As most parents will know, children are imitators. They see how their parents talk and act. They quickly learn how to divide themselves into different camps or bring people together – how to label someone an outsider or offer her/him a sense of belonging.
I know I am not alone in my desire for young girls and boys to grow up believing they can become whatever they dream; that they should not tolerate arbitrary limitations based on gender. But I see there are still battles to be won.
Recently I was told by two men that I am not allowed to play rec hockey on the “men’s nights” because I am a woman. It didn’t involve my skill. It didn’t matter that there is no body contact allowed. I was told there was no vote taken among players, but certain people had decided to “continue with the status quo” which meant excluding women, regardless of their skill level.
As it stands, men have three nights to choose from for rec hockey and women only one. A third of the time, the co-ed ice time on Friday is cancelled due to low turnout – I’m told by one male counterpart this is because “women need time to do their hair and go to the bar,” on Friday nights.
Ah. So it’s women’s hair that’s the problem.
While progressive parents teach their children that gender and sexuality lie on a spectrum, we’re taught something quite different on the sports field. Often the division is explained as a difference of strength, force or flexibility. We’re taught there is more difference between genders than there is between individuals and segregation is somehow natural.
When it comes to adult recreational and amateur leagues too, players come from all backgrounds with various skill levels. Men and women fall across the skill spectrum.
Yet, here we are, parsed along gender lines as if that were the only relevant distinction.
I want a community that embraces all people, regardless of gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation – all those rights we fought for now inscribed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I enjoy playing hockey with women and men. I enjoy socializing with women and men. But I’m told the feeling among some men is not mutual.
The problem isn’t insurance, or safety or skill. It’s old-school attitudes. Men who are afraid to be aggressive around women.
I’m deeply disappointed to encounter these sexist attitudes in my community. My female friends and I want to play the sport. We enjoy the recreation, the exercise, the camaraderie. Excluding us only garners hard feelings and teaches children in our community that excluding based on gender is ok.
At the Dec. 6th ceremony in Valemount last week we observed the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The day recalls the incident in 1989 when Marc Lepine walked into l’Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal and murdered 14 women because they were women. He felt they didn’t have the right to be in that school.
Elsewhere in the world today, women continue to face brutal and uncompromising situations that negate their personhood and personal choice.
At the service last week we read a text together that resonated with me. I feel much would be solved if everyone in our community took it to heart:
“We strive to eradicate the injustices and the inequities that create division. We boldly face our own complicity and complacency which enable these destroyers of community.”