Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Infantilizing Women

So E. comes home from hockey practice the other day and tells me about a plan to make the women's team that plays in Cedar Rapids a little more visible. The idea is to let the women's team scrimmage between periods at the Rough Riders game. Teams do scrimmage between periods--but the teams are comprised of little kids. It serves as entertainment, brings the parents of the kids to the game, and gives the kids the chance to spend a little time in the limelight in front of a big crowd. But it's a different story when you put grown women in this same situation. Because it is a space/time that has already been established as a "lesser" (which is fine when you are talking about developing junior players) moment by devoting it to children, putting women there creates a very different situation. It becomes more like a sideshow atmosphere. And it equates the women with the children.
It seems like a no-win situation. Even if the women play well, they are still playing into the idea that women's hockey is a novelty. And if they do not perform well then their game is compared to the men's game and perhaps even--because it is showcased when the kids' scrimmages usually are--to junior hockey.
I think it's a bad tactic. I think even if they decide to go through with it E will abstain. There are other means to bring attention to women's hockey that do not involve playing second fiddle to the men's game.


EBuz said...

In defense of the idea's proponents, there is a subset of public who don't even believe that women even endeavor to play hockey. By engaging in a public performance(regardless of the context and regardless of the quality of our performance), they suggest, we are enlightening them by exposing them to a reality (women like/play hockey) that is contrary to their stereotype (that women do not like/play hockey).

That said, as your post points out, I am abstaining from the event. I believe that showcasing women's skills in a forum that is usually reserved for kids runs too high a risk of fostering the impression that women's sports, like childrens' sports, are not real sports.

Amateur said...

I have also been to men's games where the intermission was used to showcase sledge hockey. I imagine that this event was also designed to expose hockey fans to a new reality, as you put it, ebuz. I also imagine that some of the competitors had qualms similar to yours.

ken said...

You are absolutely right, duder. All sports do start somewhere. Men's sports usually start in a much more visible realm or at least rise faster to gain a mainstream audience. That is why the space and time in which women's sports are showcased are of critical importance.
I disagree with your assertion that the t-shirt canon shooters, and zamboni driver have the same goals as those playing junior or sledge hockey in between periods. I think the people who schedule the intermission activities also do not believe all these groups have or serve the same purpose. Is it all a version of entertainment--sure--the game itself falls into the category as well. But it is not just entertainment.
Additionally, I think implicit in your argument is that unless a women's team agrees to play under such conditions they are not truly committed i.e. "playing to the bone." I think female hockey players, and myself as a fan, would take great exception to this.