Monday, 8 December 2014

It's Time For Change

Hockey Blog in Canada has always maintained that this blog is "of the people, by the people, for the people". I routinely have guest bloggers send in submissions, and there will be another one tomorrow as I'm happy to offer up this space for people to air their hockey thoughts, rant and rave about something bothering them in the game, or anything in between when it comes to the greatest game on the planet. However, there has always been one segment of the population missing on HBIC. I'll be honest when I say that I never get submissions from female fans, an that fact really hit home today after reading an article on Sports Illustrated's website. In saying this, it's time for a change, readers.

Hockey writer Anna Gallegos, who has written for a number of high-profile outlets, expressed her concern and disappointment over the media's seemingly non-reaction to the dismissal of the Denver Post's Adrian Dater and Awful Announcing's Steve Lepore after some rather deplorable actions via Twitter towards women. Miss Gallegos said to Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch,
With three male hockey reporters and bloggers fired in four months for social media harassment, sexism in hockey journalism is a culture problem that goes way beyond the poor choices of a few.

The creepy Twitter messages sent by Adrian Dater, Steve Lepore and Harrison Mooney to various female fans and bloggers highlight that women in hockey are treated as a novelty. In the NHL, women are more likely to be ice girls than analysts, online we're avatars instead of fans.

Hockey has always been a sport dominated by white men, but female fans and bloggers are finding their own voice on social media, which is a shock to the status quo. And strangely, the hockey community and the media have been so slow to embrace this. The NHL and AHL teams work closely with the You Can Play campaign to reduce homophobia in hockey and increase LGBT participation, but there has never been a wide-scale campaign to actively engage women in the sport.

However, the media are doing female fans a disservice as well by allowing press boxes to remain a boys club. Out of the 293 members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association I've been able to independently confirm, only 23 are women. That's seven percent. I'm sure that there are more than 23 female hockey bloggers out there, but they're missing from the most prominent websites; Yahoo's Puck Daddy employs one female staff writer, Jen Neale, while neither The Hockey News' Post-to-Post blog nor NBC's Pro Hockey Talk publicly lists a regular female staffer or contributor.

Giving women the chance to write isn't the cure-all for hockey's misogyny problems, but it's a chance to show that we're fans who love and know the game. Give us a platform and men will see that having a pretty face and a hockey jersey isn’t an automatic OK to flirt or ask for more.

Beyond this, however, both men and women have the responsibility to create a safe space for fans online and to call out creeps.

As an aspiring professional hockey writer, I'll be the first to admit that it's been easier to keep silent about sexual harassment. Until now I've never said a word about the dirty remarks made about my body by male fans, members of the media and the occasional unwelcome advance from a player when I was an AHL reporter in college. Why? Because I didn't want to lose my press pass or be labeled a liar or worse by men who had years of hockey experience over me.

Maria Camacho and Toni McIntyre exposing Dater's and Lepore's unprofessional actions is a huge stride for women in hockey. Their willingness to publicly call these men out unfortunately opened them up to more personal attacks, but more importantly showed that harassment is not, and never will be, acceptable. Hopefully, more women will feel empowered to speak out about their own harassment and their right to be hockey fans.

Dater and Lepore deserved their firings because they should have known that what they were doing was disgusting and unprofessional. Even with these guys being out of a job, this issue isn't over and misogyny in hockey is not something that can be smoothed over with a Zamboni.
First off, I want to say that I have read the tweets these two men - Dater and Lepore - wrote when talking to women on Twitter, and they are sickening. I'm not sure when or where or how these two men thought they could talk to women like they did, but that's neither here nor there now. They're both unemployed in a field where opportunities like theirs come along once in a blue moon.

In their defence, I have read a number of accounts that speak to their character in a positive manner in their interactions with people, so I shall not cast stones. However, it seemed that both men had a track record of some rather unsettling behavior towards women who love the game of hockey. That much I know to be true.

Those events, though, are not the crux of this article. No, I want this to be a call to arms, so to speak, for the fairer sex to step forward and declare their love for the game of hockey without fear of harassment, retribution, or insults. I want to see a woman volunteer an article or two that can be posted on HBIC and can be enjoyed by the world.

I used to enjoy reading some excellent blogs by some great female writers, but those blogs have gone the way of the dinosaurs. I wish they hadn't stopped writing because they were the yin to the male-dominated hockey world's yang. They saw the game differently. They wrote about it just as passionately. They were smart and funny and articulate. They were, for everything they brought to the hockey table, as important to the hockey opinion as guys like Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, and Darren Pang.

So it's time for a change, readers. If you are a female hockey fan or if you know someone who is, HBIC is asking you to write. If you don't have a blog or website, that's ok. HBIC will gladly accept your articles and publish them for you. There's no schedule, no demands, and, unfortunately, no pay that comes with this, but if you enjoy the game and want your voice heard, HBIC will gladly provide the soapbox from which you can speak.

Of course, if you're a male hockey fan, you're welcome to submit articles as well, but HBIC agrees with Miss Gallegos when she says, "it's a chance to show that we're fans who love and know the game". HBIC loves being a fan as much as a blogger, and I'm entirely in the mindset that fans of all creeds, colours, races, religions, and sexes can enjoy this game, have an opinion, and be fans of the greatest game on ice.

Acceptance is hard when you can't get past stereotypes. Women are here to stay. It's time for them to have a voice in shaping this game, and HBIC would be proud and honored to welcome all women who have a knack for writing to put pen to paper and send me their thoughts on the game.

I await your submissions.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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