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No Gender On The Boat

18 Mar
who'd of thought I'd write one of these??

who’d of thought I’d write one of these??

I don’t usually think about gender inequality. Maybe I should, maybe if women don’t keep an eye out and fight against gender inequality it will slowly sneak back in to our lives and bam! we get blindsided by it and don’t know how to respond. Maybe we, my generation I mean, has gotten lazy because we just assume gender inequality is no longer an issue, well, at least in our first world country existence.

I make jokes about gender inequality, about how some things are “boy jobs” (like killing spiders and taking out the garbage), I never really mean it, obviously anything a guy can do a woman can do and vice versa. It’s not a matter of a person’s gender that decides what they can do, it is what they have been taught, or what they are interested in, or what they have been exposed to. If I was exposed to car repair type things growing up I’d probably have a better idea of how to change the oil in my suv, or change the tire, or I dunno, do suv engine type things. I could still learn how my suv engine works now, I just have no real interest in learning that, shrug. I don’t doubt that I could learn, and I also don’t doubt that there are a lot of women out there who can do car engine type things.

Because I personally feel that anybody can learn to do anything I don’t keep an eye out for gender inequality and I personally haven’t experienced it…until now…

We have a new coach for our dragon boat team, the coach is a woman. I didn’t think anything about it when meeting her because all but one dragon boat coach I have had has been a woman. As long as they are a good coach who cares about anything else, right?

Well, this coach is gender biased, against women. That’s right, she is a woman who is sexist against women. How does that even work??

Our team is a mixed team, meaning we have men and women on the boat. At race festivals there are rules about how many women must be on the boat for a race, it is usually 6 or 8 women minimum. So our new coach is saying we should recruit more men and then on race days have the minimum number of women on the boat we can get away with and fill the rest of the boat with men.

Lemme tell ya, the women on our boat were not impressed with this. She mentioned this at our first practice but I missed that practice because I was sick and thought maybe what I was being told was taken out of context or made to sound worse than it actually is but nope. At every practice since this has come up.

Our women are strong, some of our women are stronger than some of our men. We don’t slack, we don’t let the guys do all the work and just sit there looking pretty, we work hard, we train hard, we pull our weight. But now we are being told that on race day, despite being good paddlers, despite showing up to practices, despite working hard, we will be swapped out so there can be more guys on the boat, regardless of which paddler has more experience, or shows up to more practices, or has earned a chance to race.

No.

Just…no. That’s not right.

So now us women find ourselves in an uncomfortable position because not only is our new coach saying this but our captain is siding with her. We were muttering to each other during warm up, suggestions were made quietly that maybe all the woman should boycott one practice to show what is missing when we aren’t there, comments were thrown out that if we aren’t going to get to race then we won’t be showing up to practices and giving our time to the team if the team is going to shelve us. But for all that we were unhappy and angry and quietly speaking to each other we weren’t speaking out. We weren’t calling bullshit on this sexist regime that seemed to be slowly taking over our team. It’s bad enough for a coach who is new to our team and who maybe hasn’t realized just how strong our women are to say this but for our captain who knows us, knows how hard we work, to side with her because of reasons I can’t even fathom, well, it’s enough to make a girl want to walk out on practice.

This was the first practice I have ever had where I didn’t give it my all. Why should I give everything at practice if I’m not going to get to race? Why give so much of myself to my team if I am not an equal member of my team? Over the span of the practice my anger at the situation grew but I had no idea what to do about it. I can’t just yell at the captain, what will that get me? Kicked off the team probably. Anger didn’t seem like the right way to respond to this situation but I couldn’t look past my anger to see what should be done.

After practice, when we were all by the lockers our captain brought it up, said we as a team needed to talk about this because people seemed upset. He said that we had agreed as a team that we wanted to move up to the next level and maybe we didn’t realize sacrifices would need to be made in order to get to that next level. To which one of the women responded that it is the team, as it is now, with our women paddlers, who got the team to where it is, who brought us to the level we are at, and that shouldn’t be discounted. It was also asked why did he think we couldn’t get to the next level with the women on our team paddling? Who says we can’t get there if we race with women on the boat? Other things were said, comments made, the new coach walked in on our pow-wow and threw her two cents in to the ring. In the end a vote was taken, who wanted to keep things as is, not recruit anymore men to the boat, keep our ratio of women-to-men, and do our best. Hands went up all around. Even the guys hands. One of the guys said who races should be based on who earns a spot on the boat on race day which we all agree with, it’s always been like that with us. If you show up to practice, if you train hard, if you are a good paddler, basically if you earn your seat, then you race. If you slack off, don’t show to practices, don’t try to improve your technique then you stand a higher chance of being sat out on race day (assuming we have more paddlers than spots in the boat).

I’m glad this got brought out in the open and talked about, that people could say to the team what they were thinking/feeling about this new policy, but I’m also still upset. This shouldn’t have happened. Gender has never been an issue on the boat, it should never have become one. It should always be about who earned their spot, who worked for it, not about if you’re a man or woman.

I also don’t know if I believe that on race day there won’t be more women sat out than men. We won’t really know if the coach and/or captain are going to stick to what we as a team voted for until it is race day but I sure hope they don’t go back on what we all agreed on. I’m not good at trusting people, and now two people who I’m supposed to trust to put the good of the team before their own agenda have outed themselves as people who are biased against women…I don’t want to spend the season constantly keeping an eye out for gender biased behaviour but I am already feeling a bit stressed and on guard about it, like I have to keep an eagle eye out to make sure the women on my team don’t get screwed over, sigh. This could really suck…

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