It’s time to change the rules of the game

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It’s time to change the rules of the game

Savannah Williams and Diana Bobadilla fight for the ball in a lacrosse game versus Fremd.

Savannah Williams and Diana Bobadilla fight for the ball in a lacrosse game versus Fremd.

Savannah Williams and Diana Bobadilla fight for the ball in a lacrosse game versus Fremd.

Savannah Williams and Diana Bobadilla fight for the ball in a lacrosse game versus Fremd.

Megan Sass, Scribe Editor

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We live in a time where women everywhere across the world are defying the traditional stereotypes as well as typical prejudiced (and often times misogynistic) gender roles. So, why do women’s sports continue to implement rules that imply that they are weaker than men?

Take lacrosse, for the example. There are many major differences for women’s lacrosse: how much contact is allowed, the style of play due to the number of players on the field, the dimensions of the field, and even gear.  The most notable of these rules are the ones regarding the level of contact, which influence players’ uniforms and equipment.

In both men’s and women’s lacrosse, a type of contact known as “stick checking” is allowed. In lacrosse, “stick checking” is simply an act of attempting to dislodge the ball from an opponent’s stick with one’s own stick.  In men’s lacrosse, body contact is allowed. Players can make physical contact with one another, whereas women can only make contact with one another’s lacrosse sticks.

The problem here should be apparent already- the fact that women aren’t allowed physical contact implies that they are too weak to handle it. Men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse are literally the same game, with the same scoring system and the same goals. So why are women given a separate set of rules?

The unfair truth is that there is no athletic or competitive reason for these rules differences.  They discrepancy in rules only exist because women are perceived as needing more protection. Society stereotypes women as fragile and delicate; these rules reflect and enforce those.

You can see these different expectations just by looking at what the players wear on the field. Men wear padding on their forearms, chest, shoulders and back, as well as wearing helmets with masks. Women are only required to wear goggles, mouth guards and gloves. Let’s not forget that girls’ uniforms often feature tank tops and skirts.

This inherently undermines the competitive seriousness of women’s lacrosse. Skirts and tank tops imply that women’s sports are meant to be “cute,” just as padding and helmets imply that men’s sports are aggressive. These differences suggest that lacrosse is less physically demanding if you’re a woman.

This issue is not only present in lacrosse; it can be seen in many other sports as well. Women’s ice hockey and women’s field hockey have similar rules that prohibit physical contact. Checking is not even a penalty in men’s hockey—it’s expected. In women’s hockey, it’s entirely prohibited.

As for uniforms, there are many other sports where it is not uncommon for women to wear a skirts. Examples include tennis, golf, and yes, even women’s boxing.

These uniforms are not more comfortable to play in, nor do they provide benefits to the women wearing them. If that was the case, we would probably see male athletes in skirts as well?

No, these uniform decisions, as well as the separate rules enforced in women’s sports, are based on an outdated notion of femininity, especially women athletes.

It’s 2018. Women have come remarkably far in shattering gender roles and breaking the stereotypes. We need our sports to reflect these changes.

Consider Serena Williams or Alex Morgan, for example. They’ve broken records, won Olympic medals, and exhibited both mental and physical strength when playing—strength that they could not flaunt if female athletes were as delicate as society believes them to be.

Despite the growth and improvement that has been seen in women’s sports over the past decades, we cannot ignore the apparent, unfair, sexist rules implemented in women’s sports. Taking steps forward to eliminate these outdated regulations is necessary for gender equality, not just in the world of athletics, but in our society as a whole.

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