Being a male ally to the women’s game isn’t a part time job that you can pick up and drop whenever it pleases your PR or pockets, it’s a full-time assignment which, funnily enough, you don’t get a day off from.
If you are wondering what I am talking about, The Good the Bad and The Rugby posted a graphic, which has since been deleted, claiming to list the most capped front row England rugby players. However, they missed one crucial element: the women. The England women’s team who, may I remind you, have just achieved 23 consecutive wins and 16 Grand Slam titles.
When Bristol Bears player Simi Pam politely pointed out the oversight, James Haskell, a man who may I remind you only two weeks ago was working pitch side on women’s matches, told her to “have a day off”.
The ex-England international soon realised that it wasn’t a clever idea to say such a thing, and swiftly deleted his comments, replacing them with a surge of other’s which only made things worse.
My initial issue lies in the original oversight from TGBR, to be fair to the platform it’s not the first or last time that a woman’s achievements have been wiped from record. We saw the same thing during the Autumn Internationals when Ben Youngs earnt his 114th cap, news outlets conveniently forgot to mention Rocky Clark’s 137 caps for her country.
To be clear, I don’t expect constant reference to the women’s game in every single post about men’s rugby, but I do expect posts to be factually correct. To assume only male rugby players can be included in a most capped list is nothing short of disrespectful to the women involved in the England set up. It takes two seconds to slot in the word “men” on a social media post, and if England rugby can admit fault and amend its posts, I am sure others can too.
My next gripe comes with James Haskell’s behaviour. You simply cannot call yourself an advocate of the women’s rugby game with remarks like that. What is worse, is that instead of listening to the women’s rugby community and learning from his actions, he chose to go on a blocking spree and not engage in any constructive conversation.
Being an ally means you use your platform and privilege to share, support and promote the women’s game, but most importantly your role is to listen, learn and help how you can. His comment to Simi is the complete opposite of this.
To those in my DM’s defending his behaviour and putting it down to “banter”, you are part of the problem. Another notable defence to this, is that his podcast has set up a spin of show dedicated to the women’s game, The Good The Scaz and The Rugby, so that must mean he does so much for the women’s game, right? Wrong. That’s a cop out if ever I saw one.
The fact that he claims to have done “more to champion women’s rugby than anyone else” is an insult to anyone involved in promoting the women’s game. The response, which can be seen above, is giving huge “Sit down and be grateful” vibes.
This leads me onto a wider point, and something which I have been wanting to discuss for a while now. The uncomfortable truth is that with the women’s game growing at the rate that it is, it is an easy win for people to get involved with and support it, in efforts to boost their own profile.
Men working in the rugby space have everything to gain and nothing to lose by supporting the women’s game – and it’s getting to the point where we must question the motivations behind this.
Male allyship, in my opinion, extends far beyond meaningless support on social media, its about what happens behind closed doors away from the public eye that really matters, but of course, nothing is worth doing without publicity or a paycheck, is it?
We must be really careful with the grateful narrative when it comes to male allies in the women’s game. I frequently see people praising ex-male players when they even mention the women’s game. Let’s be real here, it’s an easy PR win for them to support the women’s game, it makes sense to align yourself with one of the fastest growing sports, especially if you are becoming less and less relevant by the day.
Also, it’s interesting to see who has and has not commented publicly on his remarks. It’s very telling that when these things happen other male “allies” stay very quiet, which is a shame as wouldn’t it have some real impact if his peers called him out for his poor comments. For me, that would be a real show of support.
James Haskell is a character known for his quick whip remarks, but the irony of telling a full time NHS consultant and full-time rugby player to “have a day off” can not be overlooked. I am sure she, along with every single one of her teammates, would love nothing more than a day off, but it’s not a luxury that is afforded to any female rugby player balancing a full-time career with full time training.
It’s almost humorous that these so-called allies are on our side when they are being paid to do so at matches and on social media, but on your days off this responsibility is soon left behind.
Stop using the women’s game as a steppingstone in your career, we don’t want your ‘ally-ship’, and quite frankly we don’t need it. The women’s game is doing just fine without people like you in it. If you want to make some real change in this game, my DM’s are always open James, you just need to unblock me first.