Am I the only one who doesn’t think this is bullshit?
Well, am I?
After recent events which have led to the suspension of the University of Mary Washington’s Men’s Rugby team, this has been the only thing on my mind as a woman, and as a rugger. The site Campus Reform has written an article covering the series of events:
- Members of the University of Mary Washington’s men’s rugby club team took part in an explicit misogynistic chant last fall at an off-campus, non-team sponsored party.
- The majority of the team was in a different state at a game.
- The players are now required to attend sexual assault training.
In light of the actions of OU’s SAE chapter, many campus organizations and their practices – especially those of UMW’s Mother’s Rugby club – are under heavy scrutiny. While it may be a sensitive time and an unpopular sentiment, I say it’s about damn time we talk about it.
Social media and social gatherings have been filled with dissention in regards to the recent dismissal of UMW’s team. Comments such as “This is bullshit,” and “It’s tradition,” can be seen on social media and heard at team gatherings. I kept my head down, knowing that I come from an unpopular opinion. I’m certainly not the only woman to feel it is time we have this discussion, but am I the only rugger?
I’ve done hills, hit the scrum sled, run sprints, gone through the hell that is the circuit drill. I’ve rucked, tackled, and eaten shit on the pitch. I’ve loaded injured teammates into cars and pickup beds. I’ve scored a try, I’ve shot the boot, and yes, I’ve sang songs – I’ve earned my keep. But all of this doesn’t make my argument more valid, just as a non-rugger’s viewpoint is not invalid or even wrong.
I’ve been to socials with my team and others – we all have. We’ve all had rugby songs passed down to us, and we’ve passed them down to others – that’s how traditions work, that’s how you create a history, a culture, and a community. But to say that singing songs which marginalize whole populations and normalize misogyny is tradition, in my opinion, is bullshit, and it is a practice I want no part of. I’m not coming from a place of righteousness – I’ve sung my fair share of these types of songs, covered in mud and sweat, beer in hand. I’m coming from a place of reason.
Rugby, as a sport and as a culture, tends to be a “good ole boys” type of environment; that’s what happens in a culture-rich, male-dominated field. We see it in the workplace, in clubs, and in sports, especially those with such deep history, it’s far from uncommon. Because it is so prevalent and so strong-rooted, it becomes very easy for us to have a “boys will be boys” mentality when discussing certain phenomena that occur as a result of such a culture – such as rugby songs.
As women and as female rugby players specifically, it can be difficult to sit on the outside looking in. I think that’s part of why we play the sport in the first place; we grow up and quickly become tired of sitting on the sidelines. Who wants to play powderpuff football when you could play rugby – one of the few sports where the rules don’t change between men and women? So we go along with it. We go along with the rules, the culture, and the songs, because it’s tradition.
But it doesn’t have to be.
If we went along with things – with history and social convention – simply because it was a tradition…
We wouldn’t have the right to vote – because it’s tradition. (19th Amendment)
We wouldn’t have the right to choose – because it’s tradition. (Roe v. Wade)
We wouldn’t have the right to play rugby – because it’s tradition. (Title IX)
Claiming something is a tradition is not a small thing. Traditions are windows into a culture, a way to understand things as a culture sees them – as ruggers see them. Standing behind socials, Zulu runs, shooting the boot, and songs as traditions is valid, and how we identify as ruggers. But standing behind chants that blatantly boast misogyny and normalize sexual violence is misguided, and it is not rugby.
To ruggers, female, male, and those who identify otherwise,
Know who you are, what you stand for, and why you stand for it. Some traditions aren’t worth fighting for.