Our sport has a culture problem. Actually that’s not true, our country has a culture problem. We say we are all about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but the Declaration of Independence was not written for diversity. I am a white, American, cis woman; despite known disadvantages, I still have a leg up on so many people and I am part of the problem.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning the use of the word f-----, I don’t bemoan the NHL for suspending Andrew Shaw, and I don’t understand how or why people can defend him. But I was someone who used “Sedin Sisters” and “Cindy Crosby” as an attack on these players. Yes, as an outspoken feminist, I saw nothing wrong with these phrases. I knew and still know that words like f----- should never be uttered but I saw no harm in taking down femininity in the process of insulting these athletes. As this is the age of putting everything on the internet, there’s probably proof at the beginning of my Twitter timeline of these thoughts, because it wasn’t until someone sat me down and said “You can’t do this”, the thought was a foreign one.
But this is where my efforts stopped. I corrected my behavior, I was selfish and self centered and felt my job was done once I altered my thoughts and speech habits. Everyone is calling for sensitivity training, real sensitivity training and not just a sit down with someone who says “don’t do that” and that’s nice and all but that’s not changing the culture. As an average person, it took considerable efforts to drop certain habits; will someone who’s only apologizing for getting caught take the same steps? If he doesn’t, it is unfortunate but we as a whole have to do better.
I’m not calling for pitchforks and torches. I’m not even calling for public shaming of people who are homophobic, sexist, racist, et al. What I am asking for us to do is change the environment. #NotAllHockeyPlayers and its variants has been a theme on twitter. Prove to us this is the case. I doubt this is the first time Shaw has said something like this, it’s just the first time he’s been caught. Why isn’t he spoken to? Where’s Captain Serious and Coach Q? Leadership is on and off the ice, your actions and reactions. Pushing Shaw out into a press conference to give a canned apology is not treating the problem. You read about kangaroo courts and fines imposed on the players for whatever reason, why isn’t culture change part of this?
Heat of the moment is no excuse for this. Frustration, elation, anger, and passion are not excuses either. There were 11 other men out on the ice, some as frustrated as Shaw, who managed to contain their words. Were they thinking it? Maybe, that’s not the point of this. The point is they didn’t. Which means it is possible for Shaw.
You make big statements like taking the Cup to the Pride Parade, but when push comes to shove do you have the ability to do more than that? As Andrew on Medium points out, “Your allyship is performative and it’s not getting the job done.” Going to the Pride Parade means nothing if you allow the bullshit to continue. I may wave a rainbow flag and RT supportive commentary on this suspension, but do I say anything when I hear a kid hurling these words at others? I cringe, I may whisper to my friends or tweet about my shock, but I continue along with my lips zipped. And that’s where this should be starting. Older generations are embarrassed that they raised Millennials who expect rewards/awards/congratulations at every step of their life, but they should be embarrassed that they raised intolerant humans. We cannot have another generation of gays, lesbains, queers, questioners, pans, trans, fluid, non-binary, and undefined fear to come out.
The NHL is offering up a consolation prize, a one game suspension. For you, a golf clap. After so many missteps and raising masculinity above all else, they can at least recognize the need for a reaction. But where is the action. Homophobia is nothing new and yet suspensions for it are new. The suspensions are the rainbow flags. I’m not one to change an institution, but we all can.
Our allyship cannot stay performative.