5 Takeaways from “More than Just a Body on the Field”

As part of USQ’s Women’s History Month series, panelist, coach, and player Jeannette High gives us her five takeaways from one of the most buzzed-about panels at QuidCon 2021, ‘More than Just A Body on the Field’, discussing sexism and misogyny in quidditch.

QuidCon 2021 was a magical weekend filled with many panels, workshops, webinars, and keynotes that everyone should have attended. One of the most attended and interacted with panels was “More than Just a Body on the Field.” This panel, which I was able to be a part of alongside Rachel Heald, Ra Hopkins, Faby Echeverria, and moderator Lindsey Simpson, discussed topics such as sexism and transphobia on the pitch. After the panel even more people contributed from around the world in our panel’s Slack channel. This panel still gives me shivers thinking about how awesome the women, transgender people, and non-binary people in our sport are. Even though there are way more takeaways than five, I will try to sum it up nice and sweet right here:

1. Stop grouping women and nonbinary players

This is something I am still working on as I am trying to make an inclusive space for people who are overlooked by the cis men. From what I understood during this panel, grouping these people just contributes to the continuation of a binary of “non-male” and male. (Just typing non-male makes me feel icky now). As Ra stated this weekend in the Slack channel, “If you mean women, say women, otherwise you mean a person that experiences misogyny, misdirected otherwise”. As a woman I can only state what I, a woman, have experienced. I can/should never assume I understand what nonbinary players experience. It is something we (cisgender players) can all start working on to be more inclusive in our phrasing. We want to assure our nonbinary players that their gender is valid and that they are not being seen as women. 

2. Just because the rules are in place, does not mean the sport is inclusive or equitable

This we spoke on a lot: just because you HAVE to play people who are not cis men does not mean coaches evaluate each player equally. As Lindsey stated, “If these rules were not in place would you be putting these players in?” To make the game truly equal the cis men have to view us as their equals. As someone who was placed in the “woman chaser line,” I understand the pain of knowing that I would not be on the pitch if there was not this rule. At some points in my college career there were more women on my team then men, yet the men still had more play time and more players on the field. Which leads me into my next point…

3. Utilize your women players

Raise your hand if you have ever been the victim of being the “behind the hoops girl chaser.” I certainly have. I used to write on my fantasy forms that I am just the typical woman chaser that runs around and distracts the other team. How useless it was to just stand back there. When I moved onto the club side of quidditch I experienced the first coach who found a way to utilize me. I was able to stand by the hoops and the keepers and beaters didn’t notice me and I would dunk on them. Throughout the panel’s Slack so many stories were shared by players about the defense ignoring them or their coaches not utilizing them. One person stated that they were the fastest person on their team for brooms up, yet their coach still chose to have a man run up for the quaffle. 

4. Make space for these players

Women, gender non-conforming, and nonbinary players should not be expected to demand space, but space should be given from the cis men to allow us to become star players. Yet, more often than not we have to demand a space, whether it is making entire teams to have a 3 max rule or Rachel Heald demanding to become the playmaker. More times than not we have to ask for a space rather than being given it. This coincides with the point I made several times over QuidCon. Stop separating your players into women and men chasers/beaters (or honestly, as many people still think of it, male vs non-male players). Sort them into the A line players and B line players. For beaters utilize the terms “engage” and “free” for positions. We need to make a space in order to begin to move away from the misogyny players have experienced. Making space in the future may come at the organizational level of instituting the three max rule, which can greatly influence how teams recruit and retain their players. 

5. And my favorite point: COACH YOUR PLAYERS, especially the women who may not have experienced this type of sport before

Instead of putting these players to the side and stating they are bad or unathletic, coach them. How are we supposed to learn how to tackle or throw if we have never experienced this before? I had played sports for most of my life, so I was at an advantage coming into the sport. I knew how to throw and catch from basketball and softball. I was semi-athletic, yet I still did not know how to tackle, I had NEVER played a full contact sport before. I was more at risk of an injury from falling and more at risk at falling behind the other players. Coaches never offered one-on-one training for the players who had never been part of a contact sports before and instead decided to do one big coaching moment. Looking back, I realized I didn’t learn how to tackle safely and properly until Lindsay Marella taught us at Femme-Fatale. Forever grateful for that moment. 

In conclusion, if you are a cis man, even if you think you haven’t been biased towards women or gender non-conforming players, you have. It is time to have some introspection and understand that YOU might be the problem. Think about your interaction with these players and understand that your language and position can potentially hurt us. It is time to move forward, make space, utilize, and listen to your players that have experienced misogyny. 

Jeannette High (she/her) is a player, coach and photographer for the Great Lakes. She currently plays and co-coaches the Ohio Apollos, a US Quidditch club team. She’s the former team manager and current coach of the Detroit Innovators for Major League Quidditch. Jeannette is also the photography manager at MLQ.