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How to Approach Gender Equity with Highschool Boys

By Fae Rauber

Note: This article was researched and written in Spring 2018.

Photo by Ron Sellers.

Layout: Start by acknowledging that Gender Equity is an inherently uncomfortable topic, and though they may want to respond or jump in, in order to have a meaningful discussion there will be a place for discussion and questions only at the end. Make sure that they know that they can come up to leaders and ask questions individually if they are uncomfortable in the group setting. There are no stupid questions.

Equality vs Equity

  • Equality is where everyone is provided the same opportunity/options
  • Equity provides fair opportunities, acknowledging and adapting to differences in opportunity and agency, which allows for disadvantaged groups to end up in the same place as those who started out ahead.

Agency and how it’s Different than Choice

  • Choice is all the options available, agency is independent of those choices; its an internalized idea of ability and voice. Agency is impacted by social structure and societal expectations. (i.e. Am I good enough?, I don’t have enough experience, that position doesn’t fit me)
  • How could perceived choices and agency be affecting female players and teammates? What are examples of situations in which boys would react differently than girls?

Intent vs Impact

It doesn’t matter where the comments/actions came from or the feelings behind them, if a person is offended or feels ‘othered’ by them the action is not ok. Even if what they said came out wrong, or it wasn’t what they ‘meant to say’, it is never ok to blame the victim or dodge accountability. So no ‘she’s being too sensitive’, or ‘ its their fault for perceiving _____ as ______ because it wasn’t meant that way’.

Microaggressions

Any statement, action, or incident regarded as indirectly, subtly, or unintentionally discriminatory against members of a marginalized group. Microaggressions can be seen in conversation, body language, actions on and off the field, and in any social setting.

Examples of verbal microaggressions include ‘She’s good for a girl’, ‘women’s ultimate just isn’t as competitive’, ‘I bet I could get onto _____(women’s team)’.

Examples of physical/body language based microaggressions include repeatedly not throwing to open female players, not throwing to female players after they make a mistake, talking over female players in a huddle, correcting female players for all mistakes they make.

Invite female players/coaches to share microaggressions that they have experienced or witnessed, and allow for clarifying questions. It is not always appropriate to ask a female player to give specific examples of each microaggressions, such as asking when and with who did such a thing happen.

Examples of Male Privilege in Ultimate

  • Assumed to be athletic unless repeatedly proved otherwise.
  • Mistakes will not immediately impact level of participation or inclusivity from other teammates.
  • Favorite Open teams have mixed gender fans and can expect large turnouts at games.
  • Have ample representation of themselves all through the sport, so they can easily visualize their path

Facilitation of Discussion:

Pre-Discussion

  • Think about the layout: Do you want a circle, a sort of stage? Will the discussion take place during practice, after practice, at a separate non frisbee meeting? Who will lead, will players be invited to share their own experiences? Do you want it player/captain lead or coach led?
  • Include female players: Let the girls on your team know your plans for having a discussion on gender equity, and invite them to share their own experiences, either with you, or with the group. Consult female leaders on the team about how the discussion will work and what you want to focus on.

Discussion

  • Set Expectations: You are having a serious discussion that requires the groups full attention. Side conversations, jokes, or flippancy will not be tolerated. They are listening to understand, so questions are good, but in the time they wait to ask their question they should be paying attention to what the speaker is talking about, not what they want to say.
  • Make the purpose of the discussion clear: Be sure to explicitly say what you will talk about, why that subject, and why now. Are you resolving a specific issue? Bringing light to a culture/atmosphere of inequity? How do you and the leadership expect the information gained from the discussion to impact the team culture and players behavior?
  • Stay on topic: It’s easy for someone sharing an anecdote or asking a question to get off topic. If you notice a tangent beginning, stop them, acknowledge the importance of the issue they are bringing up, but remind them that it is not what you met to talk about. If possible have a notebook to write down topics that come up frequently to talk about at a later date.
  • Tap into empathy: Make sure that this topic is grounded and hits close to home. Never use the passive voice (i.e. instead of ‘female players are not thrown to as much as men’, ‘men often don’t throw to female players as much as other men’). Invite female players to talk about how actions or objects make them feel; they don’t have to use specific examples, especially if it’s something that happened on the current team, but give enough detail to help the teammates visualize what the female players go through.
  • You can say ‘Imagine if every time you made a mistake you worried that your teammates would stop throwing to you’, or ‘ imagine that every time you did something well it was discounted, but every time you made a mistake someone gave you advice/told you what you did wrong, even when you knew it already’

Actions Leadership can take to Change or Improve

There are always things that you can do to improve, especially if you are in a leadership position, but sometimes it’s hard to know just what to do. It may seem like there are more than enough established programs for girls in your area, or that there are none and no foundations to work up from. Either way, there are things to do to support women’s ultimate at all levels.

  • Share knowledge about women’s ultimate, especially around youth players. Mention club developments, amazing plays, local programs, or even just talk about your favorite players.
  • Use girls in demos, drills, and iso plays, even if they are not the most experienced player there. Show that they are a part of the team and you intend to use them as such.
  • Spread knowledge of local girls clinics or programs like AGE UP, GURLS, or CutCamp.
  • Make sure that your playing of girls does not fluctuate based on the importance of the situation. It’s great if there is even gendered playing time during the regular season, but by taking girls out on universe point, finals, or high stakes games you are showcasing your lack of confidence in them. A great way to remedy this, especially when it is happening subconsciously, is to keep track of the lines called, both during high and low stakes situations.
  • Either put girls in or suggest that they apply for leadership roles or programs. Having female captains opens up new avenues for younger girls, redefines boys perspectives on female capabilities, and can vastly change the players idea of their power. You can also look to women as leaders in everyday situations, like on the line or as leaders of warm ups.
  • Create girls only spaces, be they a girls practice, workout group, or program. This creates a safe space for a group that is often worried about the smallest mistakes, and provides a haven for younger players unsure of matching up against older/bigger boys.
  • Amplify women’s voices whenever you can. Women all over struggle with being talked over, ‘mansplained’ to, or straight out ignored. If a female player in a huddle or a drill suggests or comments something, it can be helpful, both for her self esteem and others acknowledgement, to add ‘good point’ or ‘I agree with ____’. However, it is very important never to restate what she just said, if you think that people haven’t heard, get their attention, and direct it back to her.
  • If you get feedback that makes you feel defensive, ask yourself why you feel that way, and consider the context for both you and the person you’re talking to.
  • If you really have no idea what to do, or how to improve, reach out to your female teammates, colleagues, and players. Asking about their experience playing with men/boys as well as your own behavior will let them know that you are interested in improving and will give you valuable information on your own conduct.

Fae Rauber is an alum of the Girls Ultimate Revolution Leadership (GURLS) program. Please visit our website, Facebook or Instagram to learn more.

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