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The Plight Of Women In A Boys’ Club

August 17, 2010

Often I write about the connections between Punk Rock and Hockey. Well there is another one I talk about often, but seldom like to bring up online because I do not want to dwell on the negatives. The fact of the matter is that both cultures are boys’ clubs. By this I do not mean that women cannot participate or play major roles, merely that men dominate in both leadership positions and sheer numbers.

I, being a male and not constantly reminded of this, sometimes fail to understand what women go through. In fact, I probably do not even remotely understand what it is like to be a woman in a society such as this.

Yesterday I got a glimpse into it.

My place of employment was holding a pre-season camp for youth hockey. As part of my job, I was running check-in and directing people to their respective dressing rooms. The first camp went well with no real struggle. Then came a moment I will honestly never forget.

In the second camp was a female hockey player. A lone girl. As per the rules and just common decency, I took her to a separate locker room.

As I showed her to the room and unlocked it for her, I walked into it to do a basic sweep to make sure everything was clean.

What I was looking at was an empty locker room.

I then turned to walk out while she came into the dressing room. For some reason at that moment it clicked in my head that I had already checked-in a lot of boys for this camp session, meanwhile she was the only girl.

The phrase “empty locker room” now took on a new meaning. From bare to isolated.

I wish I could explain the sadness that instantly filled me, but I am at a loss for words. Most people that play hockey or really any sport will tell you a lot of comradery takes place in a locker room. Sure, I understand why the separate dressing rooms were needed and I get that this was just a youth hockey camp. Yet, I could not help myself from feeling a slight sadness for this girl.

While the boys got to talk and be silly in their locker room, she got dressed by herself in the silence of her thoughts.

This situation was not the fault of any person. Merely it was an unavoidable, sad circumstance. While I’m sure many will claim that moments like that will make her strong and to a point I agree, it is just one of those cruel, consistent moments in life that proves it is anything but fair.

I’m sure she is used to the separate locker room treatment by now, but something deep within my soul claimed I had unfairly separated her from those locker room experiences based solely on her gender. I felt like I was guilty of sexism in some way. Now, I know I did no such thing, but it was just what was going on in my mind at the time.

Hell, if I did anything, I probably spared her. Anyone that has been in a men’s locker room knows that it’s an assault to your eyes and nostrils.

I digress.

The point of all of this was that it gave me a look at what a girl has to go through in a completely male dominated culture. Like I pointed out earlier, no one is to blame for this situation. It is just the way the cards fell. This isn’t a post about “male guilt” or anything of the sort. Instead it just made me see the world in a different light. If anything, it made me respect female hockey players a lot more.

In my time working at an ice rink I’ve watched a pretty good amount of adult league games. In every one that featured co-ed teams, the women always out-played the men. I don’t know if this is due to these female players just being better or if it’s because they feel like they have something to prove. Regardless of the reasons why, in the past months my opinions of female hockey players has risen. Although honestly, they were never low to begin with.

People that look at women players and think they are inferior to their male counterparts are idiots. As my weekly hockey group likes to frequently say, “It doesn’t matter what’s in-between your legs. The second you start playing, you’re nothing more than a hockey player.” Classy, I know, but the point is evident. In the end, your gender doesn’t mean a thing. We’re all hockey players/fans here. That’s the only label that should matter.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2010 6:41 pm

    It’s very clear that this experience touched you deeply. Thank you for sharing.

  2. August 17, 2010 6:58 pm

    Excellent article. However, may I offer up a suggestion? I realize these are youngsters you are talking about and the idea that the lone girl needed to be separated is indeed the right thing to do. But perhaps, she could be shielded without actually having to be removed? What if the girl was given a changing screen in front of her stall?

    What if she was comfortable enough with her team mates that she needed to bond with, that they would be able to carry on chatter with her and yet not violate the screened domain?

    What if that was okay with her parents? What if a trainer, asst coach or other adult was there just to make sure?

    Perhaps then — she would have the best of both worlds.

    As a female (new media) reporter, I am often in the locker room when the men are undressing I respect their privacy while conducting my business in another part of the room and they respect my need to be there.

    Maybe it could work?

  3. August 17, 2010 7:54 pm

    Great post and good on ya for being so astute. It does kind of suck and in many cases, I just get dressed (apart from under-things which I change in the bathroom) out in the stands just because being in a lonely locker room is such a downer. Plus it’s hot and smelly.

    Anyway, no need to feel badly on your part. In fact, pat yourself on the back for being so thoughtful.

  4. August 20, 2010 7:46 pm

    Hey…thanks for the post. Did you see my article on women in the hockey hall of fame? If not, it’s on the hockey punx site:

    I’ve also done projects on women in the punk scene if you’re interested in seeing some of it.

    I’m really interested in the positive aspects of this stuff…how women are finding agency through punk, hockey, etc….in places you may not expect them to find it.


    • August 21, 2010 10:15 am

      I honestly have plenty of stories about women finding a lot of purpose to their lives through hockey and punk. I liked the article, I might toss it up on the site as a link.

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