By: Amanda Wach
The following are my thoughts and reactions to Unstacking the Deck by Sam Harkness on Skyd Magazine.
Most of the discussions throughout our community on gender equality lately have gotten one of three reactions from me:
- Oh my goodness, yes! What a great article discussing a woman’s point of view of ultimate! Way to lay out the challenges, from recruiting on up to playing at higher levels, and to emphasize the benefits women give and receive from playing ultimate.
- Wow, that was really respectful. I’m glad this guy has pointed out why the women’s game is important and that women are people that can help grow our community too.
- I CAN’T EVEN PUT WORDS TOGETHER I AM SO MAD! I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW YOU CAN REALLY FEEL THIS WAY, WOMEN ARE PEOPLE. WOMEN’S ULTIMATE IS DIFFERENT FROM OPEN AND THAT DOES NOT MEAN LESS THAN.
One reason this piece is important to me is because it made me feel something different. The list of privileges was eye-opening for me. There were things on that list that I had honestly never imagined having. Having more male fans than a handful of guys on your school team? Being accepted as a coach for an open team? Having a crowd at your games? Not having to prove that you are athletic? Being able to express negative feelings without being labeled a bitch? It’s concerning to realize some of the things I have just accepted, and not catalogued as disadvantages. If I wasn’t aware of being disadvantaged, I can’t even imagine how much of a revelation this list would be to the advantaged group.
The meat of the article reminds me a lot of conversations that I’ve had with male ultimate friends. We agree that gender imbalance is unfair, but we don’t know what to do about it. At our level of understanding, guys just need to throw to women and respect us as players and people, and women need to not back down and help get other women interested in ultimate. That is the extent of our knowledge on how to help with the gender imbalance. This is why I appreciate the next list of the article, “what should I be doing”.
Finally! Someone has told me what I can do without having to lead my own crusade in the online ultimate community! I can do more than just be a decent human being and stick up for my teammates, without having to jump into the spotlight and battle trolls. Even the simplest things that Harkness mentions, watching streaming women’s games or retweeting women’s scores, can make a difference. Thinking about promoting women’s ultimate makes me feel like these are the steps I need to go through to contribute to the ultimate community we are building.
In my time playing ultimate, I’ve been influenced by many players, men and women. My ultimate career started with a brand-spanking-new college women’s team in a city where we struggle to keep any club team for more than a year. Our only support group was the well-established open team. I looked up to my captains for that first year, but afterwards my teammates were my equals and my friends. The open captains were a few years older than me and were not my equals. They were my teachers. I looked up to them and worked hard to not let them down, pushing through every last set, asking questions, and talking about ultimate whenever we could. What I can’t imagine now, is how different my ultimate career would be if these influential guys had been advocates for women’s ultimate. How would I be different if they had watched and discussed a women’s college championship game with me, or had introduced me to teams I should follow and players I should try and emulate? Sitting at my computer, years too late, I want that. I want to have that and I want to be that for my friends and fellow competitors.
That is why this article is important.
I was afraid after finishing this article to read the comment section. I’m used to feeling pretty good about a piece I’ve read to only be infuriated by the comments and I didn’t want to know how people would disagree and tear this apart. This article meant something to me and I didn’t want that taken away by bigots so quickly. Thankfully, the ultimate community has stepped up its class and embraced this piece. Reading the comments made me feel so proud of the author and the community accepting the idea that there are a lot of realizations we need to work through before we can achieve gender equality, but there are steps we can take to make it happen.
This post originally appeared in an unedited form; it has since been edited.