Gender-neutral sports law in reference to new amendments in International cricket laws.
Written By: Khushi Gupta
On 22nd September 2021, the England-based Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) announced an amendment to the international cricket laws. The amendment might have seemed small like a small name repositioning, but this amendment has the potential to question stereotypes and norms.
Revolutions grow out of a seed, slowly taking their time, similarly, while this may seem like a small change, almost insignificant, the effect it may have cannot be underestimated.
The amendment took on itself to change the word “batsman/batsmen” a term to describe the person engaging in the activity of batting for his team to “batter/batters”. The difference is obviously the removal of the word MAN. man word limits the position holder to one apparently rightful gender, while other genders suffer silently under the misidentification of their identity.
How empowering is this amendment? Will it affect the confidence of the batters not belonging to the man of the ‘batsman’.
Gender neutral laws in sports world
Men are stronger than other genders, they have more stamina, more strength, more resilience and hence they are better players than women. Que to the images of several girls and women playing every possible game not only in the boundaries and comforts of their homes but out in the open, from parks to grounds to international stadiums, are women have been out there and have not only played exceptionally well but also have proved just what exactly they are capable of. India has a football team made entirely of transgender people, they are also active in most of the sports, playing irrespective of judgments.
Then what must compel us to believe that the gender-biased terms such as ‘batsman’ are valid? There is one more observation that when women won a title, it is always written as ‘clinched gold’ while when a man wins the terminology changes to “claimed gold’, for men the title is there waiting to be owned but for women they have to take it, fight for it and then confirm it. These are minor term differences, for some of you they may not even be worth considering but for girls at home reading who look up to these women and pay attention to terms, subconsciously these terms affect the confidence of people and hence we have to be very careful with them.
What will change?
The term ‘batsman/batsmen’ has been in use since 1744. The announcement was made on the site of MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) where the statement issued was: “At the time of the last redraft in 2017 it was agreed, following consultation with the International Cricket Council (ICC) and key figures within women’s cricket, that the terminology would remain as ‘batsman’ and ‘batsmen’ within the Laws of the game. The changes announced today reflect the wider usage of the terms ‘batter’ and ‘batters’ which has occurred in cricketing circles in the intervening period. The move to ‘batter’ is a natural progression, aligning with the terms of bowlers and fielders that already sit within the Laws.” The first trial of this gender-neutral term was made in the game of ‘the hundred’ in England where every person batting was referred to as ‘the batter’ and additionally, the fielder called ‘the third-man was also referred to as just ‘the third’. Both of these terms will come into force officially now.
Gender neutrality across other genders
One very interesting thing was said by Stephanie Kovalchik, a senior data scientist at Zelus Analytics who developed a tool for performance analysis for Tennis Australia, he claimed that the difference that mainly remains between man and woman in terms of tennis is their upper body lean muscle which affects the strength and intensity of their overarm serve. So her solution to this is introducing a handicap. If Serena Williams is given an optimized racket or ball or an extra serve, she could compete in a balanced match against Roger Federer.
This can be one way of introducing gender neutrality, by making sure the games can be balanced in a way that both men and women can overcome their binary differences to play together. This will automatically overstep the large boundary made between women and men, seeing that the gap is not too stark and the women are equal or even better sports player than any other. Once we generalize this, even the thought of just using ‘batsman’ will make people uncomfortable to even think of, they will question themselves. “Why just man?”
The changes in laws are minor and might even go unnoticed by many, but if you really think about it, these changes are huge, cricket is one of the oldest sport still played today, and it has evolved out of a society that actively refused women to be a part of the sport, in England, the women when asked to play cricket were considered unladylike and asked to play away milder, modest and ‘lady-like version called croquet. This game has not one or two fans but billions of people who go crazy for it, this amendment is a statement, an attempt to normalize players irrespective of their genders. This amendment is thus acknowledged, understood, and appreciated.
Gender-neutral, sports law, International cricket laws, Gender-neutral in sports law