The complexities of gender in sports
EVER WONDER WHY the University of Ottawa has so many competitive clubs and not enough varsity teams? Yes, we have football, basketball, hockey, and soccer. But if you’ve ever checked out Geegees.ca, you would notice there are quite a few varsity sports with only women’s teams competing—soccer, rugby, and volleyball.
It has recently been brought to my attention that the reason for this is gender equality. Basically, the U of O has to ensure we have the same number of varsity male athletes as varsity female athletes. Seems fair enough, right? But I always assumed it went by team—we have a men’s basketball team so we have to have a woman’s basketball team. Before I became sports editor, I just assumed that there wasn’t an interest in the sports that didn’t have two teams.
That is not the case. The rule is meant to ensure we have an equal number of athletes, regardless of the team. So, let’s take the football team. There are at least 60 male athletes. So having a women’s soccer, rugby, and volleyball team compensates for the athletes needed to play a football game.
You are probably wondering why I’m mentioning this. Well, I was watching the men’s soccer competitive club last week, and I left wondering why they couldn’t compete at the varsity level. The talent was there, so what classified them as a competitive club? Although it partly has to do with funds, the other reason is if Sports Services were to accept a men’s soccer varsity team, then they would have to find another women’s team to balance it out.
I think this is a little strange. I am all for gender equality in sports, but I think it should go both ways. Does the fact that we have a football team have to mean there are less opportunities for male soccer, rugby, and volleyball players?
I understand there has to be some qualifications for a team to gain varsity status—Sports Services cannot pay for every great sports team we have at the U of O—but I don’t think the team’s gender should be a consideration. As a woman, I am happy there is so much being done to protect our right to participate in sports, but I don’t want it to limit the U of O’s athletic scope.
If I could, I’d vote to remove gender as a consideration for varsity sports and focus on interest and talent. If a team is good enough, if they have enough players, if they are able to fundraise, and if they have spent years proving that they can compete with the varsity bigwigs, then by all means, let them compete—don’t make them defend their team on the basis of gender, too.