Friday, 27 April 2012

Rank Ordering of Hate in Hockey: Racism > Homophobia > Sexism

I thought it was awesome that the Boston Bruins organization issued a statement condemning the racist tweets by Boston fans directed towards Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals.

I was just saying to someone the other day how I thought one way to reduce the homophobic tweeting by ignorant hockey fans would be for an NHL superstar (or two or three, or perhaps a whole frickin' team) to step up and say, "Hey fans! We love that you're enthusiastic about our team, and sure, trash talking and chirping can be a lot of fun... but lay off the homophobic language. That's hateful and there's no place for that in hockey." I ranted about those tweets in a prior post, along with mentions of racism and misogyny. I wasn't surprised though, that nobody made an official statement about it.

Why are some forms of hate worthy of speaking out against by the NHL, and others not?

It's because we rank-order the seriousness of hate.

Racism is not okay. There seems to be significant consensus about this. In a LOT of places, if you throw out a racial slur in public, chances are good that people will speak up against it. Or at least send you enough dirty looks to make you think twice about doing it again.

But homophobia? "That's so gay." I hear this all the time. When I used to teach high school kids about sexual harassment and bullying, this was one of the toughest lessons. Labeling that phrase as homophobic gets many kids, and sometimes a few teachers, getting defensive and say things like, "but I don't mean it THAT way. I have gay friends/family/whatever!"

I always countered this with "If someone thought something was bad, and instead of saying 'that's so gay', they said 'that's so Chinese', would that be racist?" (I chose this particular example because I am Chinese-Canadian). Unanimously, the group would respond, "yes". Then I would ask, "so how is this different than saying 'that's so gay'?" Nobody really has a counter argument to that.

That example works because we have less tolerance for racism than for homophobia. This gets even worse with sexism, especially the more subtle kind.

I absolutely despise the whole "Sedin Sisters" thing. Some people argue that it's harmless, but you know what I hear when people speak derogatorily of the Sedins by calling them sister? It implies that sisters are somehow less desirable than brothers. It's an insult to my whole gender.

I can never decide, when an organization speaks out about one kind of hate but not another, whether I should be happy that they are speaking out at all, or if I should be annoyed that they aren't speaking out about the other forms. One could argue that, in the case of Joel Ward, there was a specific person that was being targeted; and that it was the right thing for organizations to speak up about it. Yet, given the statistics, it is impossible that there are no gay players at the NHL level.

There's a lot of discussion about when and if someone currently playing in the NHL will ever come out. Who can blame them for not doing so, given that so much homophobic attacks continue unchecked?

As for sexist bullshit, I fear that the likelihood of someone speaking out against that to be even lower, since there are no women in the NHL. I feel for the many girls and young women I know involved with hockey, to know that not only are there many logistical barriers that limit their participation, but so many social barriers as well; social barriers that nobody is doing anything about.

I feel as though I've been obsessed with the sociopolitical side of hockey recently, but for me, these situations are not separable from the actual game. Don't get me wrong, I'm all riled up for playoff hockey (and my team isn't even in it!), but I know it'd be more enjoyable if it wasn't tainted by all of this hate. Yes, I realize the futility of my optimism, but given the positive response of NHL players to the You Can Play Project, I still continue to hope that those involved with hockey, whether they are fans, players, teams, or the entire league, can speak up and DO SOMETHING about this. I am nobody, and I don't expect to instigate change; but there are many in positions of power, who by speaking a few words, whether in an interview, on Twitter, or on Facebook, can ask more from others and perhaps reduce the hateful behaviour. Hockey isn't the world, but wouldn't it be a great example if the hockey world came together to do something about this? Perhaps it would be something the rest of the world could learn from.

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