With excitement building for the final Harry Potter movie, we’re hosting a week of posts about the series on the Ms. Blog. Today we’ve got a report on gender equity at the heart of the hardest-core Harry Potter fanbase: the people who actually play Quidditch.
For the uninitiated, “Muggle” Quidditch is a land-based version of the series’ imaginary airborne sport. Think of it as a cross between dodgeball, basketball, rugby and capture the flag, except all the players run with brooms between their legs. Since the first intramural league game in 2005, it has gained a serious following, with over 400 college teams in the International Quidditch Association (IQA) from 13 countries and 45 U.S. states. It’s a game serious enough that players do sometimes get injured in play, and silly enough that if dementors attack the field during a World Cup match, everyone has a laugh and gameplay goes on relatively unimpeded.
One of the most interesting aspects of Quidditch, however, is that Muggle Quidditch is co-ed, just as in the books. (Fans may remember that both Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley have game-winning Snitch catches, though the latter was omitted from the movie.)
In fact, the IQA official rulebook [PDF] mandates that “each team must have at least two players of a different gender from the other players”. This is part of what the IQA calls Title 9 3/4, which puts a Harry Potter twist on U.S.-gender-equity-in-education statute Title IX. IQA’s official page regarding Title 9 3/4 reads:
We believe that if men and women learn to compete equally, then they will learn to respect and value each other’s abilities regardless of gender. It is well researched that sports participation improves the lives of women and levels the “playing field” not only in sports but in every aspect of society; with Quidditch we would like to take those benefits a step further by promoting a sport that is truly co-ed, rather than evenly segregated (as it currently exists under Title IX).
With the increasing popularity of Muggle Quidditch, the IQA hopes to challenge the world’s view on gender in sports, as well as to challenge professional sports leagues to modify their gender rules to promote gender equality.
If other sports leagues do start featuring mixed-gender sports, it could mean a lot for social advancement in more than just one area. Unisex sports leagues are generally hostile towards transgender or genderqueer people, often requiring them to register under a gender they do not identify with. Additionally, ridiculous and invasive “gender verification tests” such as the one South African runner Caster Semenya had to undergo would be unnecessary in mixed-gender leagues.
So how does this theory of putting both genders on the playing field at the same time work in practice?
Really well, as it turns out. While I’ve only been playing Quidditch a few months, learning to play a rough sport against both men and women has been both surprising and rewarding. As Quidditch is a relatively new sport, it’s extremely welcoming to newcomers, even those with little to no experience playing sports. I had been expecting most of the roughhousing and point-scoring to come from the male players, but a few well-thrown bludgers (this is where the dodgeball aspect comes in) and tackles from other women quite literally knocked me to my senses. And at the very first annual Western Cup that took place early in April, some of the best plays I saw were completed by members of different genders cooperating.
To sum up what I learned on the field: It doesn’t matter what gender you are, anyone can ride a broomstick.
To follow what’s happening in Quidditch, check out the IQA’s official twitter page.