.......IT HASN'T EVEN BEEN A WEEK YET.
Being able to go to a bar or chill out at home with rugby on the TV screen is an absolute dream come true. It's even better to then go onto social media and see all the various discussions happening about rugby at the same time, people are treating USA rugby like the important sport it is! To top it off, the women's team has ladies that I've had the pleasure to meet and the men's team has some phenomenal stories as well...including NATE EBNAH FROM THE PATS KEHD. FAHKIN' SWEET!!!!
...but as excited and PUMPED my emotions have been with all this rugby hype...
...they have been met by equal amounts of RAGE and despair.
First area of rage: TV broadcasting
A fundraiser we did for the North Shore men's and women's rugby teams was this past weekend we hosted an Olympic Viewing Party. Our sponsorship bar generously let us use their TV's and projector screen to show the women's rugby games the first day they played on Saturday. We were there bright and early ready to rock n' roll since the women's rugby started at 10am...
...only to realize that the TV planned on showing ONE FRIGGIN' WOMEN'S RUGBY GAME. ONE. THAT'S IT. [until the next round at 3pm].
We had to run out to an electronics shop and grab some fancy pants cables to hook up to the projector and get the other games running that were being streamed online. It was annoying, stressful, and frustrating all at the same time..but EVENTUALLY we figured it out and watched some DAMN GOOD RUGBY.
Then come Tuesday, the men's rugby starts. I sighed and went to get my computer set up to watch the rugby games, however when I turned on the TV to the Olympics...to my pleasant surprise a non-USA rugby game was on! And another! And another!!! And then the USA!!!!! I got to watch ALL the rugby right on da TV! What a treat!
Halftime comes on in the men's game, and they bring on a dude that the announcers called a "rugby expert." Then I hear the word "NFL" mentioned with his name, and I think either "oh dammit" or "oh there's more ex-rugby players in the NFL?" The dude says "Yeah I got to play some rugby in London once..."
Did the TV people just think, "Erm well we've got this NFL player that played rugby once so let's throw him on the TV since he actually knows what a rugby ball looks like and call it a day" rather than ACTUALLY looking for a rugby expert???? I totally understand the attempt to compare and contrast rugby to football [something very popular in the US that everyone knows] so people connect with it more and understand it a little better, but COME ON.
Second area of rage: Local newspaper
My boyfriend, who plays for the North Shore Men's team, texted me this morning about how he was interviewed by the local newspaper about rugby. I was SO FREAKIN' EXCITED for him [and I still am, he had some great things to say in the article!], especially when he texted me the link to the article [click here to read it].
I read the article, and I was so excited to see my boyfriend's name and quotes in the article, and I was so excited to see Nate Ebner mentioned, I was so excited to see local rugby and the sport of rugby in general being talked about....but then tears swelled up in my eyes when the US women's rugby team got TWO LOUSY SENTENCES in the beginning of the article and the North Shore Women's Rugby team got ZERO MENTION in the article. The article wrote about the North Shore Men's team and interviewed two players from that team, but the North Shore Women are completely and utterly MIA. There's a lot of different explanations for this. My boyfriend immediately texted me apologizing that North Shore Women's rugby wasn't mentioned in the article when we should've been, but there's a whole lot of reasons for why this could've happened. NONE of them are acceptable reasons, nor are they excuses for leaving out the women's team in the article, however it's a prime example of how left out women's rugby is from discussions about the sport of rugby in general.
I read the article a hundred times more, and the problem with the article wasn't as much it being geared towards men's rugby as it was just completely NOT mentioning women's rugby. It was a general article about rugby, listing the rules and the greatness of the sport and why it's gonna continue to grow in the States. Everything my boyfriend and his teammate said about rugby is just as applicable to women's rugby, however the real problem is...
NOBODY FREAKIN' KNOWS THAT.
Yes, everything the article talked about with the rules and the greatness of the sport is true for women's rugby, but people don't have a friggin' clue. NOT. A. CLUE. They either don't know women's rugby exists or they think the rules are different for women, when they're NOT. NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT. Maybe the reporter didn't even know there was a North Shore Women's Rugby team [even though they wrote an article about me and rugby a year and a half ago that mentioned North Shore Women's Rugby]. But it goes along with the fact that women's sports are just an aftermath thought, forgotten about, "whoopsie we forgot to include the women's team," just plain 'ol considered "less than" men in sports. But rugby sets up the world to think otherwise from how identical the sport is for men and women. There are other sports as well that are equal for men and women, however especially when it comes to a high contact sport like rugby, it really defies people's expectations.
Soooo anyways, I wrote to the newspaper, and this was my response:
My name is Katherine Gorham, I am a captain of the North Shore Women's Rugby team, and just wanted to contact you in response to an article that was published today: http://www.itemlive.com
I, along with all of my teammates, am thrilled to see rugby in the news and in the Olympics. In general, it has been a long struggle to get rugby back on the public's radar in the United States. I'm especially happy for the mention of the local rugby here on the North Shore and for the interviews that occurred with two of the men's players [one of them, Tom Moore, is my significant other!].
However, my thrill and excitement is also met with disappointment as our North Shore Women's team had no mention nor representation in the great article about rugby. I appreciate the beginning of the article giving a slight mention to the US women's team and the women's rugby results in general, however our Division 2 North Shore Women's Rugby team is just as up and running as the North Shore Reds. I am concerned that labeling the North Shore Rugby Club as the North Shore Reds, which is the men's team [the women are the North Shore Monsoons], along with interviewing two men's players, gives the impression that we don't exist and that women's rugby is not considered part of the rugby realm.
Women's rugby meets many of the sexist struggles that occur throughout women's sports, however rugby is one of the most gender neutral sports out there. People have asked me and many of my teammates, "When there's women is it coed tag?...do women REALLY tackle?...it's like flag football right? There's not as much contact in women's rugby right?" Wrong. All wrong. Literally the only difference between men's and women's rugby is the gender that's on the field. It's the same set of laws, same ball, same field, same dimensions, same level of intensity, same level of passion, and same level of contact. We hit just as hard as the men, if not harder.
On the North Shore and in the Boston area, women's rugby in particular is known across the nation as being top notch. Beantown women's rugby and Boston women's rugby have both made national levels of competition multiple years in a row. Our North Shore team is in a different division, however we have still competed with both of those teams in various tournaments and had the privilege of being able to play against such experienced teams. We ourselves have women on our team of all different ages and skill levels. We have women from Division 1 college teams, from elite teams that play internationally, and even women who have just picked up the sport entirely within the past year.
I wish I didn't even have to point out women's rugby being excluded, because whenever the sport of rugby is talked about it should be known that the same things are done by men and women alike. Unfortunately, the United States hasn't reached this level of awareness yet, and women's rugby in general needs more of a push and more recognition since people seem to think that it's somehow "less than" what occurs in men's rugby.We need to get women's rugby on an equal playing level as men's rugby, because they are the exact same sport and phenomena. Many women don't even know that not only is women's a rugby a sport, but they have the potential to be great at it. As far as the sport of rugby has to go to be recognized in the states, women's rugby has to go a step further.
Please let me know if you have any questions or want to know any additional information! I could talk about rugby forever, I even have a blog about it called The Rugby Diaries hahaha.
I'm not even sure if anything is gonna come from that email, but I know I at least needed to say something. Right now, women's rugby needs more of a shout out. Although men's and women's rugby are the same exact sport, the women have an entire other hurdle to jump over. When discussing rugby, we need to make more of a conscious effort to say "the sport of rugby, for men and women, is..." just to ingrain it into people's heads. It's not fun and it sucks, but that's just the way the world is right now. We need to set the bar straight. Hopefully there will be a day where we can go back to just saying "the sport of rugby is...." and people automatically knowing it's referencing men and women alike. Until then, we need to make an extra step to include the women and show that they are hitting just as hard and working just as hard as the men in rugby do.