In my experience, whenever gender equity and sexism come up in ultimate they are met by a lot of defensiveness or ignorance from boys. It makes sense that this happens given how and when it is brought up. In order to try to change the resistance that comes up, I wanted to reach out to boys to see what they thought would be a more effective way of having discussions and conversations about gender equity and sexism in ultimate. After many interviews with boys on my team (Berkeley High School Coup), I got ideas on how I could make an effective discussion guide based off of what they said. This is the result of those conversations:
Things to decide or acknowledge before the actual discussion:
- Why this discussion?
- Who is in the discussion?
- Who is leading the discussion?
- How do you want the discussion to happen? This may be a complicated decision, but it is an important one. It might be helpful to ask some players on your team that you think may have ideas about what would work best for the largest number of people. No matter which format you decide to use, make sure that everyone regardless of gender is included and there is no separation based off of gender. Here are some ideas:
- Bring up a topic relating to sexism or gender equity and let people talk as a whole group, let the discussion go where it goes, only step in if it gets very off topic or people are getting too upset, let it go for as long as you want. Repeat for as many topics as you want.
- Bring up a topic relating to sexism or gender equity and then split people up into smaller groups, check in with each group every once and awhile. Let these small discussions go as long as you see fit. Repeat for as many topics as you think is necessary for what you want to achieve.
- Prepare a presentation and people can ask questions when they need. For this you need to make sure that you do not sound condescending, this makes people not want to ask questions and they will not be as receptive to what you have to say
- Prepare a short presentation briefly introducing topics relating to gender equity that you want to be discussed and then go into a short discussion, either with the whole group or split into smaller groups for each topic.
- Say why you have called this discussion and why it is important in general, somewhat of an introduction
- Could be introducing gender equity and sexism as very broad topics
- May also be saying what specifically triggered this conversation.
2. Discuss or describe as many of the following as you see fit:
- With all of the topics listed below there are some points that I believe are important for the discussion, use as many or few as you want.
- Remember to say that even though it is important to have a positive experience with all of these for everyone, typically girls struggle with this more than boys
- Microaggression: Any statement, action, or incident regarded as indirectly, subtly, or unintentionally discriminatory against members of a marginalized group.
- How microaggressions affect people in many ways and how some people react differently than others.
- It is often hard to recognize if you do micro agress someone and how this makes it hard to have conversations about microaggressions.
Equity vs. equality:
- Equality: being equal, having equal opportunity.
- Equity: providing opportunity while taking into account differences.
- How equity relates to and is different from equality.
- Equity as a way of striving for equality.
Choice vs. agency:
- Choice: the act of choosing from two or more options
- Agency: internalized ideas about one’s abilities that may stop someone from choosing the option that they want when they are given a choice.
- How agency often impacts people when their confidence is low
- How does agency relate to sexism and gender equity in general?
Male privilege in ultimate:
- Boys are typically assumed to be athletic unless repeatedly proven otherwise.
- Boys’ mistakes are less likely to impact the inclusivity from other teammates.
- There is a lot of male representation in ultimate.
- Not all boys are responsible for or the reason that male privilege exists, just important to be aware.
3. One-on-one conversations:
- This should be a different part of the discussion given that these one on one conversations are very important and often do not happen in respectful ways. Along with this, one on one conversations are very common and really challenging to have in a way that is comfortable for both people involved.
- Just like the previous part of the discussion, choose how you want it to be run. I’d suggest there be less open discussion in this portion, both because of how much there is to talk about and how little it is talked about.
- Just as the part before these are parts of one-on-one conversation that I believe are important to talk about. You do not need to address all of them if you don’t want to.
- Always lead with your experience and perspective on what happened.
- Don’t assume that you know exactly what the person that you are talking to did and why they did it.
- Blaming the other person is not productive.
- It is okay to be direct, as long as you are not doing it in a disrespectful way.
- Feel free to talk openly and honestly about what happened.
- Understand that you and only you know what you feel.
- Be open to hear what the other person has to say.
- Do not assume that the other person understands the possible impact that their actions may have had on you.
- If the other person does not immediately respond the way you were hoping, be open to talking more.
- Understand that it is okay and perfectly normal to not know exactly how to change or adjust what you are doing, asking is always helpful for this.
- If you don’t talk directly to the person(s) involved, things can turn into gossip among people who don’t need to be involved.
- If you don’t throw to somebody, they might beat themselves up about making a bad cut or get mad if they think that you looked them off because of their gender or whatever it is. If you feel comfortable enough, it is really nice and reassuring if you go up to a person if you just looked them off. Even if you don’t have a concrete reason for looking the person off, go up to the person and acknowledge the situation.
- Wrapping things up will help to make people feel satisfied with the discussion
- Ask them to continue to use the practices brought up either by their peers or you.
- Give them possible resources of places of leadership where they can continue to help the ultimate community become equal and accepting.
- Thank people for their participation.
GURLS is a tuition-free leadership program for ultimate athletes in high school, focusing on meaningfully building gender equity in our sport and community. To find out more about us and support GURLS, we invite you to our “The Future is Female with GURLS” fundraiser, taking place on August 16, 2019 in downtown San Francisco. Visit our event page for more information and to purchase tickets.