World Rugby announced this week that the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand in 2021 would be called the Rugby World Cup 2021: Photo: Action Images / Jed Leicester

CAPE TOWN – Gender equality in life, not just sport, should be a given. I have a son and daughter, born equal to two parents who always saw the other as equal in our relationship.

I don’t love my son more than my daughter and vice versa. He doesn’t get any privileges because he was born a boy and she doesn’t get any advantage within the household because she is a girl.

They are two beautiful human beings and they were raised to respect and love themselves as much as the next person.

My daughter wasn’t taught that, by nature of her sex, she would be an extension to anyone else when she grew up. She was her own person. Just like her mother was her own person, with her own identity. My children’s mother kept her surname out of choice and didn’t take mine because society or some tradition dictated it.

I accept we were possibly among the exceptions, but gender equality, for me doesn’t mean denouncing gender.

I was more intrigued than surprised at World Rugby’s decision that the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand in 2021 would be called the Rugby World Cup 2021, just as the men’s World Cup in Japan next month would simply be the Rugby World Cup 2019.

This, said World Rugby, was because of the drive within the sport to create gender equality. But in explaining the dropping of “women” from the description, the custodians of world rugby said the motivation was to increase the profile of women’s rugby commercially.

Interesting.

Commercially, did the women’s World Cup need to be sold as a World Cup for it to be commercially attractive to sponsors? Did it require the removal of the word “women” from the World Cup for it to attract a bigger television audience or match day attendance? If so, then is it not reinforcing gender inequality?

The last women’s Rugby World Cup had the highest ever social media, digital and television ratings in the history of women’s rugby. The match day tournament attendance was also the highest. The final between winners New Zealand and England also ranked among the best in history and one of the most impressive rugby finals, regardless of sexual orientation.

The last Commonwealth Games’ women’s sevens rugby final was also the rugby game of the tournament. New Zealand beat Australia in the most dramatic of matches produced by two teams with skill, conviction and presence. When I watched that final, all I saw was one magnificent game of rugby. I didn’t for a moment think it was anything less because women were playing it. Men aren’t given a birthright to greater skill. And one only has to watch The Amazing Race tv series to know this.

The women’s soccer World Cup had a similar appeal, not just to me, but to a global audience. The victorious US were colossal in every aspect of the game. They showed every physical attribute, skill set and mental strength to triumph.

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The one day in a year dedicated to fathers is a commercially-driven exercise. Equally, the singling out of a Mother’s Day and other commercially-motivated exceptions that are sold as a moral celebration of females.

Why not just celebrate women by treating them as equals for 12 months of the year, every year? Why not celebrate the women’s Rugby World Cup as a festival of the very best rugby players, who just happen to be women? Equally, the men’s Rugby World Cup as being the global platform of the very best men who play the game?

Why should gender equality be the removal of a gender in description? Why can’t it be a celebration of that gender in equal measures with a confirmation that this, for example, is the women’s Rugby World Cup and that is the men’s rugby World Cup.

Surely, equality is in the way in which we treat each other and not because we deny, through descriptive prose, that there is an each other?

@mark_keohane


IOL Sport

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