Tackling inequality in sports:Syrian women In rugby has been submitted by Sarah Abd Elbaki who is a Mass Media and Communication graduate, Head of Women’s Rugby Development in Syria, Assistant Coach for Syria National Men’s team, First Arab Asian Woman Referee.
Tackling inequality in sports: Syrian women In rugby
Sports worldwide are most likely to be male-dominated and gender gaps are significant when we look at the number of women participating in sport – 1.5 million fewer women than men participate in sport at least once a month. And it is not only when It comes to women athletes but women working in sport at every level whether it is on the field or in administration.
It has always been hard for women to have equal rights in sport in comparison to men who are always in the spotlight. Women athletes across the globe have been fighting inequality and sexist ideologies for ages and up until this day.
This also applies to women athletes in Syria who are not only facing inequality in sport but also in the patriarchal society in which they were born and raised, it is one that draws their lives the way it wants, decides what they can and cannot do and determines their worth.
This society assumes that women are too vulnerable and weak for a game which they consider as tough and aggressive. Therefore, Syrian women rugby players face judgmental looks every day for choosing this sport.
While men are supposed to be strong, aggressive, competitive.
Conversely, women are not encouraged to play such sports because these traits are not associated with women. And if a woman decided to participate in a game like rugby, then the society worries that she will “lose her femininity” prioritizing her gender norms over her dreams and ambitions.
This leaves her between either coping with her society or giving up on the sport. And sadly, some choose the latter.
“How are you going to wear a dress with all these bruises on your knees?”, society asks.
People even think that women in rugby won’t find their way to marriage most men wouldn’t accept that their wife plays such a game.
Women rugby athletes are blamed for giving up their femininity while ignorant people are the ones to blame, and surprisingly enough educated people aren’t excluded.
Ghinwa Jarbou, a 22-year-old shared her experience as a rugby athlete in Syria: “It’s impossible for me to wear my glasses in a rugby match so I went to do a laser vision correction. The doctor was in shock when he learned that I play rugby as though it was a sin”
I was able to gather a couple other testimonies from Syrian women rugby players who shared the challenges they face:
Sport is for everyone!
“Before I got into rugby, I used to play karate and was being bullied in school for it and for my large body. My own friends would bully me too and that used to hurt. When I started playing rugby, everyone around me was in shock telling me that it will make me more masculine. I’m always told to go shopping and to take care of my look instead of sports.
I don’t know why there’s inequality in sport. I believe that whatever a man can do, a woman can do it too, if not even better. She just needs to fight for her rights and believe in her power and capability.”
Marah Nasser, 21 years old
It’s my passion
“You are a girl and it is not for you is the first thing you hear from people when they know you are a rugby player. I found myself in rugby. It’s my passion and I am going to give it everything I have. Women can do it, just like men can and we will keep fighting for equality in sport”
Roshana Murad, 26 years old
We all need to share efforts to achieve gender equality. There should be no disparity in life, nor in sports. And it needs to be understood that we shall not be limited or defined by gender roles and social norms.
Rugby does not make women less feminine. It unleashes the power they have inside as they step on the field giving it all they have, screaming as though they are in a battlefield, covering their faces in mud and their bodies in bruises. But their passion covers it all. They have never been more alive.
Our society can also be a battlefield, but they will always go out with pride for they are not only women but also rugby players.