But Netball’s For Girls! // gender and school sport

I go to a co-ed school. Mostly, it’s pretty good at being welcoming to all genders — we aren’t separated for any academic classes, and you aren’t particularly encouraged/discouraged into anything because of your gender. This is with the obvious exception of sport.

For some reason I’ve always directed my general frustration with school at sport. I’ve never been good at team sports, so I spent most of my primary school days being told to practice shooting in the corner as the A team was coached. It’s definitely better now, but there’s still a massive gap between boys’ and girls’ sport.We do play hockey, tennis, and water polo mixed, which is great. But continuing down the list: girls do netball, dance, fitness, and rounders. Boys do football, fives, cricket, and occasionally softball. I quite honestly cannot fathom the reasons for this…?

I often see the ‘males have a biological advantage over females’ argument put forward. I don’t actually know the science of that, but top male athletes do perform better than female athletes. Still: I would like to know the strength required to play fives. Obviously women could never be physically capable of patting a ball against a wall. It couldn’t possibly be because fives is a sport almost exclusively invented and played by public schoolboys. Of course not. -_-

It’s not just girls wanted to play ‘male’ sports. I know a lot of boys who’ve expressed interest in playing netball or rounders. (Although there are probably also many who would only play it as a joke, so that’s not the best argument.) I detest the idea that girls must do fitness but boys are…I don’t know, already fit. Encouraging gender stereotypes doesn’t help anyone, and it certainly doesn’t teach values of equality to your pupils.

And  all this discussion discounts the existence of non-binary pupils. Let’s just remember that non-binary genders aren’t even recognised under UK law, fabulous! Which apparently doesn’t result in ‘any specific detriment’. Apart from the obvious detriment of being forced to choose a gender that doesn’t represent you, and effectively being told that your identity isn’t as worthy as someone else’s. Not being able to access the right healthcare. Not being able to choose the correct title. Not being able to apply for jobs, courses, use public services because they require presentation of ID that only has two gender options. (I found some of these in this article, where you can also find many other quotes about the Ministry of Justice’s statement and living as a non-binary person in Britain.) It also means that there’s very little awareness of non-binary identities, and schools probably aren’t going to start doing things to support pupils who don’t identify as either male or female.

Sports, like many others things, is just very linked to the gender binary, since the divisions are based on sex and physiological advantage. Maybe with the exception of roller derby, which I really recommend you check out because it altogether seems pretty cool. I don’t know how we’d solve that. I probably wouldn’t want all my sports lessons mixed. I know that I’d be uncomfortable around many boys, because they have harassed me and I really just don’t like them as people. (I guess I deal with them in class, though?) A lot of young people — and above, too — are embarrassed of their bodies. They don’t want to be around the ‘opposite’ gender, and it’s difficult to just force that to happen, you know? Maybe it’s better when you’re in a sports team with fellow players who respect you, but I’m unlikely to ever be in a position. But then again: mixed teams are going well, so maybe we should just take the lessons together and be done with it.

It’s difficult. I know that I’m pointing out everything that’s wrong and not providing very good solutions. In general the state of Britain and current UK politics is pretty depressing right now. Still: to be honest, teaching fives to girls and netball to boys wouldn’t be that difficult. Neither would legally recognising non-binary genders. *coughs* But though I don’t know if there’s a perfect solution to gender and sport, I hope that it’s something we continue to explore and improve.

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7 Books That Would be Better With LGBTQ+ characters

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I recently had a conversation with my friend where I said I wanted more diversity in a book, and she asked, “Do you just mean a gay character?” I mean, besides from the fact that queer does not equal gay, I did think about this for a bit afterwards… Why do I want so many books to have queer characters? (Because I definitely do. It’s a priority daydream of mine.) I suppose it is slightly selfish, but it is nice to see parts of yourself in fictional characters, and it’s also weird when diversity isn’t there because…the real world is diverse. Even if all the Valentine’s day adverts on the Tube will make you believe we are all slim, conventionally attractive white straight people. *coughs*

YES. This is slightly a Valentine’s day post, even if I’m a) quite late and b) somewhat cynical towards the date. I thought this post would actually be quite well timed. I’ve been DYING to share my thoughts on books that would be improved by queer characters for ages. (As I said: something I think about frequently). But even though I’m mostly talking about books that feature varying degrees of romance I think it’s also worth noting that I’d really love to see LGBTQ+ characters in books where there isn’t necessarily romance. That is the hope and the dream.

1. The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer SCARLETT BENOIT IS BISEXUAL 2K16. I do like Wolf, but to be quite frank I think Scarlet was also a little in love with Cinder and Winter. Everyone is in practically love with each other. But I like this Scarlett headcanon in particular. (Queer space pirates are my literal dream.) There are four — five counting Fairest — straight couples in this series and it just felt a bit boring for me. :/ I also found it really unrealistic how, like, there weren’t even any minor LGBTQ+ characters such as in Throne of Glass or The Grisha. Hmm. I don’t know if it was Levana’s iron rule, but it would have been super easy to do during a ball scene or something.

2. The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare  Tessa Grey is canonically polyamorous. Tessa Gray is canonically polyamorous. It is literally stated she is in love with both Will and Jem. (Go away, annoying guy who says you can only be in romantic love with one person. Jeez.) Why have such a fight over Jessa and Wessa? Herongraystairs is a way cooler ship name, anyway. 😛

3. The Selection series + The Heir by Keira Cass Well, statistically there’s at least one LGBTQ+ character in every single Selection. (Unless they vet queer people out of the process. Depressing, but also possible.) It’s been a while since I read The Selection itself, but I just finished reading The Heir and I can absolutely say it would have been improved by a plot of Eadlyn realising she was asexual instead. NO, PARENTS, it is not your child’s duty to marry and have children! Maybe you could just leave her alone and get a democracy! Or she could have been a lesbian as well. There were a lot of descriptions of Neena. Or polyamorous, because there is literally a part where Eadlyn says she’s in love with all the boys. Or someone could get mad that only cisgender boys and girls could enter. Any of this would have 100% improved this rather dragging book. (And series. SORRY. It was fun but in retrospect thoroughly irritating.)

4. Wool by Hugh Howie Juliet is a lesbian, and that is all. She fell in love with some random dude over the course of about a weekend and I was very irritated because CUTE SASSY MECHANIC HELLO. Such a wasted opportunity. *shakes head*

5. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling I refuse to believe that every HP character is straight. JK Rowling can say what she wants and I will headcanon what I want. I’m still not really over the lack of queer characters (and also intersectional diversity beyond that) in Harry Potter, because…it’s just so popular? It would have reached such a wide audience. I do realise that there’s maybe more publicity on diversity now than when the series was still being published, though. I am happy about the Cursed Child casting — I think it’s really important to consider different interpretations of characters, and to remember that the movie isn’t, like, the be-all and end-all. Everyone imagines characters differently!

6. Lorali by Laura Dockrill Lesbian mermaids. Bisexual mermaids. Asexual mermaids. Non-binary mermaids. ALL KINDS OF QUEER MERMAIDS J U ST I CAN’T EVEN WITH MY UNDERWATER FRIENDS ALRIGHT. This was such a unique book that I just really wanted it to feature some queer mermaids. (I did just download a lesbian mermaid eBook. I’m quite excited.)

7. The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare This is an MG book. WHY DOES IT NEED ROMANCE? I would have been totally cool if there was no romance. But there is a very boring straight romance that adds nothing to character or plot development. *sighs* I’m now aggressively pretending Cal and Aaron are in love.

are there any books you think would be better with characters? I HAVE SO MANY MOORE AAH. what do you think about valentine’s day? enjoy it?

Feminism, Fangirls and the Fandom

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I am a really big advocate of all things fandom. I love to be a fan, and I love to talk to other fans, and I love fanfic. In short: I love being excited about things! I didn’t always know what fandom was – for me now, being active in the fandom is not just liking something, but liking something and connecting with other people about it. (Probably over the internet, but not necessarily.)

Fandom has not just been about discovering the community. It’s more than the actual fandoms themselves: although I’m pretty new to everything, it’s essentially been my doorway into learning more about feminism and diversity and current issues. It’s really interesting to look at the demographics of the fandom in comparison to that of the characters in fanworks.

Personally, I feel as though the fandom – through the way I experience it – is largely women. But I often see articles saying talking about being a girl geek as though we’re in a minority? Maybe this used to be more true; I’m not sure. (And sadly I don’t have a TARDIS.) Is a fangirl different to a fan or a geek or a nerd? I don’t feel like it should be, but in my mind it’s more closely linked with someone…kind of like Cath Avery. And also maybe like me. I thought this was just my brain, but it seems like it’s true that the creators of fanworks (I’m kind of using this to talk about fanfic, art, edits, podfic, all that kind of thing) are mostly female.

The gender disparity is really, really wide when it comes to fanwork creation. It’s quite unusual for me to see a fanartist, writer, or blogger who isn’t female. I mean, It’s difficult for me to talk about fandom as an entire entity because at it is essentially ‘I like something and I participate on the internet about it’, and I am definitely not capable of collecting statistics for the entire internet. But as someone young and new in the fandom, the concept of ‘fan’ as a male role bemuses me because coming into the fandom in recent years I’ve never experienced it that way.

Do I think we shouldn’t call ourselves fangirls? For a while, I thought that it was kind of a negative term, but it can better to change those views than the actual word itself. Although some fans might get on your nerves, that’s not everyone! I find that in most part people who call fangirls stupid etc. don’t tend to be part of the fandom. I’m happy to call myself a fangirl. However, even within the fandom I think there’s negativity towards people who are quite fierce in their shipping. (Also: I keep trying to find a place to put this stat, but I haven’t found it yet. Apparently most slash shippers are LGBTQ+, which admittedly was not something I had thought. It feels like there’s an idea they’re mostly straight?)

Even as I say that the creators of the fandom are predominantly women, the subjects of their works are usually men. It’s a really strange relationship. Probably because it’s strange how mainstream media is populated by white men… I mean, fic is even more overwhelmingly male than actual published fiction. Fic is still remixing something already there, and what’s already there tends to be men.

I have a lot of strong feelings about fanfiction. I would happily give a fully PowerPoint-ed presentation explaining why it is an excellent thing. There’s this idea that it’s all terrible and terribly written, and whilst there are some maybe less good examples, they’re not the only fics out there. There are also trashy books, in case you hadn’t noticed. (I like some fics more than books. I admit it.) And one of the things that I enjoy the most about fic is the diversity, because I kind of end up wanting everyone to be queer and that can definitely happen in fic.

The spectrum of diversity and representation in fandom is really varied. In canon queer elements tend to stay in subtext a lot; even though there’s starting to be more representation of LGBTQ+ characters and same-sex relationships in mainstream media, it’s still not…that much. Whereas most fanfiction on AO3 features a non-straight couple.

RETURNING TO MY POINT. I love fanfiction because people write pieces that are both diverse and well-written. You can find awesome fics about queer characters that both a) don’t erase their queerness or struggles and b) have excellent plots and writing. can we have this in books as well pls Or you can even write it yourself! But, I mean, whilst fic can have a really diverse cast in relation to sexualities, there are less fics with characters who are any gender other than male. If you go into the Archive of Our Own tags and plug the numbers into a calculator, the ratio of f/f to m/m is about 2:15. Which is a lot. There was a great conversation on Twitter about LGBTQ+ characters in YA fiction and the media — about the fetishization of m/n/, and the lack of f/f — which is also very true for fanfiction. And here is another post about queer girls as a cautionary tale in literature, including some stuff about the fandom. Fic isn’t without its problems.

I love the fandom. I am ever-grateful to it. It would be nice if fanfiction and books could help each other out over a nice cup of tea — the only way to do it, darling — and then I can find even more things to be excited about than before.