Six Times Women Face Sexism on the Quidditch Pitch
In many ways, female athletes in the wizarding world face less discrimination than those in the Muggle world. Quidditch teams are coed, and if Harry’s team is any indication, the teams tend to be evenly split between male and female players. That being said, there are still several instances in the books where female athletes face discrimination that I, as a woman who grew up playing sports, recognize from my own experiences.
1. Being Underestimated
When Harry learns that Ginny Weasley replaced him as Seeker, he literally gapes at Angelina. Fred and George first see Ginny play and describe her as “not bad,” and when Harry watches the game he is impressed by Ginny, but still thinks he could have done a better job (OotP 573). Little do they know that Ginny is the only one of them who will later go on to become a professional Quidditch player, as well as the editor of the Daily Prophet Quidditch column. They are so busy being shocked and skeptical that a girl could be as good as them at Quidditch that they fail to see her incredible potential and talent.
2. Being Considered Bossy
Oliver Wood is an intense Quidditch Captain who literally tells Harry on multiple occasions that he doesn’t care if Harry dies as long as he catches the Snitch first. Harry accepts this behavior with remarkably little complaint, but as soon as Angelina takes over as Captain, he gripes about her understandable frustration at him not prioritizing the team. Unfortunately, this is common for women holding leadership positions in sports, who have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously just to be called bossy or intense.
3. Comments on Your Appearance
As much as I love Lee Jordan’s commentary, he is the main perpetrator of this type of microaggression. He says about Angelina: “What an excellent Chaser that girl is, and rather attractive, too-” and, a few years later, “What a player that girl is, I’ve been saying it for years but she still won’t go out with me-” (SS 186, OotP 406). Women who play sports often have to deal with men making public remarks like this about their bodies or appearances. Angelina is an incredible player who should, while she’s on the Quidditch pitch, be given attention solely based on her merit rather than her looks.
Angelina has to deal with not just positive comments about her appearance, but also negative ones. Pansy Parkinson yells at Angelina during Quidditch practice, “Why would anyone want to look like they have worms coming out of their head?” (OotP 291). As a black female athlete, Angelina is a double target for criticism about her looks. In the Muggle world, there is a long history of black female athletes receiving racist comments about their appearance, and the wizarding world seems to be no different.
4. Having Boys “Take It Easy on You”
Cho Chang is an incredibly talented Quidditch player with a unique strategy of blocking Harry. When Harry tries to avoid colliding with her, Wood yells, “HARRY, THIS IS NO TIME TO BE A GENTLEMAN! […] KNOCK HER OFF HER BROOM IF YOU HAVE TO!” (PoA 261). Women who play sports with men often have to deal with men “taking it easy on them,” which can be incredibly frustrating for female athletes who want to be taken seriously. What’s equally frustrating is other men, like Wood, assuming that a man is taking it easy on a woman rather than just acknowledging that the woman might have bested him.
5. People Assuming You Don’t Know About Sports
Harry says to Hermione, “You’re good on feelings and stuff, but you just don’t understand about Quidditch” (OotP 575). Doesn’t she, though? Hermione might not be good at flying, and she might not consider Quidditch all-important, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t understand it. She is a loyal and excited supporter at every Quidditch match Harry ever plays, attends the Quidditch World Cup, and reads Quidditch Through the Ages. She is the one who Confunds Cormac McLaggan so that Ron can win the Keeper tryouts, and she sets Snape’s robe on fire so that Harry doesn’t get thrown off his broom. If Hermione were a boy, no one would accuse her of not “understanding” Quidditch.
6. Boys Refusing to Play With You
Even though Quidditch teams are coed, that doesn’t mean that witches are safe from the old-fashioned sexism of being left out. George says, “I don’t know how [Ginny] got so good, seeing how we never let her play with us….” (OotP 574). Ginny is only a year younger than Ron, who used to act as Keeper for his older brothers, so this is clearly not age discrimination. Ginny, as the only girl in a family of Quidditch players, is not allowed to play with them and must resort to sneaking out and stealing her brothers’ brooms.
For National Girls and Women in Sports day, I want to honor all women, Muggles or witches, who have to constantly fight discrimination to play the games that they love. For more information about historical women in Quidditch who paved the way for our modern athletes, watch the video below! Hopefully, in the future, all women in sports will be respected for their incredible strength and athleticism.