Theme Layout

Boxed or Wide or Framed

Theme Translation

Display Featured Slider

Yes

Featured Slider Styles

[Centred][caption2]

Display Grid Slider

No

Grid Slider Styles

[style5]

Display Trending Posts

No

Display Author Bio

No

Display Instagram Footer

yes

Archive

© 2015 mo'adore | Content and design by Morag Lee | Powered by Blogger.

I attended the Netball World Cup, and instead of writing about the matches or players I'm defending it (again) from critics who claim it's too girly and a tool of the patriarchy



If you're a girl who grew up in the UK there's a large chance that you played netball at school.

Some of us, however, didn't stop playing after school.

While I wouldn't consider netball to be a big passion of mine, I have maintained a passing interest. I played it in university, joined a casual league (briefly) in Glasgow, attended the netball matches in Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games, and even travelled to Liverpool for the Netball World Cup earlier this month.

When people found out that I was attending the Netball World Cup they usually responded with surprise. Netball hasn't really lost its schoolgirl image and many members of the public are surprised to realise that there are fully-grown adults who take it that seriously.

Granted, the public profile of Netball is on the rise. As the conversation around women's sport becomes louder, the Netball World Cup in Liverpool had mainstream coverage on BBC News (aided by having it on English turf). The same can be said about the recent Women's Football World Cup. I don't follow football but I was still very aware of the competition for the first time in my life.

So it will come as little surprise that the organisers of the Netball World Cup were using this as an opportunity to promote female participation in sport.

On the surface of it, Netball appears to be a feminist dream. A sport where women dominate? That managed to obtain mainstream coverage? That girls play in school and create friendships through?

However, feminist circles can't agree on whether Netball is feminist or not. A quick Google and you will find feminist academics and journalists arguing that netball actually holds girls back and that it's too dainty.

I'm not going to explicitly share my opinion until the conclusion. Though it's probably obvious that as a fan of netball I'm on the pro-netball side, however, I am instead going to spend the next few minutes 1) discussing where the idea that netball is harmful to women has come from and 2) rip those reasons to shreds.

The main problem that feminist writers and scholars have with netball is its patriarchal roots. And this is the only reason that, yeah, you have a point. Netball was founded in Victorian England as a watered-down version of basketball that would allow women to engage in physical activity without getting into too much of a sweat. It was very ladylike and was even played in long pleated skirts.

So, yes. Sexist bullshit indeed.

But here's why I defend it.

The netball that was founded in Victorian England is not the same netball you now see at elite levels. Victorian netball was never designed to be an elite sport that people played professionally. The first Netball World Cup was held in 1960, making it younger than both my parents! And I can assure you that the netball played at the highest levels (by athletes with muscular bodies) can not be played in pleated skirts. You'd trip up!

Over the years, women have taken this dainty sport (and it was dainty back in the day) and upped the pace and physical prowess required for the game. And that's fucking powerful. There's a lot of debate around reclaiming things that were once used to hurt oppressed groups, and I stand firmly in the camp that oppressed groups should reclaim things. I use the word slut and queer so that they can't be used against me, and will one day reemerge as bog-standard words that are never used as slurs. The same can be said for women running beauty YouTube channels where they make crazy-money out of this feminine hobby that many deem as fluffy or a waste of their time.

And netball, to me, is another example of an oppressed group reclaiming something. You're going to not allow us a place on the elite-level sports because we're dainty women who can't handle it? Fine. We'll take your Netball and we'll turn it into an elite level sport that requires athleticism of the highest level. Oh, and we'll have a World Cup. Watch us.

The other argument that seems to crop up a lot is that netball is a restrictive game and represents how restricted women are in society. Deep. For those of you who aren't aware of the rules of netball: there are seven players who have positions and those positions have specific roles and each position can only be in certain parts of the court.

Bear with me a second, as I'm going to come back to that after this next argument and that I'll look at them together.

The other argument that gets flung around a lot is that netball is a non-contact sport. You can't tackle someone in netball like you can in football or rugby. This apparently is representative of women not being allowed to show any sign of aggression, whether that's while playing a sport or just generally living their life. Women should be well-mannered and agreeable at all times. Also deep, I know.

When I read these arguments I feel as though the writers live in a parallel universe where women only play netball and men only play rugby (and where only two genders exist). Because of this, I've decided to compile a list of other sports that are played at an elite level, are tackle-free and/or have a lot of rules. You're welcome.
  • golf
  • bowls
  • cricket
  • swimming
  • tennis
  • volleyball
  • badminton
  • snooker
  • darts
  • archery
  • curling
  • sailing
If you're complaining about netball not being aggressive enough, I hope that you're reminding any male relatives who play golf of the same thing every time they tee off.  If you don't like netball because it's non-contact but you will happily cheer on your grandpa at the bowling green then you need to ask yourself: is it really netball that I have a problem with or is it just women, especially feminine women? Because there are plenty of male-orientated sports (which would be most sports, tbh) that are much slower-paced than netball (which isn't even slow-paced, especially at the elite level).

And too schoolgirly? Have you seen schoolboys play football? It's wildly different from the standard you see at the World Cup. 

Instead of looking for reasons for why the world should dislike the same things you dislike how about you just let people like things. I don't like golf. After three summers of working in a golf club, where men who were old enough to my dad (and some of these men probably drank pints in the pub with my actual dad) made comments about my appearance and told me I'd make a good wife because I made them a cup of tea (that did, unfortunately, happen) I really can't stomach the game. But I still have better things to do with my life than foam at the mouth when the Ryder Cup is on. 

Almost everything is problematic when viewed through a social justice lens. This is why I support media literacy where people can simultaneously enjoy things but recognise problematic elements. I'm not into cancelling people unless they are Chris Brown levels of offensive.  

But but but..... girls are forced into playing netball at school while the boys get to play rugby. I can't speak for everyone's school experience but I can speak for my own. When I was in Primary 6 the girls were all sent letters asking if they wanted to stay after school on a Wednesday for netball classes. Very few girls didn't take it, but it wasn't compulsory. Netball was also part of sports day where the different school houses played matches against each other. And the girls could be part of the Sports Day football teams too (though I only remember one girl signing up). But never was it enforced. 

In high school, netball was still present. The actual netball team try-outs were for girls only. But in P.E. Netball was mixed-sex with the boys taking part. It was incredible because the girls were running circles around them as the boys entered sections of the courts their position weren't allowed into. There was no male arrogance in those PE lessons! 

As a side note though, sport isn't a big part of the state education system in Scotland. Most people who grow up sporty in Scotland come from sporty families or have parents who will pay for classes outwith school hours. Sports inequality is a very real thing in Scotland but it's more than a gender issue.

Finally, a note on feminity: 

THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING A FEMININE-PRESENTING PERSON OR ENJOYING STREOTYPICALLY FEMININE THINGS. If you ever - and I mean ever - shit on something for being feminine I will come after you. To me shitting on something for no other reason than being a stereotypically female hobby, career, or sport is inherently anti-feminist. It's patriarchy convincing you that feminine people and their feminine hobbies deserve less respect. Let people present the gender they feel okay with. Because, as far as I am concerned, people who wear lipstick (and like netball) can sure as hell turn up to the revolution. Feminity is only wrong when it is enforced feminity. Women should be free to be as feminine or as non-feminine as they want. 

But, on the flip side, I find the idea that netball is a feminine sport laughable. I can understand why people say cheerleading and ice-skating are feminine as it is performative and usually involves make-up and thought-out outfit choices. But netball, feminine? It's not a theatre-esque sport. Players don't wear make-up. They sweat buckets. They don't always look particularly pretty while playing.

The only reason Netball is seen as feminine is because only women tend to play it. 

But, male and mixed teams are on the increase. Though it's laughable that men are complaining about gender inequality in Netball when they dominate pretty much every other sport, ever. 

My final opinion? Is netball feminist? No. Is it anti-feminist? Also no. 

Anyone who thinks netball is still the dainty back garden game from the Victorian era or the same game they played at school needs to attend the next Netball World Cup (which will be in Cape Town, swish!). 
QuickEdit
morag | mo adore
0 Comments
Share :

RSSGoogle Friend ConnectBloglovinFeedly

Follow moadore on Snapchat!

Recipes, love letters and general chit chat can be sent to moadore@gmail.com.

Follow @moadore