Is it sexist to wrap the girls up in cotton wool to protect them from the big bad boys? Or should the girls be held to the same standards?

One other thing I haven't mentioned yet - If a girl kicks a goal, it's worth 9 points instead of the usual 6. That means if there's a girl on one team who's athletically gifted, her team suddenly has a pretty decent advantage. Children get the same benefit, but as my competition only has one child (who's only played twice), it's not something I have to worry about.

Is AFL 9s sexist?

15 comments:

  1. Given that sexism is defined as attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of gender roles, it sounds that way to me. And two rules within a single game also sounds silly. And not practical.

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    1. I have to agree with Elephant's Child. Them telling you to call the game differently based on gender, and the extra point advantage is saying that women are inferior and need special rules to give them an advantage. Especially since this is a non-contact sport.

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    2. So what would you say if the rules were evened up and the girls decided they'd lost the will to play? While it is a non-contact sport, the men can and do still find ways to be intimidating. Early on, one girl got a concussion because a man rushed in recklessly and bowled her over.

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    3. My minor quibble. If we are talking about girls - their opponents are boys. Men? Women.
      It sounds as if the man who rushed in recklessly was in the wrong. And it wouldn't matter who his opponent was. If the rules are evened out and women refuse to play then it needs to be promoted to a different group. Think of roller ball - which can get quite rough regardless of which sex is playing.

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    4. Fair enough, great input :) Sorry for the language difference :P

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  2. It's already level with no-touching rules. Sounds a little lop-sided and unfair when you add the extra points or lean in the girl's favor. Judge it how it should be judged, Michael.

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    1. Pretty good, simple advice. That'll come in handy tonight.

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  3. Well we could debate this point in many ways: "If a girl kicks a goal, it's worth 9 points instead of the usual 6." I think the points are good to show girl-power. They also highlight excellence. That's my side.

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    1. Any opinion is welcome :) But is it still girl-power if the girls are given a leg-up?

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  4. As a female, I would be insulted by those rules. Guys are bigger and stronger but the no contact rule should even things out enough for the game to be coed. Sounds like you're making the right call.

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    1. Well we have noticed that since the males are more athletically gifted, they're more inclined to pass the ball among themselves and the girls are just there to fill the required numbers.

      Although that's probably more the players' fault than the game's :P

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  5. "Although that's probably more the players' fault than the game's"

    I think you've hit the nail on the head there Michael. Whether or not different rules/standards "benefit" the women doesn't stop them being sexist - in this case it absolutely is. Putting women in the same category as children is also pretty damn insulting (and infantilisation is a big part of sexistm in general, actually - think of how easily the players were referred to as 'girls and men').

    If the female players aren't as skilled as the males, the game has to be about more than just pure competition. Fun isn't only about winning - it's about teamwork, about play, etc.

    I agree that you should be calling the rules equally for each gender, but that the more skilled players should consider their advantage over others in the game so that everybody can have a good time together.

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    1. Now that a second person has called attention to my choice of language, I'll certainly have to look at it.

      I would say that the main appeal of a social sport is the thrill of competition, so we can't expect more athletically gifted players to just not care about winning or losing.

      Other than that, I agree with you. I just think it's a shame, because if the rules were made completely equal, there just wouldn't be as many girls involved. As it is, they say you need a minimum of three girls to even put forward a team and a girl friend of mine who wanted to play struggled to even achieve that :P

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    2. Maybe there are more factors in how many girls play than just how many points they're given, though? You said yourself one was concussed by extra rough play, and that the skilled players tend to exclude the others for the sake of winning. There's also the assumption that guys = better players and girls = worse players, regardless of actual skill (offering extra points just points out that girls aren't expected to perform any better than a child). Add in that it's a male-dominated sport to begin with (as if sporting itself wasn't male - dominated enough overall) and that women generally ARE physically slower/weaker and therefore aren't able to reach comparable levels of skill...

      Why would girls WANT TO join in? Competition is important but there are other, equally important and rewarding aspects to social sports - the stuff we teach kids, mostly, like the value of teamwork and how to help others improve and shine without stealing the spotlight just because it's the easiest way to win.

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    3. Thanks for your input. The only thing that remains in question is that I'd like to ask the girls who are playing how they feel about it. If they feel those rules allow them to include themselves, then there's probably nothing we can complain about.

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