Gender in Quidditch: “Non-male is non-progressive”

By Ana Barciela, Macquarie Marauders

Sexism and gender issues are not a new topic when it comes to quidditch. It’s what you’d expect in a co-ed sport, especially when it claims to be inclusive but isn’t always so. Don’t get me wrong – quidditch is progressive in its premise, more than any other sport I know, but there is still a long way to go to reach proper equality. It has come to the same stage as feminism in first world countries – “others have it worse, and you used to have it worse, so this is good enough”.  And frankly, it isn’t.

I want to preface this article by saying that I am writing from the point of view of a woman in the sport. I will not pretend that I know what others’ experience about this topic is as it is not my place to speak for anyone else, and my main focus is our women.

There are so many issues to discuss when it comes to feminism. It would be impossible for me to cover them all by myself, let alone in one article. Ergo, my aim here is to start a discussion. I do not presume to solve all the sexism in quidditch by arguing this one point, but I hope that maybe bringing light to it, and that by urging people to change their language, we can take one little step forward towards a better community.

The language I wish to change, or rather abolish, is the term “non-male”.

It may seem insignificant. It’s just a word. It’s meant to be inclusive. It makes it easy to discuss specifics of the sport. I’ve had many people (none of them women) brush off my objections to this word. But the fact is – words are important. Words have impact. The way we say things, the way we present things, shapes our thoughts and ideas without us even realising it. And the term non-male is, intentionally or not, a microaggression.

Let’s start by the making most obvious point: using non-male forms a dichotomy between men, and ‘the others’. It establishes men as the norm, as the dominant gender, leaving everyone else to be clumped together. And this shows when it comes to implementing the gender rule. The more competitive the team is, whether its national or state level, or even the top of a league, the more it is a given that the four maximum will be men. The moment a team’s mind is set on that trophy, that’s when this male “superiority” rears its ugly head. As for the teams who, at a top level, do use two or more women on pitch, I commend you, I really do. But you are the minority. And I am yet to see the four maximum be women in these scenarios. It simply does not happen.

And if you need more convincing – I have presented to a few people the alternative of using the term ‘non-female’. To no surprise, most everyone who isn’t female has balked at that idea. “Let’s find another substitute then”, “that’s just as bad!”. And this alone should be evidence enough. Evidence that it is bad. Evidence of the fact either women are still seen as inferior, because the idea of being described in relation to them is so upsetting. Or that just in general, being described as a ‘lack of’ something else is degrading.  

Male is the standard – the four max, or on a full roster, the thirteen max now (which was raised from twelve from last World Cup, which I only found out by doing research for this article). When you look at the top teams, men are always guaranteed those thirteen spots. Women, on the other hand, don’t always get the eight. Because men are the assumed superior sex. Because, subconsciously or not, we still perceive men to be better. Stronger, faster, more capable to impact a game. We need as many of them as we can have. And by defining everyone else in opposition to the men (the prefix ‘non-‘ in itself having the connotation of the ‘absence of’), the term non-male perpetuates that. Doing so, it helps guarantee those majority spots for the men – and leaves the women to fight for those meagre scraps.

Another harmful impact is that it strips women of their identity. Being a woman has always had a negative connotation, even if it’s a lot less overt nowadays. In the past few centuries women have been fighting tooth and nail for equal rights, for basic human respect, to no longer be seen as weak, as less capable, as inferior. Our predecessors have suffered and battled so we can stand up proud and say, “I am a woman”. And our generation is still fighting. It is still an insult to “fight like a girl”, “cry like a girl”, “scream like a girl”. Displaying emotion, and so many aspects associated to ‘femininity’, is still being mocked. Being compared to a woman – no, not a woman, a belittled ‘little girl’ – is still an insult to men. Being a woman is something a lot of us had to learn to embrace and to be proud of, and to be so in our own terms and not by definitions imposed on us. And the word ‘non-male’ dismisses all of that. We don’t even get to be what we fought so hard to redefine and accept. We are just the ‘other’, lumped together with everyone who isn’t a man.

I am not non-binary; I cannot speak for the non-binary community as to whether they also find this degrading, or whether, as many claim, they find this term is inclusive. But as a woman I can say this: it is demeaning, and the inclusion of one minority should not come at the detriment of another.

I can’t offer a perfect solution. This article is aimed to start a discussion that maybe can. I can only offer suggestions. I can suggest that, when you do not have a non-binary person in your team, simply call women by what they are as there is no need for that term. If you must speak of women and non-binary people at the same time, then take an extra second of your day to say a few extra words and show a lot more respect  and say, ‘women and non-binary people’.


All this to say – do not refer to us a non-male. We are not defined by our lack of ‘maleness’. We are not lesser in anyway. We are women.