There’s a lot said in this letter, and I’m glad most of it was said. I do wish though, that the narrative was a little more focused on this. “Women have been historically discouraged from playing sports and that still reflects in the competition we have today. Ultimate has a great opportunity to encourage more young women to compete and should do so.” That is the heart of the problem, in my opinion. It is not a unique problem in Ultimate where the men happen to be horrible and taking over the game. It is a systemic issue that has only seriously been addressed since title IX. Many problems still exist. I know that men can be sexist on and off the field. But it is not inherently all male ultimate players fault that inequity exists.
I would be interested in seeing how much money this group wants to take from men’s ultimate and give to women’s. I am not inherently against “reparations”, as history does need to be addressed. I would be happy to have Ultimate leading the charge in promoting female athletic competition. But, more men play Ultimate right now than women. More men play sports, really. That’s the problem. We’re one of the few sports trying to mix genders at a competitive level. So how much can you take away from the men to make it better for the women? They really want to Require 4 women, 3 men? What if the league sign ups are 60 percent men? Those guys just all get almost half the playing time of the women? That’s not equity.
Mixing gender in sports is a very tough thing to do. There is nothing equitable about being a competitive athlete. Sports are in some ways a simulation of war. Social dynamics get intense and frustrating. Play can get too aggressive and people can get injured. Mixed amplifies those problems because of the statistical difference in size. And I don’t want to take away anyone’s personal experiences. I have seen men in our community with negative attitudes towards women and vice versa. But I will say for certain that a man who makes a mistake is not coddled more than a woman. I have been both the one getting looked off and the one doing the looking off, because I want to win and my team wants to win. Sometimes people lose trust in each other, or don’t want to throw to a higher risk target.
I have learned in about 20 years of playing sports that as a man, I can’t ask for respect on the field. I have to earn it. I have also learned that disagreeing with women trying to promote gender equity in Ultimate, even disagreeing just a little, will make most people turn off their ears and their empathy. Everyone is trying to compete the best that they can and feel empowered through athletic competition. I want Ultimate to take part in moving society forward. That starts with conversations, people getting mad, leaders emerging, programs getting started.
This problem of gender equity in Ultimate reminds me of the quote “Sports is life with the volume turned up.” What a perfect microcosm of the problems society is facing at large. Everything is at play here. I think it’s a very complicated and necessary conversation, and so I’m adding what I think is a necessary (and hopefully useful) counterpoint. I love how mixed Ultimate is. It’s a huge part of what makes the community so amazing. I wonder if that is going to die out as the community grows. I hope not. But as long as we continue to be a self aware community, with SOTG at the front of our brains, I’m confident we will continue to work towards a good atmosphere for Everyone to push themselves and compete at the highest level they can.