©Camilo León-Quijano

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The Rugbywomen


Tackling Stereotypes


In January 2017 I started following a group of rugbywomen from the Chantereine High School of Sarcelles, a marginalized “banlieue” in the north of Paris. “Banlieue” is a French word to designate a suburb. It is composed by the words “-lieu” (place) and “ban-” (external). Somehow the “banlieues” are the “banned places”, often socially and politically dismissed by the State. Sarcelles is the 4th most impoverished city of the country and a significant part of its population has an immigrant background.

Last year the Chantereine club was one of the best newcomer teams of the country. This was due to their coach Florian Clement, who started in 2015 a project called “20 rugbywomen sarcelloises”. The main objective was to use rugby as a way to limit the school dropout and to promote “citizenship values” in this low-income suburb. In fact, Sarcelles has one of the highest school dropout rates in the country. By virtue of this project and due to the values promoted by rugby - empowerment, discipline, teamwork – all the participants of the project obtained their “brevet” (high school diploma). In addition, four of them had been selected to join professional rugby clubs in Montpellier, Perpignan and Bretigny. They will continue their schooling in these professional training centers for the next 3 years..

For these young women, rugby is an empowering medium to overcome difficulties and gain confidence. It is also a tool to reverse gender, social and racial stereotypes, and to change the image of young women living in French suburbs.

​Training day in Chantereine under the snow. In the background, the social housing buildings of Sarcelles.

Training day in Chantereine under the snow. In the background, the social housing buildings of Sarcelles. 

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Koumba, 16, is one of the best players of Chantereine High School. She lives in a social housing tower in Sarcelles.

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Tenacity and commitment. They apply this values everywhere, particularly in their everyday life.

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Rugby is often considered as a “sport for men”. The rugbywomen endorse a double bias: society and family stereotypes. Some of the parents don't encourage the rugbywomen as they consider rugby as a rude sport only for men.

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In the Chantereine High School 86% of the students come from low-income families. They have been training together since 2014. In 2016 they were the best newcomer team of France (4th). In this picture, they prepare a travel to UK on May 2017.

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Koumba prepares for school. Her room is surrounded by posters of the French Female Rugby 7 Team.

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Koumba cries after receiving an excellent news from his coach Florian: she has been accepted at the USAP, a specialized rugby training center based in Perpignan. Before Koumba joined Chantereine she risked of being expelled from the school for bad behavior.

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Jania and Assa at the final of "Top 14" (National Rugby League) in Stade de France-Saint Denis.

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In spite of the image of being a "rude sport", rugby promotes values such as teamwork, respect, discipline, humility and solidarity. In addition,

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Jania takes some water after a tournament in Garges.

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Ashley waits in the middle of the field for the next match.

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Yves Joelle trains in the mud. Sarcelles.

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Assa, the “capitaine” of the team, receives the trophy of Val d'Oise. Chantereine UNSS (high school team) has been one of the best newcomer teams of the country in 2016-2017.

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At the end of the year we organized with Florian (their coach) an exhibition "éphémère" of the photographic project in the high school.

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Rugby, an empowering sport For these young women, rugby has been an empowering medium to overcome difficulties and gain confidence.

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The Rugbywomen 


Colombia

Daniela, 20 years old, plays in the Minotauros Rugby Club of Bogotá (Colombie) since 2015.

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Rugby is a recent sport in Colombia. The Minotauros Rugby Club is one of the best female teams of the city.

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Rugby is a sport that has been recently introduced in Colombia. Between June and August 2017, I followed a group of young women from the Minotauros Rugby Team, one of the most important rugby clubs of Bogotá. The main purpose was to understand the way they experienced this sport in their daily life. During two months, I explored the “rugby community” of Bogotá. By doing so, I discovered the impact of rugby in their everyday life. Teamwork, respect, enjoyment, self-confidence and discipline are some of the values endorsed by these young women. These photographs explore the relationship between gender, daily life and sports.

A tackle during a training in the IDRD field of Bogotá.

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There is no dressing room, the rugbywomen use the football field.

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Carolina started playing rugby after a love breakup. Today, she aims to join Tucanes, the team that represents Colombia in international competitions.

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Carolina: "Rugby pushes me to be stronger but also to take care of my body and my femininity".

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Andrea in the tournament of the Female Rugby League of Bogota. Tercer Tiempo field.

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The average age of the rugbywomen is 22 years old. Most of them are from the middle class and a large number are university students.

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Out of the field, alcohol and parties are part of the rugbywomen "rituals".

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Through their sportive engagement, the rugbywomen "tackle" the social and gender stereotypes associated with this sport.

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This research was supported by the Society for Visual Anthropology/Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship,
made possible by a generous donation from The Robert Lemelson Foundation
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