Friday, April 24, 2015

Hockey and Misogyny

          I shouldn't have to continue writing the same piece over and over again. I wrote this piece back when Flyers fans pressured the team to bring back Ice Girls in September. I wrote something similar to this recently too. And now, after a cavalcade of stories have emerged about the maltreatment of women or implication that women are lesser at recent playoff games, it's time to rant. And this might not be coherent, or interspersed with magnificent prose; it might just be a flat rant. But that's what needed right now. Treating women as human beings or as equals as sports fans is not something I should have to type anymore. But here we are... AGAIN...
        It started last Friday when a female Senators fan was taunted and called derogatory slurs at the Sens-Habs Game 2 at the Bell Centre. The ushers did absolutely nothing to help her out (presumably because she was wearing the wrong sweater), and it only took Eugene Melnyk and the Senators to put her up in the owners box for Game 3 to right the wrong another team caused.

        Then, there came the "Katy Perry" chants from Winnipeg Jets fans towards Corey Perry. While Jets fans are usually the smartest and most cunning when it comes to snark, this chant comes off as only sexist and nothing more. They're not calling Perry a "California Girl" as a term of endearment, let's be honest. They can chant up with the best European football ultras (and even they have their plentiful bad moments), but this one just fell flat. Even if it was meant as a light-hearted joke, it didn't come off that way.

      Next, we see Ken King and Brian Burke tell Flames fans to treat women with respect on the Red Mile after Flames playoff games, a place they don't even have control over. It's commendable that they have called out the people who are making life worse for all sensible female hockey fans in Calgary, but the fact that they have to do this at all is disturbing. The debauchery of the Red Mile in 2004 is 11 years in the past, humanity is supposed to have evolved. Drunken fans telling women to take their tops off is still horrible and unacceptable, no matter the where or the why.

    And as for the cherry on top of this crap filled sundae, Gary Bettman denied that the aforementioned Katy Perry chants had any ill intents whatsoever, and likened this chant to calling a goalie a sieve. But then, a female reporter (a hero in any regard), came in with the line of 2015 thus far (and likely won't be topped), "but sieves don't have feelings". The NHL, with Bettman as a proxy trumpets their diversity with one breath and then denies that there is any problem with an overtly sexist chant the next is... a bad look. Even though Bettman can't overtly admit there is a problem for PR reasons, he can at least do something. He did something about Sean Avery's nonsense, why can't he do something about Winnipeg's?

    Not only do these stories still exist, there are way too many of them. I can completely understand why some female hockey fans feel turned off by the NHL because of all of these incidents and the league proverbially stuffing their fingers in their ears and humming "The Hockey Song", because I would be too. As a white male myself that means absolutely nothing, but we're the people who can cause change (more powerful white men, to be specific. I have no power to speak of).

    The league, its teams, and powerful figures, almost all of whom are white men, need to take a stand and call out this nonsense. It might not end the stupidity, but at least it could momentarily make some headway. And that's all the sport needs right now, as it potentially stands to hemorrhage female fans for something entirely preventable.

    And let's not even get started on that CBS Detroit article...

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