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Female marshal in a male-dominated sport - Victoria Austrui

Writing about being a female marshal in a male-dominated sport, what a delicate subject!

I want to preface this article with a disclaimer: even if I've asked the input of some of my peers, below will be my opinion and my experience only. You might get different points of view from other female marshals and that's perfectly alright, I'd really like to read about them in the comment section.



The question I was asked seemed quite simple: "As a female marshal, are you treated differently than men, both by the marshals and by the fighters?". The equally simple answer: "Yes, of course".

Since you and I both know that the answer to "why" is because of prejudice and plain sexism, let me tell you about the "how" with an anecdote.

 

Not so long ago, I was the only experienced marshal and the only female working on a tournament. During a fight, a fighter lost a sabaton and I grounded him for armor failure. Mind you, at this point the sabatons had been mandatory for years. I was successively:

- questioned publicly by one of the male trainees, in the middle of the list, in the middle of the fight,

- screamed at by the whole team, squires included,

- arbitrarily overruled by the captain of the team, who ignored me to ask said trainee not to ground the fighter because "a reliable (male) marshal told them sabatons were not mandatory", which I highly doubt.

I stood firm in this chaos, the fighter was ultimately grounded, at the price of me being nearly insulted, lied to and questioned all the way. And of course, not a single excuse from anyone when I presented the rules.

 


As much as I want to say this situation happened only once, in the 6 years I've been marshaling I can't count the times it happened to me and to other women I know.

I can't count the times I've witnessed a fighter disregarding the decision of a female Knight Marshal to ask the same questions to male marshals or trainees.

I can't count the times my male peers were thanked for their work at the end of a tournament while me and other women were blatantly ignored.

I can't count the times I've heard the place of women, marshals and fighters alike, isn't in the field, that we're in the sport only to get close to men, or because we were talked into it by our husbands to help them cheat.

I even know of a time when one of the best marshals there is, who happens to be a woman, was told along with all the other women to get away from the list for the finals of a tournament. In the eyes of the male Knight Marshal, she couldn't at least be a line marshal even if she was more experienced and qualified than some of the men still in the list.

 

Don't get me wrong, this is not a situation I face at every tournament or I wouldn't be still marshaling today. It varies a lot depending on the country we're in, the teams that are fighting, the individuals we encounter. But many female marshals I know have  at least one anecdote like this one. In my experience, women are held to higher standards than men regarding marshaling. We usually have to be more efficient, more professional than our male peers to get some consideration, which even so isn't always guaranteed.

 

So yes, when it comes to marshaling it's more difficult to be a woman than a man.

 




But!

 

I don't want this article to sound like a fatality. I don't want to discourage any woman from being a marshal, and I certainly don't want to ignore all of the positive changes I've seen happening all these years.

 

I've cited so many bad examples because the negative is always louder than the positive. I've met so many men and women, marshals and fighters alike who were so far from this archaic mentality. Those who saw me and my peers for our qualities as marshals and not our gender are the real MVPs, they are the vast majority of the people I encountered and I thank them for it.

See, my colleague that was banned from the list for the finals? She defended herself, a male higher-ranked marshal stood by her side and she was able to work the finals.

I witnessed many men defending their female colleagues facing blatant sexism.

I saw many men being proud of their female fighters and congratulating their female team.

I was, with my female peers, thanked by many male marshals and fighters for our work on tournaments.

I see the work and the accomplishments of women be publicly recognised in buhurt.

 

Things changed with the creation of Buhurt International. More and more women are present in the decision process for our sport, be their board members, national representatives, organizers, fighters or marshals, Our voice carries further than it ever has. We still have a long way to go but we take care of each other, alongside all the men who see all the good we bring to our sport.

 

As for me, I decided to focus on the positive impact I can have, In the list by trying to always improve myself as a marshal, and outside the list by helping guide our new marshal recruits, especially the women as I know the challenges they'll have to face.





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