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Rugby team combats stereotypes

By Kathleen McWilliams
On March 3, 2014

The UConn women's rugby team is releasing a calendar in September that strives to depict women in an empowering way and combat negative stereotypes about female rugby players.

The calendar features an action shot for every month alongside a powerful quote. Important academic dates, as well as rugby games, will be highlighted on calendar pages to give students an extra organizational support.

Junior political science major Sarah Walsh plays on the team and wanted to spearhead the project to better publicize the rugby team, to shed light on the team's diversity and to portray female athletes as strong women.

"We are a large group with people of all different shapes, sizes, skin colors, interests, sexualities, and we really want to highlight the diversity of our group. And, lastly, and one of the more important ones is we want to depict our women in a powerful way. By using images to promote beautiful, strong women in a way that does not sexualize them," Walsh said.

Walsh said that recent events motivated her to keep the calendar focused on empowering female athletes.

"We saw this this winter with the Olympic curler who was curling in lingerie, everyone got all excited about that but dismissed her actual talent, we never knew if she was good at curling or not," Walsh said. "So we want our images to represent our women in a way that promotes their physical accomplishments, rather than their sexualization." 

Another experience on campus opened Walsh's eyes to the negative stereotypes associated with women's rugby. 

"This past fall I was in a dining hall eating when a kid sat down next to me and started making small talk. When I told him I played rugby he immediately jumped to the lesbian angle, wondering if all the girls were lesbians, and then pushing farther to see if I was a lesbian," Walsh said. "Who cares if I was or wasn't, what really angered me was that there was an assumed link between rugby and lesbian. I tweeted later that day 'My sport does not define my sexuality! My sexuality does not determine my sport!'"

Additionally, Walsh said that many people believe that women's rugby players have to be "brutish" and "barrel shaped." The reality, Wash said, is that rugby needs many shapes and sizes. 

Walsh says the functionality of the calendar will remind students to combat stereotypes year round, instead of a single press release that's effect would be short term. 

"The calendar will last the whole year and have that reinforcing power," Walsh said. 

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