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  1. Auguste
    Auguste October 22, 2011 at 12:23 am |

    The thing I always want to say when I read an article about Quidditch is…

    …BUT THEY CAN’T FLY.

    I just don’t even.

  2. claire
    claire October 22, 2011 at 1:15 am |

    quidditch as an actual thing I just can’t wrap my brain around people sometimes

  3. Sarah
    Sarah October 22, 2011 at 1:54 am |

    One of my close friends is the captain of our school’s Quidditch team and it is, as far as I can tell, a sport that is both really fun and really difficult. And I like that there are no similar athletic programs to base the rules on.

    That said, the idea of required ratios is a little confusing to me in and of itself. Why not just let everyone play who wants to? I don’t know what the ratio is at my university, but there are some guys and some girls and everyone seems happy. (That said, the argument about how it was in the books may not hold up, given that teams were separated by gender once the students graduated from Hogwarts. There’s a women’s and a men’s league. I know too much about Harry Potter.)

  4. Matt
    Matt October 22, 2011 at 1:55 am |

    As a huge nerd:
    “Guys you can’t fly! Are you on drugs?!!! Why are you playing Quidditch when you can’t fucking fly!”
    There is just no excuse.

  5. matlun
    matlun October 22, 2011 at 2:03 am |

    @Auguste: Correct. We are actually talking about Muggle Quidditch here.

  6. matlun
    matlun October 22, 2011 at 2:06 am |

    @Auguste: Correct. We are actually talking about Muggle Quidditch here.

    I guess this is still a physical game, which will predictably mean that the men are preferred when selecting the team. At least if you take winning seriously which for some reason people seem to be doing…

  7. brinylon
    brinylon October 22, 2011 at 4:03 am |

    I love how the “World” Quidditch Cup only features US teams. Muggles: same old, same old.

  8. Pica Scribit
    Pica Scribit October 22, 2011 at 5:28 am |

    The thing that I’m having trouble with here is that, in my personal experience, the Harry Potter fandom (when we’re talking about fans over the age of 15) is about 75% female. But then a lot of us tend to express our geekery through fanfiction rather than contact sport.

  9. Jamie
    Jamie October 22, 2011 at 6:17 am |

    matlun:
    @Auguste: Correct. We are actually talking about Muggle Quidditch here.

    I guess this is still a physical game, which will predictably mean that the men are preferred when selecting the team. At least if you take winning seriously which for some reason people seem to be doing…

    I have to wonder if there are really enough people wanting to play professional quiddich that there is room for selection bias yet. How many teams have one or two players in minor roles just to make a team to begin with?

    I’m not sure that this is big enough yet to be in a place to be mandating ratios, I guess. At least I find it hard to imagine it is. Maybe muggle quiddich is a huge, huge thing I just haven’t heard of. But…. I’m almost willing to put money on ‘not’.

  10. speedbudget
    speedbudget October 22, 2011 at 7:15 am |

    The required ratios are there because surprisingly, when you have a sport that becomes dominated by men, they tend to not let the women play. For all the reasons in the first paragraph of Caperton’s article.

    matlun, why would men be preferred if you want to win? I was one of two girls on my high school soccer team. I could take players out of the game as often or more than the boys on my team. I could force them off the ball equally well. I don’t understand what your statement means.

  11. petpluto
    petpluto October 22, 2011 at 8:27 am |

    matlun:
    I guess this is still a physical game, which will predictably mean that the men are preferred when selecting the team. At least if you take winning seriously which for some reason people seem to be doing…

    If all team are mandated to be of a 3:4 ratio regardless of whether the men are of the 3 or the women are of the 3, and you taking winning seriously, you’re going to have to find other ways of doing it besides getting men to play your sport. Like, say, getting women to play your sport.

    This is muggle Quidditch, which I just learned is a thing. Chances are, men and women are equally good at it, partially because there are different skill sets built into the game; and because we muggles can’t fly, we get to make up the rules a little bit. I don’t see there being a lot of Quidditch LeBron James’s yet that will dominate and make it a Man’s Sport. Likewise, I don’t see a lot of Diana Taurasi’s yet that will come out and make it a Women’s Sport. Because the amount of people playing muggle Quidditch is probably small. What I’m saying is, there are probably not a lot of muggle Quidditch super stars of either gender.

    So, you have a small subset of people who are new to playing a traditionally mixed-gender sport involving brooms that was created for a children’s/young adult series of books about a boy wizard. And you don’t see how making the mixed gender aspect of the sport less of an attribute would be in all probability in violation of the spirit of the game?

    I love sports. I love watching sports. I love watching women play sports. But what I hate is women’s sports being relegated to “not really sport”; and I hate the idea that in Quidditch, women are being relegated to a position that has less to do when there isn’t magic – and then whining about how the new rules are going to hurt the sport because “women just don’t want to play”. Maybe women just don’t want to play because they don’t get the good positions and have to deal with this crap even when it relates to an entirely new sport that has no “tradition” of, say, dunking.

  12. attackfish
    attackfish October 22, 2011 at 8:42 am |

    Sarah: (That said, the argument about how it was in the books may not hold up, given that teams were separated by gender once the students graduated from Hogwarts. There’s a women’s and a men’s league. I know too much about Harry Potter.)

    Um, no, there’s a famous all woman team, the Hollyhead Harpies, but there is only one mixed gender league.

  13. matlun
    matlun October 22, 2011 at 10:37 am |

    attackfish: matlun, why would men be preferred if you want to win? I was one of two girls on my high school soccer team. I could take players out of the game as often or more than the boys on my team. I could force them off the ball equally well. I don’t understand what your statement means.

    That in general, men are physically stronger than women. In fact, this statistical difference is large enough that if you select only on ability the sex ratio will be very skewed. (It obviously depends on which sport we are talking about).

  14. attackfish
    attackfish October 22, 2011 at 10:45 am |

    Matlun: you were quoting speedbudget @ 8, not me.

    Also, women and men are much closer in average physical ability than you assume. The logic you use is BS.

  15. Brooms
    Brooms October 22, 2011 at 10:46 am |

    The wikipedia article says “All players are required to carry a broom between their legs at all times” but their photo doesn’t show that, which is disappointing because I’m having trouble picturing how you’d run with a broom between your legs. Seems like it would make more sense to play it on some sort of vehicle that moves, like skateboards or something, instead of just carrying around brooms that don’t do anything.

    Mechanics of Quidditch aside, I’ve always been torn on those co-ed rules. They’re common with intramural sports in college. When I was in college, for Ultimate Frisbee the rule was you had to have at least 3 people of each gender (7 people on a team play at once, so you could have 3/4 or 4/3) but once you were on the field everyone was equal, and there were no rules about who could guard who or whatever. It was often difficult to find enough women who wanted to play, and I was always torn on whether it was more or less fair to have those rules. The good effect was that I actually played, because the guys in my dorm needed women on their team, and I got a chance to become more athletic (this was the most casual league). The downside was we often had exactly 3 women and like 10 guys on one team, so playing time was very uneven – the guys would sub and out and the girls would play the whole game. I guess that’s good or bad depending on how tired you get, but it never really seemed “fair”. And it really WAS difficult to find enough women to have a team. (But, its not like there weren’t opportunities for guys to play – I think there was also a “men’s” league you could join, and you could also have women on those teams, there just weren’t any quotas so the women that were on those teams were really really good. Those leagues were generally much more competitive, so I guess the guys I knew just weren’t as good and wanted to play in the coed league for that reason?)

    I also played intramural basketball, and those coed rules bothered me much more. You had to have 2 women and 3 men (or 3 and 2 but that almost never happened) and men were not allowed to guard or block women, and baskets shot by women counted for twice as many points as baskets shot by men. It all just seemed much more patronizing somehow.

  16. Brooms
    Brooms October 22, 2011 at 10:49 am |

    That said, the idea of required ratios is a little confusing to me in and of itself. Why not just let everyone play who wants to?

    I’m not clear on how these teams work. If there are official coaches/captains and formal tryouts, that would probably be fine (if the coaches/captains are fair). But if its more casual where people just form teams with their friends, then the worry is probably that, behind the scenes, people will not be encouraging to women who want to play and they won’t end up playing.

  17. matlun
    matlun October 22, 2011 at 11:03 am |

    attackfish: Matlun: you were quoting speedbudget @ 8, not me

    Sorry. Strange that, since I used the “Quote this comment” link. I wonder how that happened.

    About the strength differences:
    As I said it depends on the sport, but as an example the NHL (unless I am misinformed) does not have any rules against women playing in the teams. Do you think that the lack of women is due only to discrimination?

    In the cases where women are actually able to compete evenly with men I am against the whole idea of sex segregated sports.

  18. kb
    kb October 22, 2011 at 11:43 am |

    Matlun-as to the NHL, it may not have an explicit rule but many leagues you play younger to get to that level do.

  19. some dude
    some dude October 22, 2011 at 11:58 am |

    speedbudget –

    matlun, why would men be preferred if you want to win? I was one of two girls on my high school soccer team. I could take players out of the game as often or more than the boys on my team. I could force them off the ball equally well. I don’t understand what your statement means.

    (sorry, new to the system)

    I hate to sound sexist, but women are able to compete on equal footing with men? That’s news to me. Good news, but news none the less.

  20. some dude
    some dude October 22, 2011 at 11:59 am |

    Inb4 S storm: sorry, I mean in physical sports.

  21. Jamie
    Jamie October 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm |

    After glancing through wikepedia: this…..actually…..kind of looks awesome.

  22. zuzu
    zuzu October 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm |

    There’s also the question of whether girls are discouraged from playing at a young age, so that they never develop the skills necessary to succeed later.

    Moreover, hockey, like many other professional sports (including tennis, even women’s tennis) has evolved so that size and strength are valued over skill and finesse.

  23. saurus
    saurus October 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm |

    matlun: Sorry. Strange that, since I used the “Quote this comment” link. I wonder how that happened.

    About the strength differences:
    As I said it depends on the sport, but as an example the NHL (unless I am misinformed) does not have any rules against women playing in the teams. Do you think that the lack of women is due only to discrimination?

    In the cases where women are actually able to compete evenly with men I am against the whole idea of sex segregated sports.

    I would argue that hockey is not a gender neutral sport; it is designed and evolved so that cis male bodies are statistically more likely to win than cis female bodies. It is possible to design a sport that is more unisex-friendly, but even when we have the opportunity to do so with a new sport (quidditch), we often don’t because we’re not used to prioritizing that or thinking that way. We think cis men “just happen” to be better at sports, not that sports “just happen” to revolve around cis men.

    Most sports value – and reward – conventionally, stereotypically masculine straits. Brute strength, knocking people over, etc. Hockey and American football being the best examples. It’s no coincidence that sports that don’t encompass those traits – tennis, European soccer, figure skating, etc – are more likely to be associated with being “gay” (in addition to less serious, less important) by mainstream America.

    Of course, strength is an important element in most sports, and that’s one area where testosterone helps a great deal. But does it have to be? I mean, does it have to be a key quality for every player on the team? Currently, maybe so. But if we made our own sport, is that one thing we could do away with?

    What would it look like if we had a fascinating, competitive sport that was designed for all gender expressions and bodies – including disabled people, fat people, people like me who are awkward but can think strategically etc?

    I think some people would throw up their hands and say, “but there’s nothing all these people can excel at equally” – but if each team has different roles, and those different roles come with very different skillsets, then we could really invent something cool. Something that’s based on not gathering X amount of people who are really good at one specific standard, but rather gathering diverse people to meet diverse standards.

    I do think it’s possible to craft a radical sport based on radical understandings of athleticism and radical appreciation for our bodies that is still visceral and engaging.

  24. saurus
    saurus October 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm |

    Correction – I called it “European soccer”, which is both redundant and makes no sense. I don’t even want to call it “European football” because it certainly isn’t exclusive to Europe. I should have just said football.

  25. zuzu
    zuzu October 22, 2011 at 12:30 pm |

    Some people would call it “proper football.”

  26. Li
    Li October 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm |

    saurus: I would argue that hockey is not a gender neutral sport; it is designed and evolved so that cis male bodies are statistically more likely to win than cis female bodies. It is possible to design a sport that is more unisex-friendly, but even when we have the opportunity to do so with a new sport (quidditch), we often don’t because we’re not used to prioritizing that or thinking that way. We think cis men “just happen” to be better at sports, not that sports “just happen” to revolve around cis men.

    Most sports value – and reward – conventionally, stereotypically masculine straits. Brute strength, knocking people over, etc. Hockey and American football being the best examples. It’s no coincidence that sports that don’t encompass those traits – tennis, European soccer, figure skating, etc – are more likely to be associated with being “gay” (in addition to less serious, less important) by mainstream America.

    Of course, strength is an important element in most sports, and that’s one area where testosterone helps a great deal. But does it have to be? I mean, does it have to be a key quality for every player on the team? Currently, maybe so. But if we made our own sport, is that one thing we could do away with?

    What would it look like if we had a fascinating, competitive sport that was designed for all gender expressions and bodies – including disabled people, fat people, people like me who are awkward but can think strategically etc?

    I think some people would throw up their hands and say, “but there’s nothing all these people can excel at equally” – but if each team has different roles, and those different roles come with very different skillsets, then we could really invent something cool. Something that’s based on not gathering X amount of people who are really good at one specific standard, but rather gathering diverse people to meet diverse standards.

    I do think it’s possible to craft a radical sport based on radical understandings of athleticism and radical appreciation for our bodies that is still visceral and engaging.

    This comment. Yes please.

  27. Matt
    Matt October 22, 2011 at 12:39 pm |

    There are already sports that are team or individual that men and women are equally good at. They are called e-sports. Problem solved. They actually do require physical conditioning to some degree, and certainly intense focus. And they even produce releases of adrenaline sometimes. I guess they are not necessarily as focused on physical strength or speed, but they certainly require focus, hand eye coordination, strategic thinking and efficient team play.

  28. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm |

    saurus:
    Correction – I called it “European soccer”, which is both redundant and makes no sense. I don’t even want to call it “European football” because it certainly isn’t exclusive to Europe. I should have just said football.

    Or ‘association football’, which soccer is a shortened version of. Soccer was a perfectly common British term (not American, as many think, pre-1970’s used to distinguish association football and rugby football. Somehow during the 70’s it just transformed into ‘rugby’ and ‘football.’

  29. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl October 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm |

    Matlun: most *men* can’t compete in the NHL, so I’m not really sure what your point is.

    …and if strength was all that mattered in men’s sports, quarterbacks would be screwed as fuck, no? I mean, they’re not really *valued* for their strength, are they?

    And then there’s that whole damn weight category in boxing and MMA. If strength is all that matters to men and men’s sports, why have weight divisions? I would love to see 220 lbs up against 145! What a *crush* that would be. Booyah.

    Oh, wait. Men build systems into their sports (even their professional sports) to account for varying physical differences in height, weight, strength, etc. It seems that men, when playing with men, have a sense that the most egalitarian thing that they can do for other men, so that all men might get a chance to play, is to develop categories of competition!

    Go.fucking.figure.

    But women. We jus’ weak and sad. Must stay home an knit.

  30. Anne
    Anne October 22, 2011 at 1:25 pm |

    attackfish:
    Matlun: you were quoting speedbudget @ 8, not me.

    Also, women and men are much closer in average physical ability than you assume.The logic you use is BS.

    I agree. I apologize in advance to anyone reading my comment. My writing sucks.

    I’ll never forget turning on the tv to find a college hockey game on one day while I was trying to distract myself from cleaning. I had the sound off for some reason for about half the game. When I turned the sound on, I was SHOCKED to find out I was watching a college women’s game. Guess what, when you’re not watching with biases in your mind you can’t tell the difference!

    When people know they’re watching women suddenly the players aren’t good or skillful and the game is “slower.” They’re full of shit.

    There was another incident I can remember that happened a few years ago when I used to run on a track at an elementary school. I was on that track every day and since it gets boring running in circles, I’d watch the kid’s soccer practices. Once I heard a mother say “The girls aren’t as good as the boys.” I about died! Because I was watching everyday I was able to notice things the parents and coaches didn’t:
    1) When the kids skirmished or had games both boys and girls played exactly alike. They grouped around the ball. Their young abilities were exactly the same.
    2) The practices were handled in very different ways. I actually stopped running and stood staring the first time I noticed. The coaches for the boys teams constantly engaged them. The boys rarely had any down time or were hardly left unattended. If in the rare instances the boys had time to get bored and screw around, the coaches got on their cases and got them moving again.

    The coaches on the girls team would ignore them sometimes. I’d see the coaches talking to each other about something while the girls just stood there getting bored or they’d work work with a few of the girls at a time. They allowed the girls to get bored so I’d see girls sitting the grass, picking through it or talking or screwing around. Who wants to go to soccer practice or play when that’s what you get?

    I realized how that starts a cycle. The cycle ensures the girls get screwed.

  31. matlun
    matlun October 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm |

    Q Grrl: And then there’s that whole damn weight category in boxing and MMA. If strength is all that matters to men and men’s sports, why have weight divisions?

    I think this is a good analogy. We have weight divisions since strength matters quite a lot to the outcome in these sports. So we have weight categories for the same reason we have sex segregation.

    The fact of the matter is that in most physical sports putting women and men in direct competition would simply not be a fair fight. In other sports coed competitions can work. In the cases where we can not have a single coed category it is necessary to have women only categories to give interested women a space to compete in. At least for individual competitions (where a mixed team is not an option) I do not see what the alternative would be.

  32. matlun
    matlun October 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm |

    saurus: Most sports value – and reward – conventionally, stereotypically masculine straits. Brute strength, knocking people over, etc. Hockey and American football being the best examples. It’s no coincidence that sports that don’t encompass those traits – tennis, European soccer, figure skating, etc – are more likely to be associated with being “gay” (in addition to less serious, less important) by mainstream America.

    I am not sure what kind of physical sport you are visualizing where the sex differences in power would not have a big effect. Looking at your examples, men are clearly superior in tennis and soccer. I do not know much about figure skating but quad jumps for example are done by very few women.

    Physically, men and women are different. I do not understand why this seems to be controversial on this thread.

  33. jennygadget
    jennygadget October 22, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    speedbudget

    yes, to everything you said.

    Back when I played rec soccer in junior high/high school, the same scenario would play out every year:

    We would end up having practice at the same time and place as a boys team the same age. Someone would suggest we scrimmage. The players were all for it. The coaches (all men) would be worried we, the girls, would get hurt. We would keep bugging them until finally, they said yes. We would play a few games. The normal stuff that happens in soccer games would happen. At some point, it would happen to one of the female players. The coaches would panic and put an end to the scrimmages. The boys were sad but understanding. We were pissed as hell. I’m still not quite sure why we did not revolt.

    Even girls that are told they have to play (as I was – not soccer in particular, or even a sport, but some kind of physical activity) are so often told they can only play certain ways.

  34. petpluto
    petpluto October 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm |

    matlun: I am not sure what kind of physical sport you are visualizing where the sex differences in power would not have a big effect. Looking at your examples, men are clearly superior in tennis and soccer. I do not know much about figure skating but quad jumps for example are done by very few women.

    Physically, men and women are different. I do not understand why this seems to be controversial on this thread.

    I think part of the reason is that we’re not talking professional sports here. Co-ed teams that are just for regular joes are different than teams of professional athletes who have been cherry picked for the skills that have been promoted as being most wanted in the sport.

    Also, the history of sports matter. If you watch old men’s basketball games, the parts of the game that are most important then are different than the parts of the game that are most important now. The game was slower. The players were picked to emphasize different skills.

    So while men and women are different, there is something to what saurus says: when you’re developing a sport that has heretofore only been played by magical beings in a system very different than the environment we can create in our non-magical ‘verse, why do we have to focus on stereotypically masculine strengths? Why can we not develop a game that does value and recognize a variety of skills, and therefore attracts a variety of different players?

    After all, Harry Potter would be a terrible Beater, because he doesn’t have the physical size and skill; but he is an awesome Seeker. Quidditch is built to emphasize the necessity of different strengths and skills already. Taking the position that men do it better seems to directly contradict the nature of this particular sport especially.

  35. saurus
    saurus October 22, 2011 at 4:47 pm |

    My point is not that cis women are better at tennis and soccer (really, did you read the rest of my comment?!).

    I’m saying: it’s not that cis men are inherently better at sports because of their bodies; it’s that men are inherently better at sports designed for their bodies. I think we tend to look at sports as some kind of gender-neutral thing that men are “naturally” better at because they have more strength overall, instead of looking at sports as socially constructed for and by men based on conventionally masculine values.

    The physical sport I am “visualizing where sex differences in power would not have a big effect” does not, as far as I know, exist yet – because creating sports that do not require a particular body type in order to excel in has never been a dominant social priority.

    Let’s say we had a team sport in which only one player has an advantage if they are physically very strong. The other players can be physically strong, but it won’t improve their performance in the game. Another player needs to be very fast, but doesn’t have to be strong. Another player has to be very flexible. Another player must have a large physical volume and excellent aim. Another player must have very good reflexes. Another must be able to navigate the course without vision. And so on.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not that “men are good at sports”, it’s that sports are good at men.

    Also, I don’t think men are better at soccer. I prefer to watch women’s soccer because I find it more interesting to watch and I prefer the gameplay. “Faster” or “stronger” doesn’t necessarily equal better. Sometimes when you get a different group of people to play a game, it’s “worse” in some ways but better in others.

    It’s like saying regular basketball is “better” than wheelchair basketball. Both games have excellent athletes, and you’ve got to be kidding me if you think wheelchair basketball players are “worse” just because they couldn’t easily complete in a non-wheelchair game.

    These standards of what counts as “better” or “worse” remind me of singing. Shows like American Idol search for and reward what I’d call “athletic” singing – a lot of value goes on hitting high notes, doing vocal runs, and having a lot of volume. But are these singers superior to singers with soft, husky or low voices?

    Who gets to decide who the “better” athlete is, or what makes someone a “better” athlete? Who gets to decide what it means to excel at a sport, what a sport should look like, what the object and rules should be?

    I just don’t think it’s as simple as “men are better than women at sports because they’re physically more likely to be strong, and that’s a fact”.

  36. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date October 22, 2011 at 4:54 pm |

    @Saurus

    I’m saying: it’s not that cis men are inherently better at sports because of their bodies; it’s that men are inherently better at sports designed for their bodies. I think we tend to look at sports as some kind of gender-neutral thing that men are “naturally” better at because they have more strength overall, instead of looking at sports as socially constructed for and by men based on conventionally masculine values.

    This has never occurred to me before. (Probably it should have, but it didn’t.) And now I have something to think about. Thank you!

  37. stonebiscuit
    stonebiscuit October 22, 2011 at 5:40 pm |

    I would like to point out that in the books, there’s only one Quidditch team specifically mentioned as having no women. That team is the Slytherin house team.

  38. Matt
    Matt October 22, 2011 at 5:53 pm |

    There most certainly is a real world sport that is gender neutral. In fact, there are several:
    Skateboarding
    Bike tricking
    Paintball
    Car racing
    Sailing
    Plane Racing if it was more common
    Dog Sledding

    If I wanted to put forth more effort I could probably name 10 more.

    saurus:
    My point is not that cis women are better at tennis and soccer (really, did you read the rest of my comment?!).

    I’m saying: it’s not that cis men are inherently better at sports because of their bodies; it’s that men are inherently better at sports designed for their bodies. I think we tend to look at sports as some kind of gender-neutral thing that men are “naturally” better at because they have more strength overall, instead of looking at sports as socially constructed for and by men based on conventionally masculine values.

    The physical sport I am “visualizing where sex differences in power would not have a big effect” does not, as far as I know, exist yet – because creating sports that do not require a particular body type in order to excel in has never been a dominant social priority.

    Let’s say we had a team sport in which only one player has an advantage if they are physically very strong. The other players can be physically strong, but it won’t improve their performance in the game. Another player needs to be very fast, but doesn’t have to be strong. Another player has to be very flexible. Another player must have a large physical volume and excellent aim. Another player must have very good reflexes. Another must be able to navigate the course without vision. And so on.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not that “men are good at sports”, it’s that sports are good at men.

    Also, I don’t think men are better at soccer. I prefer to watch women’s soccer because I find it more interesting to watch and I prefer the gameplay. “Faster” or “stronger” doesn’t necessarily equal better. Sometimes when you get a different group of people to play a game, it’s “worse” in some ways but better in others.

    It’s like saying regular basketball is “better” than wheelchair basketball. Both games have excellent athletes, and you’ve got to be kidding me if you think wheelchair basketball players are “worse” just because they couldn’t easily complete in a non-wheelchair game.

    These standards of what counts as “better” or “worse” remind me of singing. Shows like American Idol search for and reward what I’d call “athletic” singing – a lot of value goes on hitting high notes, doing vocal runs, and having a lot of volume. But are these singers superior to singers with soft, husky or low voices?

    Who gets to decide who the “better” athlete is, or what makes someone a “better” athlete? Who gets to decide what it means to excel at a sport, what a sport should look like, what the object and rules should be?

    I just don’t think it’s as simple as “men are better than women at sports because they’re physically more likely to be strong, and that’s a fact”.

  39. shfree
    shfree October 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm |

    matlun: I am not sure what kind of physical sport you are visualizing where the sex differences in power would not have a big effect. Looking at your examples, men are clearly superior in tennis and soccer. I do not know much about figure skating but quad jumps for example are done by very few women.

    Physically, men and women are different. I do not understand why this seems to be controversial on this thread.

    And I don’t know what that spinny move is (I should ask the ice skating daughter of a friend of mine) where they hike one leg over their head and hold it there while their spinning, but I don’t see male ice skaters doing that, most likely by and large because they can’t. Does that mean women are better skaters? No. It isn’t all about power.

  40. MJ
    MJ October 23, 2011 at 1:17 am |

    shfree: And I don’t know what that spinny move is (I should ask the ice skating daughter of a friend of mine) where they hike one leg over their head and hold it there while their spinning, but I don’t see male ice skaters doing that, most likely by and large because they can’t.Does that mean women are better skaters?No.It isn’t all about power.

    It’s called a Biellmann spin, and some men are able to do it (ex. Johnny Weir). Irina Slutskaya was able (famously, I think) to do it on both legs; I believe it was her signature move.

    And while men are able to do quad jumps, it’s actually fairly rare for them. Some women have been able to land quads in practice, but Miki Ando is the first and only woman to land one in competition. No woman has ever done it on the Senior level though.

  41. KB
    KB October 23, 2011 at 1:32 am |

    Question : If we were to eradicate the numerous social, economic (lack of funding, gender roles+socialization, prejudices about women’s sport, etc) and psychological barriers (stereotype threat, stigma of muscley women, etc) that cis females have to face in sport, do y’all think we would get better sportswomen and better players’ statistics (strength, speed, etc)?

    (This is definitely not to say that the present players are not good enough)

  42. matlun
    matlun October 23, 2011 at 1:40 am |

    saurus: The physical sport I am “visualizing where sex differences in power would not have a big effect” does not, as far as I know, exist yet – because creating sports that do not require a particular body type in order to excel in has never been a dominant social priority.

    I am a bit skeptical about this. In the physical sports, the issue that strength, speed, and power is an advantage seems to me very natural.

    If you want a working coed sport, you could perhaps invent some equipment based sport. Sailing and equestrian are the current Olympic coed sports, and there are also other sports where at least I do not see any natural reason why women are performing worse (for example shooting, curling, motor sports) even though this seems to be the case today.

  43. speedbudget
    speedbudget October 23, 2011 at 7:58 am |

    matlun et al.,

    Excuse me. Did I not mention that I played on the boys team in high school soccer? I probably forgot to mention I played varsity. I did play varsity. On the boys team. In high school. In soccer. I was one of two girls who did so. There was a third girl, but she was run off the team by the coaches and players being assholes to her. They were to us too, but we just stuck together and said a collective FUCK YOU because we wanted to play that bad. There wasn’t a girls team in our team, even in the rec league. If I hadn’t grown up elsewhere and learned to play and come to this town EXPECTING to play, I wouldn’t have played soccer either.

    Which would then mean that you could sit here sanctimoniously in a thread and talk about how women just don’t play because we are so weak and pink with fingernails and shit.

  44. speedbudget
    speedbudget October 23, 2011 at 7:59 am |

    *There wasn’t a girls team in our town*

  45. petpluto
    petpluto October 23, 2011 at 8:25 am |

    matlun: I am a bit skeptical about this. In the physical sports, the issue that strength, speed, and power is an advantage seems to me very natural.

    Just because it seems natural to you doesn’t mean it IS natural. Sports, after all, are human inventions. It isn’t like the Plutonian form of Sport came from on high and we’ve been cribbing off of that ever since.

  46. matlun
    matlun October 23, 2011 at 9:05 am |

    @petpluto: “Natural” was perhaps a badly chosen word due to the evo psych and biologism associations. I just meant that if we are competing by using the direct effort of our physical bodies, the raw power output of these bodies can reasonably be expected to be important to the outcome.

  47. matlun
    matlun October 23, 2011 at 9:15 am |

    @speedbudget: All my statements of men being better in sports than women are of course statistical generalities in the same way as it would be if I said that men are taller than women. As an example it is a safe bet that you are a better soccer player than me (it is a fairly low bar to pass), but that does not change my point.

    I would like to touch on the problem you and others are referring to with not being accepted due to gender. I do not think there is any reason to have men’s only competitions or teams enforced by rules. The default policy should always be gender equality (ie coed leagues) and only if there are very good reasons should there be any rules (explicit or implicit) whatsoever regarding the gender of the competitors.

  48. matlun
    matlun October 23, 2011 at 9:16 am |

    speedbudget: Which would then mean that you could sit here sanctimoniously in a thread and talk about how women just don’t play because we are so weak and pink with fingernails and shit.

    Ok, so now I am kind of spamming the thread. However I would like to point out that I have never said anything even slightly like this.

  49. petpluto
    petpluto October 23, 2011 at 9:57 am |

    matlun:
    @petpluto: “Natural” was perhaps a badly chosen word due to the evo psych and biologism associations. I just meant that if we are competing by using the direct effort of our physical bodies, the raw power output of these bodies can reasonably be expected to be important to the outcome.

    Ok, but that still doesn’t address the fact that sports were built for men. Like, basketball. The lateral movements of basketball are damaging to women’s knees. Women are more likely to tear their ACLs because of that lateral movement. Men are not very likely to tear the tendons in their knees. And the reason for this is because basketball was developed around the attributes of male bodies, and that includes the movements that are more physically viable for men as opposed to women.

    Women are consistently playing sports that were built with male bodies in mind. This is like women getting medical treatment that were developed with male bodies in mind. It may not work as well. That doesn’t mean that women don’t respond as well to medical treatments. It means that women don’t respond as well to treatments not based on what they need to succeed.

    So if you’re developing a sport from scratch, a sport that is described as co-ed in the fantasy books it is present in, then you have the opportunity to address those issues. You have the opportunity to not put in moves that require lateral movements that are going to rip tendons in your women players. You have the opportunity to base the sport on different attributes and different skill sets.

    And frankly, you have the opportunity to reorient sports. Again, I’m going to go to basketball, because that’s what I know best. Men’s basketball has evolved into a show of athleticism. Before that, it was about the fundamentals; it was about athletically running plays. It was what women’s basketball focuses on now. There’s nothing to say that the women’s game is lesser. It just says that the focus of the men’s game has shifted, and what the primary functions of players are now is different than the primary functions of players in the past.

    Ignoring that and saying that sports is about raw output of power is to ignore the way sports evolve to center more around “raw output of power”. It is to not ask why that happens. And it is accepting of what is currently present without asking how we got here, and why.

  50. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers October 23, 2011 at 10:23 am |

    Any sport where increased physical size and mass worsens your outcome *should*, in theory, have more female superstars than male. I’m thinking of racing — both jockeys and racecar drivers are hurt by their own mass, to the point where people have talked about forcing Danica Patrick to take a handicap (which is bullshit, because no one handicaps the men even though they vary in size.)

    This doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t happen in part because of sexism. (See note about Danica Patrick above.) Even in sports where the smaller you are, the better your performance, women are pushed out. Hell, one would think women would *dominate* horse racing — teen girls are almost universally in love with horses (disclaimer: I hate horses, always have, and was appalled at how every single one of my friends was into horses), a good jockey doesn’t force the horse with physical strength but rather works with the horse to guide it to victory, and the smaller you are, the less weight your horse is carrying — and yet small men dominate the world of jockeying. I’ve heard people spouting bullshit about how horses don’t “respect” women… like horses care about the difference between human sexes.

    Sports such as hockey and soccer *could* in theory be better sports for women than for men, because they rely on a low center of gravity. Hockey, as played, is supremely aggressive, but it doesn’t have to be. I am a 5’0″ woman who grew up hating sports, because I was always the smallest girl in my class and the last picked for teams, but I did *well* with soccer and floor hockey in kids’ gym classes (where they don’t allow the level of aggression you’d get in a professional game) because I am small, so I could get in closer to the ball or the puck than taller kids could.

    Any sport where weight or height counts *against* you, and they exist, should be one where women excel. Any sport where body fat counts for you (any water sport, any winter endurance sport) should be one where women excel. Any sport where endurance counts higher than strength should be one where women excel. Any sport where genuinely cooperative play on a team is necessary for team success, and hotdog behavior will cause the team to fail, should be one where women excel (not because women are “naturally” more cooperative than men but because they’re socialized to be.) And yet, somehow, there are no team sports where women excel, even though women in the real world work very well in teams, and there aren’t a whole lot of winter endurance sports, or water sports that haven’t been modified to be entirely about how fast you can go a short distance (where the game changes so that lung capacity and physical strength become more important than buoyancy, and in fact negative buoyancy becomes common because of the muscle requirements.) And the racing sports where humans ride on a thing that does all the actual work (whether a living thing like a horse, or a machine like a car), which *should* be dominated by women, aren’t. They’re dominated by small men.

  51. matlun
    matlun October 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm |

    @Alana Rogers: At least women are fairly well represented in the equestrian sports and they do compete evenly with men (see for example the 2008 Olympics results).

    And wouldn’t it be fun if women rose to prominence in motor sports? Just to upset all those prejudices and conventions ;-)

    Winter endurance such as long distance skiing or long distance swimming such as the new 10 km swimming Olympic event do not seem good candidates though. The men and women have quite different performance.

    There has been some theorizing that women should be as good as men at extreme distances. It is not clear if this is true, but it is an interesting question.

  52. matlun
    matlun October 23, 2011 at 12:49 pm |

    Clarification: The last paragraph was in reference to running

  53. shfree
    shfree October 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm |

    I think what I find so frustrating, matlun, is that you keep equating strength, size and power as indicators of being a better athlete all around, and those aren’t the only indicators of what makes an athlete. You leave out flexibility and endurance, and how size factors in is strictly dependent on the specific sport. And there is a reason why men’s and women’s gymnastics are so different from each other, it is because they focus on the strengths of each gender. Are male gymnasts better athletes because they likely have greater upper body strength than a female gymnast? Or are female gymnasts better athletes because they likely have more flexibility?

  54. Lemur
    Lemur October 23, 2011 at 3:17 pm |

    Sarah:
    One of my close friends is the captain of our school’s Quidditch team and it is, as far as I can tell, a sport that is both really fun and really difficult. And I like that there are no similar athletic programs to base the rules on.

    That said, the idea of required ratios is a little confusing to me in and of itself. Why not just let everyone play who wants to? I don’t know what the ratio is at my university, but there are some guys and some girls and everyone seems happy. (That said, the argument about how it was in the books may not hold up, given that teams were separated by gender once the students graduated from Hogwarts. There’s a women’s and a men’s league. I know too much about Harry Potter.)

    Actually, Major League Quidditch is still coed. There is only one single gender team, The Holy Head Harpies. (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Holyhead_Harpies). In addition, two of the chasers on the Irish National team in the Quidditch World Cup were women.

  55. matlun
    matlun October 23, 2011 at 3:20 pm |

    @shfree: If by “better” you mean “more successful in competitions”, then this is demonstrably true for most current sports. I do not make any deeper value judgment than that.

  56. ellid
    ellid October 24, 2011 at 6:34 am |

    Uh…regardless of the merits of either side, there’s an error in this article: Quidditch is NOT “always coed in the Harry Potter books and movies.” The Slytherin House quidditch team was all-male. There was also an all-female professional team, the Holyhead Harpies.

  57. IrishUp
    IrishUp October 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm |

    The “natural history” of competitive sports supports the idea that the factors accounting for the largest portion of the (cis) the gender performance variance are not biophysiological, but cultural.

    Case Study: Boston Marathon.
    Bobbi Gibbs, who could ultra-marathon 65mi, is denied entry in 1966 on the grounds that women were physiologically unable to complete a marathon. See, SCIENCE JUST KNEW!! women couldn’t do it. She hides in the bushes, runs anyway AFTER the start, and finished in 3:21:40. The official winner’s time was 2:17:11, 35min off the time. The men’s 2:09:27 time is ALSO a course record, and yet <6min faster than the decade before.
    In 1983, Joan knocks another 12+ minutes off the womens record with a 2:22:43; the men's course record was set the previous year at 2:08:52, 35sec faster than the previous. Incidentally, JB SHATTERED the 5.5min "barrier" that had been scientifically shown at the time to be women's physiological marathoning limit.
    Men had been Marathoning for 70yrs when the first woman ignored the rules and ran it; in that time, the course record goes from just over 2:55 to just over 2:17, ~38 minutes faster. Once women are allowed to compete – which also means being allowed to *train* – they bridge a similar gap (~35min) in 1/10th that time. Right now, 1hr apart.

    My point is that even at the elite end of the spectrum (where the top 1% of the population is) there isn’t the seperation many people think. And there is MUCH more overlap for those of us performing in the middle of the bell curve (playing Muggle Quiddich eg). There are certainly women right now CAPABLE of performing at the male elite level – ie being on a pro team, and being just as good as maybe not the BESTEST guy, but at least as the other Joes taking home league minimum. Men just seldom actually ALLOW women train or play at that level. With fewer cultural barriers, there would be more parity at all ends of the spectrum.

  58. IrishUp
    IrishUp October 25, 2011 at 12:59 pm |

    arrgh!
    I have no idea how that got so scrambled! Because here’s what I wrote (I think)
    ” Bobbi Gibbs, who could ultra-marathon 65mi, is denied entry in 1966 on the grounds that women were physiologically unable to complete a marathon. See, SCIENCE JUST KNEW!! women couldn’t do it. She hides in the bushes, runs anyway AFTER the start, and finished in 3:21:40. The official winner’s time was 2:17:11, 35min off the time. The men’s 2:09:27 time is ALSO a course record, and yet <6min faster than the decade before.
    <6min faster than the decade before. "

    The 1983 paragraph on is sequential.

  59. IrishUp
    IrishUp October 25, 2011 at 1:01 pm |

    Ah! I just realize I inadvertently created HTML, which is irksome because I can seldom do it correctly when that’s my intention.

    Here, is what I mean.

    Bobbi Gibbs, who could ultra-marathon 65mi, is denied entry in 1966 on the grounds that women were physiologically unable to complete a marathon. See, SCIENCE JUST KNEW!! women couldn’t do it. She hides in the bushes, runs anyway AFTER the start, and finished in 3:21:40. The official winner’s time was 2:17:11, less than 40sec off the current course record.
    1972 – the year Title IX takes effect is also the first year women were allowed in. The women’s winning time was 3:10:26, ~55min slower than the men’s winning time of 2:15:39.
    In 1979 Joan Benoit sets the women’s record at 2:35:15, knocking more than 35min off the time. The men’s 2:09:27 time is ALSO a course record, and yet less than 6min faster than the decade before.

    Sorry for the post-fail

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