Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Not exactly a promotion of women's rugby

Some time during the past couple of weeks (even though I wasn't blogging, I have been trying to keep up) I read about the growth of women's rugby in the NYT:
"Women make up the fastest-growing segments of rugby players in the United States," the writer notes.
And most of it is at happening at the college club sport level (though there has been a recorded growth at the youth level as well.
Let me say, for the record, that I think club sports are great. But I am a little disappointed that, eight years after the NCAA put rugby on its list of emerging sports, only one university (Eastern Illinois) started a varsity program. Again, there are hundreds of club teams with various levels of institutional support. With the addition of rugby (7s) to the summer Olympic Games roster, we may see changes within the collegiate sports structure. But I wonder about the cultural legitimacy of the sport in this country, and specifically how this will affect female rugby players.
What I don't have to wonder about is the relationship between gender and rugby in, say, Ireland thanks to my favorite rugby coach who re-posted this about a potato chip ad.
Because here we have women, in pseudo-rugby gear showing off their shiny decolletage all so Hunky Dorys potato chips can sell some snack food and use some of the money to sponsor the men's national team. I am not even going to ask whether it is better or worse that the women in the ads are not--we assume--actual rugby players.
There is just nothing subtle about this, which is good in some ways for cultural critics like myself. This is no Lindsey Vonn SI cover where some might argue there was no sexualization of the athlete. But then, these women are only playing at being athletes, right? That makes the whole shebang a lot safer. These women are not trying to break into the historically male-dominated European sport. They are just trying to sell potato chips.
Regardless, not a huge help to actual female rugby players. None of the rugby players (current and former) in my life look like this, and I have say I am glad for it!

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