Today I woke up at 6:45am, angry.
Like scream and cry into the void angry.
Last night was INFURIATING.
I’ve spend the last year on the Gender Equity Committee of LAOUT, advocating for women, having discussion with my male and female friends. It’s been exhausting and emotional. So when Stephanie and Ronnie posted their experience with the Aviators yesterday, the CLEAR reality of women being treated as second class citizens in our ultimate community was a blow. My heart breaks for them, and for the community of women who are fighting for change. I’m angry.
My anger is fueled by the fact that the Aviators owners and players came to a lot of our Gender Equity meetings and seemed GENUINELY interested in learning and growing. Personally, I spent time last year reaching out to the Aviators owners and coaches who were friends of mine — listening to their point of view and attempting to get their perspective. They are well meaning and overworked. They’ve had a lot of leadership changes and challenges to overcome. I am empathetic to the struggles they face starting a new business and trying to keep themselves afloat. Because of this, last year, I didn’t say anything publicly, wanting to wait and see how this year would play out, hoping for the best. Honestly, I dream of a world where we have mixed and women’s professional competitions. A world where if I ever had a daughter, I could tell her — I was a part of making that happen. “She could be that girl.”
But the reality that article painted was very different than the words that came out of the leadership’s mouths.
And it made me furious. At the bar Tuesday Night Game after After Party’s game versus Skeeter, I asked various men in the Ultimate Community what they thought about the article, and a lot of the men were equally upset and supportive:
“Are we really saying ‘puss’ in 2019, who talks like that?”
“Seeing them forced to wait outside the locker room was really upsetting.”
“I don’t see how if they saw they were left out (of the locker room), they wouldn’t have made accommodations. Like you would make for ANYONE who feels left out. This is Ultimate.”
“On the field tonight, our Captain was making an effort to correct himself and say guys AND girls and I thought back to the article when she said, ‘I just want to blend in be treated the same…but I’m not the same.’ And I noticed that for the first time how we were actually pointing them out in an awkward way. And I really felt it. It was eye opening.”
A drive-by comment gets lobbed up by a prominent male player — admittedly having NOT READ THE ARTICLE —
“Oh they’re just whining cause they’re not good enough to get the play time they wanted.”
And there it was.
In one sentence, he undercut everything about these women’s personal story while absolving the male owners (and players) of any responsibility.
I looked at the other men around me in disbelief. One rebuked him, “come on man” as I threw up my hands, screaming — “This is what I was talking about. Welcome to my fucking world.”
And I left.
AS SO MANY WOMEN DO FROM ULTIMATE.
They leave. Cause they don’t want to endure this shit from the men.
Yes, men. From you.
Because we suffer through comments like this all the time — from work, to school, to random strangers yelling at us on the street. But it’s EVEN harder when it’s comments from our friends in the Ultimate community.
Comments that invalidate and undermine the experiences of women and create a male dominated narrative that is a LIE: “She was asking for it.” “She’s just a gold digger.” “She’s just a bitch.” “It’s her fault she made me so angry.” “She’s just mad she’s not good enough.”
Lies that blame WOMEN for the failings of our male dominated society.
And if this indictment makes men uncomfortable or angry…
Cause EVERY time I leave my house, I am uncomfortable and angry in this world that MEN have created. Just to give you an idea of what MY experience is like:
I worry that if I’m too angry, too passionate, too ANYTHING, men will dismiss me as being emotional, irrational and unfit for my job.
I worry that I’m working twice as hard and getting paid significantly less than my male counterparts while enduring their sexual harassment and misogyny.
I worry that if I confront these men about said sexual harassment, I will get fired.
I worry that if I walk my dog after dark, I will get followed/assaulted/raped.
I worry that if I yell back at the guy leaning out his van window catcalling me while I walk my dog, I will get followed/assaulted/raped.
And when I get to Ultimate…
I worry that as a Captain, because I have have a ‘puss’ I’m not going to be taken seriously.
I worry that the men are only PRETENDING to take me seriously cause they’re trying to get in my ‘puss’.
I worry that even though I’ve been playing for 19 years, men won’t listen in the huddle when I speak.
I worry the men will question my calls and my leadership.
I worry about the women on my team not getting thrown to.
I worry about them getting criticized for every mistake.
I worry about them becoming too afraid to make mistakes and hence —
I worry they’re not growing as players, as women, as leaders, and general badasses.
I worry about them being afraid to speak up and defend their calls.
I worry about them getting cut off by men on the field, or worse, injured.
I worry that if I don’t speak up, if I don’t encourage them enough, if I don’t constantly stay vigilant on their behalf, I’ve failed as their leader and advocate.
After the game…
I worry that if I’m not nice enough to the creepy guy at the bar talking to me, everyone will think I’m a bitch and being mean.
I worry if I’m TOO nice to said creepy guy, he’ll follow me to my car and kidnap me/assault me/rape me.
I worry that if I turn my back on my drink, I will get drugged, and then kidnapped/raped/assaulted.
I worry that if I get too drunk, I will get raped.
I worry that if I walk to my car alone at night, I will get assaulted/raped.
I worry that, WORSE, this might happen to my female teammates if I’m not watching them. If I don’t check in and make sure that creepy guy at the bar isn’t harassing them. Make sure they get to their cars safe. And they do the same for me.
Starting at a very young age, women are trained by other women to be vigilant — to be constantly uncomfortable because it’s “our fault” when we’re sexually assaulted. And we know from history and our friend’s experiences that we won’t get justice and EVERYTHING about our lives will be dragged through the mud if we attempt. Worse, we’ll have to relive that trauma over and over in the courts.
And MOST OF US have been sexual harassed or assaulted. Including me.
The world is uncomfortable for women.
And so what I ask of you, the men of LA ULTIMATE be a LITTLE LESS COMFORTABLE sometimes. A little less comfortable saying stupid shit — in bars, in your GroupMe’s, on the fields. Less comfortable with your status quo. Less comfortable with your privilege.
Emulate the men who are accommodating women with their words and their actions. Even if you fail in the attempt, please, MAKE AN ATTEMPT.
Be like the players at the bar, who rebuked the man who made the comment that Rigby and Ronnie were “whining.” Who spent his night at the bar defending the work we’re doing with Gender Equity and LAOUT’s decision not to partner with the Aviators.
And regardless of where you stand on the Aviators, be the man who is supportive when a woman shares her experience. And if you’re not sure how, here’s a primer:
ADMIT you don’t know what it’s like for us. ASK EMPATHETIC questions so you can learn. APOLOGIZE for the actions of yourself and other men. THANK the women for sharing. ACKNOWLEDGE how hard it is for them to speak out. STAND UP to other men when they shit on us for speaking out.
I thank the men in our community who ARE standing up with us in this fight. Cause it’s exhausting. And I appreciate the encouragement of the men and women who reminded me today as I shared my anger and frustration — weeping — that we’ve come so far. And we are making progress. Things have changed. They are changing. They will continue to change. And we cannot give up.
And for the Rigby’s and the Ronnie’s who are left sitting outside the locker room like second class citizens — I stand with you and say it’s NOT OK.
It’s NOT your fucking fault.
You are NOT fucking whining.
You are FUCKING BADASSES for speaking up.
You make us better for sharing what you went through.
I ask the men and women of our community to hold accountable the men in power who failed them and the men who were complicit in it through their apathy. I am publicly stating that I will not not give my money, time and efforts to the Aviators until the culture of their organization changes. I will not advocate for them when they do not advocate for us.
That being said, I encourage us that it’s GOOD TO FAIL sometimes. It helps us grow. I hope that men in our community use this as a launching pad for change. That all of us use it as a teaching moment.
I was angry last night. I still am.
Because I love Ultimate. And I love LA and this community. And I know we can do better.
And we are going to.