Roses: is gendering unavoidable?

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Does the lack of gender neutral pronouns in the Roses advertisements backtrack Lancaster in its journey towards total acceptance of gender equality? Well, maybe it does. Maybe it’s inevitable – how can something as gendered as sport avoid the ‘boy’/‘girl’ division?

Sport can be split into two categories: competitive and casual. When you’re competing, it’s about the win, it’s about your own personal effort and comparing it to your past results or your competitors’. Competing is about putting everything into your sport and feeling amazing when you get a result, or sad when you don’t – it’s about that breath of fresh air you take right before you start and the one you release at the end when it’s over. Then you have casual: it’s about the training, it’s about personal growth and meeting milestones set for yourself. Casual sport is for fun, it’s done with friends as well as by yourself or part of a team – and it’s done when you feel like it, for the most part.

One thing is for sure: when you compete, you compete against your own gender. Female runners will run against female runners, male rugby players will play male rugby players. Is this about not accepting the wide spectrum of genders our student population embody? No. Is it about making a statement of keeping the way sports are played traditional? No. It’s about fairness in a whole different way. There are reasons male and female sportsmen/women play their own genders, and that reason is to do with anatomy and physical boundaries.

Women and men are different – a statement that I never thought, prior to this day and age, that I would start to feel worried about saying – it’s true. Anatomically, we’re not the same, and I don’t just mean in the obvious physical differences. In our builds, in our abilities to maintain different sporting abilities – we are different. If Lancaster’s top male runner was to race Lancaster’s top female runner, the male runner would win. Similarly, the other sports teams would not be matched. It’s not a case of fairness, or the chance to be able to mingle sports based on our ability in order to showcase how advanced we are as a university. In order to keep Roses a fair sporting competition – and that’s what it is: a competition, something that inherently hinges on fairness – we must do all we can to keep the circumstances fair for the players.

Then, we have the superhero thing. This year, Lancaster have advertised in tandem with the idea that our sportsmen/women are superheroes. Well, superheroes also problematize the whole ‘gender debate’: what do Superman, Ant-Man, Superwoman and the She-Hulk have in common? Yep, that’s right. They’re gendered. How can the university commit to gender-neutral varsity when the basis for their advertising is gendered in such a way superheroes are? If you ask a person to name a superhero, chances are they’ll say, “Batman” or “Superman”. Note the “man”. This isn’t them being gender-ignorant in any way. This is them naming something that to our society is normal – it’s something we’ve grown up with, it’s the films we watch and the books we read. And no, I’m not saying it’s not wrong. I would love to see Marvel bring out a superhero film with a gender-neutral hero… or three. And it might happen – we live in a progressive world with growing acceptance and promotion of gender equality.

I don’t believe in gender segregation, let me make that clear. In varsity, however, it is unavoidable. If it weren’t for fairness due to body types – I think science wins this time, sorry – I would be all for a gender-neutral Roses. As it is, sporting events hinge of fairness – which relies on the line being drawn in this way. Superheroes? Perhaps a better theme could have been thought of, a theme encompassing a range of genders besides female and male. As it is, the Roses Colour Dash? That’s not gendered – any gender can sign up and run it, which is the right step forward. A casual sport, a fun sport, an inclusive sport for anyone to get involved in, without the constraints of gender.

For more details on the Colour Dash, visit http://www.roseslive.co.uk/community.

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