Quidditch turns 10 today — here’s why you should care

I’m a member of the quidditch community. And no, I don’t go Hogwarts and yes, I know that the world J.K. Rowling created in the Harry Potter series is fiction.

When I talk about quidditch, I am talking about the real world sport, played around the globe by real people. This sport was inspired by the fictional sport in the Harry Potter books, but since its inception in 2005, it has evolved and grown into an entity in its own right. It has national governing bodies regulating and organizing massive tournaments, including international events such as the Global Games and the European Quidditch Cup, both of which are attended by hundreds of players. As we approach the 10 year anniversary of the first quidditch match, played on October 9, 2005, I thought I’d share just what really makes quidditch so special.

A lot of similarities exist between the fictional and real life versions of quidditch, of course. In both there are three chasers, two beaters, one keeper and one seeker per team. The chasers and keeper are predominantly concerned with the quaffle, which the the chasers try to score through three hoops on the other side of the pitch (the keeper tries to block the other team’s chasers from scoring). Beaters use the bludger to derail the other players’ efforts, and seekers attempt to catch the snitch.

However, obviously there are many differences, too. Notably, in the real-life version, players do not fly, bludgers are thrown or kicked by the beaters, they don’t fly themselves, and the snitch is not a tiny flying golden ball, but a person dressed in yellow with a snitch sock (a long sock with a tennis ball in the toe) dangling from the back of their shorts. There are, of course, many other smaller differences (the snitch catch is only worth 30 points in the real-life version, because fairness), but one thing has remained consistent: People of all genders play together.

This is crucially important. No matter what gender you identify as, no matter what sex you are, you all play in the same teams, same leagues. There is no male or female team, just a team. This is enshrined in each and every rulebook as what is colloquially known as the gender rule, which in the current rulebook, says:

This rule, and similar variations in previous rulebooks, has allowed a fantastic attitude to develop among the community of players, officials, and fans. It celebrates and encourages people from all walks of life to join in and be respected, included and treated as equal when on the quidditch pitch. A huge majority of the quidditch-playing community identifies as a feminist, and they do their best to educate their friends and family about what that means and to play and develop the sport from that perspective. I have seen so many people take up quidditch and totally fall in love — not just with the actual sport (though that is a hell of a lot of fun and worthy of love as well), but with the community and what it and its members stand for. 

In the past 10 years, quidditch has proven, time and again, that a lot of the truths society holds about sports — namely that men are inherently better at sports and that dividing sports into male and female leagues is not just right but fair, too — are at best wrong, and at worst incredibly detrimental. I regularly see cisgender women of smaller stature tackling and bringing to ground cisgender men who tower above them. I see non-binary, trans and female people leading teams to glory regularly. I see this happen, and never do I hear any of the tired tropes, like, “she throws well for a girl.”

On the pitch, your worth is based on what you contribute to your team, not the gender you identify with. Name me another team sport with full contact, international leagues, an equal mix of people of all genders and wonderfully rampant feminism, and I’ll sign up tomorrow. Until then, I’ll stick with quidditch and wish the sport a very happy birthday. 

(Image via Warner Bros.)

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