28 February 2013
The International Quidditch Association (IQA)’s decision to eliminate the single sex institution exemption clause to the gender rule in Handbook 6 should be upheld and the community should be making every effort to preserve quidditch’s coed nature and increase gendered diversity in the sport.
It goes without saying that quidditch is one of the most unique sports in existence today. Originally invented in 1997 by author J. K. Rowling for the Harry Potter series, Quidditch was once simply the mythical fantasy sport played with flying brooms and magical balls. It was first adapted for “muggle” (non-magical) play in 2005 and has since grown into the rough and tumble full contact sport played by university, high school, and community teams in over 28 states over 13 differend countries that speaks for itself.
Although the quidditch community at large has since done some evolving away from it’s mythical Harry Potter roots and towards the realm of athleticism and sportsmanship, (such as the depopularization and near complete cessation of cape usage) almost all of the significant aspects of the fictional original game remain in practice today. All players mount brooms while in play, the balls used on the pitch are still known as quaffles and bludgers, and the game is ended when the tricky, often maniacal “snitch” is caught by a seeker.
Despite the vast importance that is finding the perfect balance of athleticism and whimsy, one could argue that one of the most important homages to J.K. Rowling’s quidditch is it’s emphasis on gender equality and diversity. J.K. Rowling’s sport was completely gender blind. The sport was participated in by both witches and wizards, both of equal value and neither more emphasized than the other. In this way Muggle Quidditch is not and should be no different.
Oneof quidditch’s most important defining factors that make it unique is it’s status as one of very few sports in the world that is coed at even it’s highest level. There are no womens and mens leagues in quidditch, there’s only one coed leage, the IQA. The IQA’s official ruling on gender diversity states that
“Each team must have at least two players in play that are of a different gender identity than at least two other players; that is, excluding the seeker, a team may not have 5 or 6 players of the same gender in play. The gender that a player identifies with is considered to be that player’s gender. We as a community are accepting and understanding of those who don’t identify with the binary gender system, acknowledge that this does not imply that our players all identify as “male” or “female,” and would like to welcome people of all identities and genders into our league. Because the seeker may spend the majority of the game off the pitch, seekers do not count toward the number of required gender-specific players. In the event that a team cannot field a full team in terms of gender minimum due to injury or players being sent off, the team may continue to play with fewer players, with the missing player still counting in terms of gender minimum.”
This ruling not only allows females (who-let’s face it, often find themselves at a physical disadvantage to males, especially in the world of sports) ample oppurtunity to prove themselves on the pitch, but offers a diverse athletic environment not commonly found in mainstream sports by forcing integrated play-and a lot of good has come of it. Rather than dismissed or ignored in the game in favor of their brawnier male counterparts, females are integrated into every aspect of the game. They learn what their own strengths are and how to utilize them for the benefit of the team. They’re allowed the oppurtunities to be trained as equals, hold themselves to the same standards, and grow as athletes alongside the males rather than beneath them. Rather than acting as “checks” on their mail counterparts to weigh down the team, they act as teammates. Many of the best beaters, chasers, keepers, and seekers in the IQA have been and are female. The gender rule allowed them to play with as few logistic and social limitations as possible.“Quidditch has a chance to redefine the standard. We can break the mold and facilitate change. (…) it is providing for an interesting dynamic to the game that forces every player to grow as an athlete in ways they never imagined before.” (The Eighth Man)
If the IQA were to allow exemptions to the gender rule in the case of single sex institutions, the very coed nature of quidditch that is so precious to and charactaristic of quidditch would start to crumble. Quidditch is currently the world’s fastest growing sport. Although the only single sex teams presently in existence are all female ,there is no reason to believe that all male teams would never exist in the future, quite possibly even the near future. There is no feasible way that the IQA could justify making an exception to the gender rule for all female institutions without extending the same oppurtunity to all male teams. Many of these all female teams have appealed that their teams should be given exception on the basis that all female teams are less of a threat and could not pose a legitimate threat to other teams or the quidditch community. However, to deem female teams unproblematic or “less of a threat” oversimplifies the differences between a coed team and a single sex team as well as completely disregards the significance of gender diversity to the very foundation of quidditch’s history, values, and execution. While it’s unfortunate that the unique circumstances surrounding Smith quidditch and the other all female teams in existence, it’s imperative that the needs of the quidditch community as a whole cannot yield to the needs of a small group of individuals.
Playing Quidditch and being IQA official are not synonymous, and being an unnoficial quidditch team is hardly the end of the world. Quidditch’s rapid expansion in recent years has resulted in a very large influx of new teams starting up virtualy everywhere. Many of these new teams choose to develop and grow as a team before forking over the $150 per year it takes to be IQA official and making the commitment to attend major and regional tournaments for a chace to win a bid for the IQA World Cup. Many teams never choose to become a part of the IQA, focusing their attention as teams mainly to the local front rather than international for reasons social, economic, and unique to each team.
The state of North Carolina is an excellent example of how quidditch has localized in recent years. Out of it’s 24 active quidditch teams, only 2 are IQA official-University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a well established team that functions as the heart of North Carolina Quidditch, and QC Carolinas, a newly formed mixed team based in Winston Salem and composed of players from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia formed exclusively for the purpose of competing for a World Cup bid. Not only is QC Carolinas the only quidditch team representing North Carolina at the IQA World Cup VI this April, but is the first quidditch team in IQA history to represent the state at the international level. The other teams in the state are hardly missing out. The Carolina Quidditch Conference is an active organization that organizes matches, calculates rankings, holds an annual conference championship tournament (the Greensboro Gauntlet), and even puts on an annual Yule Ball for it’s members every winter. There is virtually no reason why quidditch teams from single sex institutions cannot play quidditch at the local or state level or participate in unofficial matches with teams that are IQA certified.
At it’s very core, quidditch is and should be a sport played by men and women side by side. Quidditch is one sport played by one community, and any attempts to expand by allowing single sex teams would only be detrimental to the very infrastructure of the community as a whole.