Is Quidditch the Ultimate Feminist Sport?
25 teams. 525 broomsticks. 75 chasers. 1 golden snitch.
Quidditch World Cup. This summer. Frankfurt, Germany.
It’s on, like Donkey Kong.
Okay, maybe that’s more like “It’s on, like Hermione and Ron.” Ooooooh!
This summer, 25 teams from around the world will meet in Frankfurt, Germany on July 23 – 24th for the IQA World Cup. IQA, if you’re a complete Muggle, stands for International Quidditch Association, and it’s the international governing body for the sport. Yes, sport. It’s played at the college level and beyond, across the world, and while the broomstick regulations have changed over the years to prevent injury, it is as close as you can get to J.K. Rowling’s in-air vision of the game while on the ground.
The US National Team is sending 21 players and 7 alternates to the games, and I got to talk to one of them — Julia Baer — who normally plays chaser for Quidditch Club Boston, a community team in Massachusetts.
She, like probably you, scratched her head when she first noticed Quidditch listed as a sport while applying to college.
I thought it was a joke at first, admittedly. I’m a competitive person and I adore the Harry Potter books (my application essay drew comparisons between Neville Longbottom and I), but I knew nothing about the sport. About one week into freshman year at University of Richmond, I was returning to my dorm room after class when one of my hallmates ran up, grabbed my hand and told me to change into gym clothes because it was time for Quidditch tryouts. I followed her and fell in love with the sport from the first practice.
She ended up playing 4 years for the University of Richmond Spiders. Despite the fact that the sport was born in a book description, it’s not for the delicate or faint-of-heart. Baer has weathered sprained ankles, a separated shoulder, and temporary blindness in one eye. Concussions remain the number one Quidditch-related injury. Yes, in case you doubted: This is a real sport.
It’s also possibly the ultimate feminist sport, with a mission statement that outlines numerous times the importance of gender inclusivity. While other sports maintain separate teams based on sex (and often times don’t even have a team for one sex), Quidditch teams are always co-ed. That focus on gender inclusivity is what drew Baer into the sport.
I find [the fact it’s co-ed] so fitting for Quidditch because it’s the kind of sport that requires basic open-mindedness from the very beginning. And Quidditch has a great way of being gender-inclusive in that it has developed the “four maximum” rule. This states that there may be no more than four people on the pitch for a team (a team fields seven at a time, including seeker) that identify as the same gender. This ensures inclusiveness across the gender spectrum, not simply for those identifying as female.
Making the game about skill in the sport rather than sex or gender changes the conversation. Baer points out the ways that Quidditch is truly leveling the playing field.
[Quidditch] is a great opportunity to showcase the power of the gender minorities. I personally love having the chance to outplay male opponents and silence society’s little voice in my head that says all men are better athletes than I could ever be. I’m one of the best players on my team. I’m not one of the best girls on my team and I’m not good “for a girl”. It’s so refreshing to be in a sports community where gender minorities not only compete alongside men, but thrive.
You don’t have to love Harry Potter to play Quidditch. In fact, the sport has strayed so far from the story that it’s likely that there are people on every team who have never read the books. Baer admits that it has been a long time since she has thought about Harry Potter when taking the field.
It’s hard for outsiders to separate the sport and the series, however, and that tends to drive them away from giving Quidditch a shot. Personally, I’ll give a nod to J.K. Rowling for creating my favorite sport of all time, but when I’m on the pitch, Harry Potter is the last thing on my mind.
Probably the most important lesson Baer takes away from Quidditch is the idea that if you haven’t found your sport, create your sport. (And that advice extends beyond sports to all areas of life.) There is nothing stopping you from leaving the well-worn sports path and trying something new.
I’ve played sports all my life. I’ve played softball, soccer, field hockey, basketball, horseback riding and lacrosse. I’ve been above average at most sports I’ve played, but never once played for a varsity level team. Quidditch is the sport that I excel at. It’s the sport in which I’m (apparently!) one of the best players in the country. I’m extremely grateful to have had the ability to play this sport throughout college and after college. And this sport didn’t exist ten years ago. If you don’t think you’re great at any existing sport, invent or try a new one!
So who is with me cheering on the US National Quidditch Team this summer?
This post first appeared on BlogHer, but I had to post it here, too, because I am so freakin’ excited about the Quidditch World Cup.