Emily (Michael) Malakoff seeks for Florida’s Finest in 2013 against FGCU / Credit to The BANG Photography
By Erin Moreno
(Editor’s note: What follows is an op-ed and does not reflect the collective opinion of everyone at FBI blah blah blah, etc., etc.)
I like to make a lot of jokes about the position of female beater. Most recently, it was a light-hearted Facebook post about how there aren’t any good pictures of female beaters. (Shout-out to Jessica Jiamen Lang Photography and Briana Marian Photography for quickly proving me wrong!)
Something you quickly realize as a female athlete is that whenever you have the gall to complain about the many difficulties of being a female athlete, people like to tell you to “just be an athlete.” That viewpoint is great—until you realize one small fact: players can be athletes as well as female. In fact, many of us choose to identify specifically as female athletes.
As a female athlete in an up-and-coming co-ed sport, one has to learn to accept a lot of ridiculous things: clothing sizes being “unisex” means they’re actually sized for males; it’s nearly impossible to pee unless your field comes fully equipped with a restroom; your speed, strength, and size will all be (more than likely) less than that of your male teammates and opponents. As such, great plays have been made by coaches and captains by pulling their minority gender athletes out of their designated positions and having them flex to either chaser or beater. With this strategic change, teams can now run full male beater pairs or quaffle lines that rarely disappoint.
In a sport that can make its athletes feel undervalued with one small line-up change, it comes as no small shock that USQ has updated a well-known rule to try to be more inclusive towards its female, non-binary, and non-majority membership.
USQ Rulebook 10 was published on June 21, and it “adjusts the gender maximum rule, (renamed in accordance with the change). Seekers will no longer be excluded when applying the gender maximum rule. During the seeker floors of regulation and overtime, teams will be restricted to a maximum of 4 players who identify as the same gender in play at any one time. At the end of the seeker floor, that maximum will be increased to 5.”
At face value, this rule doesn’t sound like much. The gender minimum rule has now become the gender “maximum” gender rule, and it has been expanded to include seekers. According to USQ leadership, this rule is being implemented in hopes of creating more training and playing opportunities for non-male seekers. Surely this is a lofty and exciting goal, right?
Sadly, I have a more than sneaking suspicion that this rule will be used as a justification for the further simplification of female and non-binary athlete roles on the pitch. As Shane Hurlbert brought up in IQA Forums, this rule is more than likely going to be widely implemented to take a female or non-binary/non-majority athlete out of play at chaser or beater as a team can now sit them on the bench at the seeker to try to rack up a solid point differential with a male-dominated quaffle or beater line.
Having incentive to train high-caliber female or non-binary/non-majority seekers is now a stronger possibility, but I foresee a much more insidious use of this rule. In a sport where teams love to bend inclusion rules until they break, I foresee players undervaluing and denigrating their female and non-binary members to just that: bodies.
Blocking the seeker is already a pretty make-or-break kind of strategy; you have players who are amazing at it, and players who get by until they need to sub out for the next player who goes to try it out. A few lucky teams have male players who either play as (excuse my fancy lingo) a “catch the snitch” seeker or a “block the other seeker” seeker, and individuals are not usually the same in size or speed.
Thanks to the new adaptation of the gender rule, teams who are behind in points can put a female or non-binary player in at seeker to remain in accordance with the gender rule, all while taking a few blocks at a time from the opposing seeker or working to tire the snitch out. Meanwhile, an all-male quaffle line racks up a solid point differential.
The best-case scenario of any female seeker’s potential will be tested when they go up against the likes of a player such as Team USA seeker Jason Bowling (get ready for some even more biased reporting, as he is my teammate and roommate and thus I know the extent of his ability on-pitch). Bowling stands at 6’2” and has a wingspan of “probably a little longer,” according to the man in question. Seriously, the dude has freakishly long arms. Against a seeker with Bowling’s insane arm length, considerable skill, and generous experience, the average seeker won’t stand a chance.
The best-case scenario that I see for the new adaptation of the gender rule is that every reputable team now will have one female or non-binary beater or chaser trained to come out of their main position and fill in as seeker. At the beginning of the seeker floor in an in-snitch range game, the non-majority gender seekers will be released from the box and will try to catch the snitch while their male (and solitary female/non-binary) teammates try to rack up a solid point differential. If one team succeeds in pulling away with the score, their female seeker will sub out for their male seeker who will then go for a catch.
It comes down to this: I have very high hopes for the male, female, non-binary, and non-majority players in charge of all the teams in our sport. As players, we must trust our captains. They have the chance with this rule to create further inclusion for the general minority gender on-pitch, and I could not be more excited to see this rule get implemented in the way it is supposed to. Unfortunately, alongside inclusion comes the easy opportunity for exclusion; this is a scary thing for a player who has faced this before and who has known and seen players and teammates face this before.
Until the community stops downgrading a portion of its athletes to filler positions, female, non-binary, and non-majority players will have to keep doing what we do best—proving everyone who doubts the athleticism and relevance of our population in this sport very wrong.
Someone you’ll likely see in yellow next season