When I first saw the headline for this story, “Don’t Want to Play Soccer with Girls? You Lose,” I didn’t know about the religious angle. I thought it was just plain old sexism.
Then I wanted to compare it to the MRA reactions to the new Mad Max: Fury Road. Mainly I wanted to do that because I thought the film was awesome and the men’s groups were silly. I quite literally thought, much like the headline above, that in calling for the boycott of the film (for being too feminist in depicting strong women, especially Furiosa, and having a woman-centred theme and the message “we are not things”), it was the men who would miss who would lose.
But the soccer story turned out to be slightly more complicated than that. It was a Muslim boys’ team who refused to play another team because it had two girls on it. They didn’t say this right away. Only after they started losing (apparently).
And then the girls agreed to sit out so that the game could continue. This is where the story loses me. If their religion says they can’t play with girls, then that’s all fine and well (though it’s not a religion I would choose, if I chose to follow a religion). But then, as this editorial points out and this one too, the team needs to quit the league or at the very least forfeit games that they can’t play because girls are on the team.
The league has rules about gender equity and facilitating girls participation in sports:
The Peel league plays according to bylaws on gender equity adopted years ago by the Ontario sports federation. They state that if a “sport activity is not available for a female on a girls’ team, she is eligible to participate on a boys’ team following a successful try-out.” Indeed, the bylaws go even further, making plain that “gender equity should serve as a guiding principle for all decisions and operations.”
Those are good rules. And the bylaws clearly state that gender equity is a guiding principle in all decisions and operations. So it’s not the girls who should have sat out. It’s the boys’ whose religion bumps up against the principle of gender equity who need to miss out.
Why did the religious reasons make this a little more complicated and a little less like the MRA and Mad Max: Fury Road? Only because I sometimes worry that a high level of Islamaphobia already exists in the West and that some people latch onto it as “Un-Canadian” when in fact Canada is a very diverse country where you’re supposed to be able to practice your religion without interference. So I worry when this kind of thing arises that people will use it to entrench racist attitudes.
At the same time, gender equity is a highly prized and hard won thing to achieve. And as much as Canada is a place where people can practice their religions unimpeded, it’s also a place where girls should get to play on the teams that they legitimately and successfully earned spots on in try-outs.
So yes, I hope the girls will not bow out so easily next time. And while I also hope that no one pressured them to do so at that game, it is disturbing to me in any case that they would think their right to play was less important than the right of the boys on the other team.
Next time, maybe they’ll channel Furiosa!