Don’t be fooled by the reassuring 1950s public service announcement style voiceover: this video teaches you very little about rugby and a lot more about how some people perceive women’s rugby.
This video, which purports to explain the laws (laws not rules, Lynx!) of rugby with the help of some scantily clad models, went viral when released during the 2011 Rugby World Cup with over 1.5m internet hits in 1 week. It was created in Sydney by the Soap Creative ad agency for Lynx, the deodorant brand famous for its raunchy ads. They may have got the idea from this equally offensive guide to performing CPR.
The voice-over tells us that rugby gives the “opportunity for individuals or every shape, size and ability to participate”. This is indeed one of the best aspects of the game, but not one represented here. The models are all of exactly the same body shape and size and do not look strong enough to survive 80 minutes on a pitch!
The video does little to educate the viewer about good rugby techniques- the scrum is almost vertical as are the body positions going into the ruck and maul- you would have thought the video directors would have liked to get these women bending over more not less!
Neither are these women properly attired to play rugby. Their disproportionately-large breasts do not appear to be benefiting from the support of a decent sports bra. Exercising without one for long periods of time can strain the elasticity and cause sagging (which might bring some of these model’s careers to an untimely end). Also, while jumping in the lineout, there is every chance that their breasts might escape from their meagre confinement altogether (but then maybe that’s the idea)?
I concede that one aspect of the video has an element of accuracy- the oiled- up skin reminds me of a ploy we used to use at Oxford: before a match we would liberally apply Vaseline to our legs – partly to keep warm on bitter winter afternoons, but also so that when the opposition grabbed us in a tackle, they would find it hard to keep hold of our slippery skin!
This video is not unique in its condescending portrayal of women playing sport. In America, there is a Lingerie Super Bowl and charity stiletto races have become popular, from Moscow to Amsterdam. I don’t want to be a prudish killjoy, and if this sort of thing attracts people to rugby and teaches them some of the laws, then great! But my concern is that it suggests that women playing rugby is as novel, frivolous and cute as puppies or kittens playing rugby- whereas in fact, women have been playing rugby seriously for years. The first recorded woman to play rugby was 10 year old schoolgirl Emily Valentine, at Potora Royal School in Ireland in 1887. In her memoirs she described scoring her first try:
“I grasped [the ball] and ran dodging and darting, but I was so keen to score that try that I did not pass it, perhaps when I should; I still raced on, I could see the boy coming towards me; I dodged, yes I could and breathless, with my heart pumping, my knees shaking, I ran. Yes I had done it; one last spurt and I touched down, right on the line. I lay flat on my face and for a moment everything went black.”
That for me is far more exciting a representation of a woman playing rugby than anything the Lynx advertising team could come up with.
For a more realistic and inspiring video, check out IRB’s “Ones to Watch” profiling four outstanding players from the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup:
By: Miranda Kaufmann