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Muggle Quidditch Is Struggling With Gender Equality

You might not expect a real-life game based on a fictional game in a fantasy book series would be dealing with real-life issues such as gender equality, but it is. Muggle Quidditch leagues are, apparently, dealing with a new ruling that states that every team must have a 4:3 ratio of male players to female and vice versa, and some are not dealing with it well. This is a bit surprising for two reasons: 1. Quidditch was always co-ed in the Harry Potter books and movies, placing absolutely no preference on males over females and regularly featuring female team captains and players in all the same positions, making a very clear statement that boys and girls are equally skilled and respected in Quidditch. 2. This game came from a book about a boy wizard.

The IQA (International Quidditch Association), which is real, recently announced that they would delay the implementation of the ruling until after the Quidditch World Cup, which is also real. But once the teams have finished competing for the season, the teams will be restructured to meet the 4:3 requirement, which means that if there are four players of one gender, there must be three of the other, whether the majority is male or female. The current rule mandates a 5:2 ratio, however in one instance, the two women who made one team were relegated to beaters (whose objective is to hit the bludgers away) and are rarely seen on the field. While IQA Commissioner Alex Benepe says that this is not always the case, that some teams have maintained equality between the genders, it is becoming more and more common for Quidditch teams to become more predominantly male and marginalize the female players, and he has decided to take action by increasing the ratio.

However, because of timing and not because of logic, as he put it in a video made last August, the ruling will not be enforced until Fall 2012. He stresses that this is only because of the proximity to this year’s World Cup and the small window of time the teams would have to restructure. There has been some pushback, which can be seen in the comments on the YouTube page as well as the Facebook page, like claims that forced equality is not equality, or that it simply isn’t easy to recruit women who aren’t interested in playing Quidditch. Another comment states that it wouldn’t be fair to recruit based on gender rather than skill. Though one Quidditch player commented that the female players overpower the males. However, Benepe recounted the story of how J.K. Rowling had to use her initials instead of her given name — Joanne — because boys might not buy a book written by a woman, saying that a game that exists because of this woman should take extra steps to ensure that no female player is treated any differently than the males.

While the impression is that this ruling means well, but would only end up excluding skilled male Quidditch players, there are also comments expressing support for the new ratio, one saying that if there was no mandate, many of the teams would be all male.

So, boys and girls are playing a game that was created by a woman, for a book written by a woman, and there is still gender inequality. Come on, Quidditch! Time to transcend real-life issues.

(via Geek Mom)

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  • Pepijn

    I hope the rule is that the ratio is at least 4:3 (or 5:2)!

  • John Wao

    Reality. It’s always more crazy than fantasy.

  • Aurora Celeste

    I think the rule is 4:3 period.  You can’t have an all-female team any more than you can have an all-male.  The 4:3 works both ways.

  • Life Lessons

    HI. Quidditch is a great sport. I have been watching this sport develop from the beginning and one of the great things about it is gender equality. Not to mention racial, no homophobia, etc. The current ration is 5:2. However to make things even more equal they are going to 4:3.

    This sport has always been ahead of its time and has always promoted equality between the sexes. They even celebrate 9 3/4 day to honor Title Nine. This is a great sport, so get out there, play it, watch it, buy the rulebook, and LOVE quidditch!!!!!


  • Anonymous

    Quidditch wasn’t *always* gender-equal in the books… Let us not forget the Holyhead Harpies, who only admit witches to the team.

  • Barbara Thornton

    Whoever presented the argument in the article that ”forced equality is not equality” has no sense of how progress was made in the civil rights movement, do they?

  • Karen Barnett

    There is a raging debate about this on the IQA forum, and many of those most outspoken against the increased gender ratio are females, who would theoretically stand to benefit, myself included.  Female quidditch players want to earn our way onto the field by talent and hard work, not simply because the team is required to fulfill a quota.  Since there are substantially more males interested in playing quidditch, females face much less compettition in trying to earn a spot.  This means that mediocre females will inevitably end up playing while much more qualified males sit out because of their sex, all in the name of reducing sexism.  This is absurd.  While a 4:3 ratio looks better in theory, and certainly seems more politically correct, the fact is, the 5:2 ratio is a much better fit for the current demographic of quidditch players, and, from what I can tell, has recieved very little complaint.  With this ratio, we ensure that talented female players do get the ample playing time they deserve, as does the much larger population of males.

  • Anonymous

    You’re missing the point of the argument, methinks. The civil rights movement, for example, forced the removal of race from the decision making (if an african-american kid qualified for a school, they could go if they wanted to). It forced equality in that sense, in that it removed race from the equation (well, tried to, but you get the point). What is being called for here is essentially affirmative action, which is an entirely different debate. This rule, as I understand it, is non-gender specific (so yay for that), but I can understand the argument. To phrase the argument better for your sake, I believe they’re trying to say “Forced numerical equality is not true gender equality”. 

    I’m more confused why a sport that already HAD a ratio rule would get so much pushback from simply changing the rule. It seems like if they suddenly changed first down to 8 yards in football, and the arguments were  ”There should be no first down at all!”. Where were these arguments before? Is it that much different?

  • Frodo Baggins

    Wha? But 5:2 is less than 4:3. How could it be at least one, or maybe the other?

  • Frodo Baggins

    Yeah, and the school teams tended to be coed, but there weren’t any quotas.

  • Frodo Baggins

    You can’t isolate affirmative action from the civil rights movement. It’s part and parcel of the movement’s goals. The idea is that it counteracts the many already-in-place biases in our society that lead to disenfranchised groups being passed over for straight white able-bodied Christian men, and all the enormous institutions that have kept them down in the past.

    And no, it isn’t true equality. I don’t think any civil rights leaders are claiming that it is. But it is a way to try and balance the odds, so that in the future, true equality might be attainable. You can’t have a race with two runners, one of whom has to wear high heels and ankle chains for the first half, then call it “equal” when that runner finally gets to take off their restraints.

  • Frodo Baggins

    I think the mandates should be related to the number of players who try out for teams, like if you accept 20% of male tryouts, you have to accept at least 20% of female tryouts. Because if 40 guys try out for a team and 10 girls do, it isn’t fair to accept 40% more of the girls then the guys, unless they really were better than the other 16 guys who tried out.

  • Pepijn

    I meant that the rule was 5:2, and is 4:3 now. My point was that the article reads as if the rule is that the ratio must be exactly 4:3. Which would be incredibly sexist, as they would be mandating that there are more boys than girls on the team. So I hope the actual rule is that there are at least three girls for every four boys.

    But I see the article has been reworded so it’s a lot more clear now. Apparently it’s not four boys to three girls, it’s four of one gender to three of the other. In other words, 50/50, which is not as bad as I feared (although it’s still discrimination, and therefore still bad).

  • Frodo Baggins

    How is it still discrimination?

  • Pepijn

    Because you can still be admitted to or rejected from the team based solely on your gender.

  • Anonymous

    I will concede “entirely different debate” may have been a bit much, but I guess I should have said “arguable proposition”. That’s what I meant.

    But:”You can’t isolate affirmative action from the civil rights movement. It’s part and parcel of the movement’s goals.”That is not a fact. That is an opinion. It is 100% possible separate it philosophically from the civil rights movement, and it is not necessarily part and parcel of the movement’s goals. Although I concede that your analogy has a certain aptness, it is still racism. Not every white person gets benefits by their race, just as not every black person is hobbled. To treat them differently based on race is easily arguably against the principles of the civil rights movement in that it is flat out racism. While coming from an understandable and noble place, the affirmative action movement’s biggest problem is that there is no “end goal”. There’s no specific point in mind where the unfair advantages given to one group specifically based on race should end, which to some folks see as a critical failure of the concept. This isn’t really the place to debate it, and the post is a few days old anyway.

  • Anonymous

    The issue is less about equality and more about the fact that many newer teams are having trouble meeting the current requirement, mostly because they can’t get enough females to join the team in the first place. This would not be an issue if the sport and teams were more established, but as it is now many of the smaller, newer teams would be barred from competition simply because they cannot get enough women to join or travel to tournaments.

  • Kévin Thommy

    I’m kind of glad about that rule. So, am I a blockhead or a bona fide sexist ? I don’t think so.
    I’m part of a french team of Quidditch (Nantes) and there actually is equality on the field. We almost always have that 4:3 ratio, even though we tend to get more girls than boys as players (yes ! girls !).

    I think it is all about what the players / the teams want. In France Quidditch is still mostly unheard of (3 teams only !) and I went to try and play that sport because I wasn’t what other sports are, such as soccer : over-selective, full of people that played since they were 6 yo, and above all, a sport were the point isn’t so much to have fun, but TO WIN.

    Quidditch on the other hand is still considered (by french people) as a weird way to have fun for immature outcasts – which allows us to get every kind of people : students, middle-age workers, teachers, skinny ones and fatsoes along with athletic types – and of course both girls and boys.

    So the only worry I have is that Quidditch, becoming more professional, suddenly gears towards competition – and leave me on the bench with a skeptic grin on my face …

    So for me this rule means : we want every one to play and have fun, not only the most athletic ones (guys tend to win on that part). And I think this is just great. Long live Have-Fun-Quidditch.

    (And what is that all about, gender equality issues in Quidditch ? They made those rules so that it would be possible … the remaining problem is with teams themselves ! You can’t blame Quiddich about an all-male team if they specify that you SHOUDN’T in the rules …)

  • Anonymous

    There are a lot of teams in the Western U.S. that are having trouble because of this rule. When it goes into effect, many of them will end up being barred from official tournaments like the World Cup, where you can’t just exchange players. Sorry, but the IQA has a habit of doing things that hurt the game.

    I understand the desire for a “Have-Fun” style of Quidditch, but that’s why there are multiple divisions (or, at least that’s why there are supposed to be multiple divisions). Some of us want to be competitive, and treat this like a real sport. Honestly, the gender rule doesn’t hurt my school’s team; we tend to have more female than male players as well, and as such we already play essentially a 4:3 game. What concerns me about this is the IQA’s total refusal to consider the needs and limitations of the other teams that haven’t been able to attract the number of people they’d need from each gender.

  • Eric Sawyer

    Awww, isn’t sweet you all have little equality arguments… Whilst here in England we’re getting ready to WIN! ;D

    Haha, Happy New Year!