Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Boys, girls, sports and P.C.

Should girls be allowed to play on boy's teams?

I've got into this discussion before and I have to admit, I like it. Bring it up at a gathering and I guarantee it will divide the room - and not necessarily the way you'd expect!

The question is simple, but the issues are complex. Certainly, we all agree that boys shouldn't be expected to play on girls teams, at least when we're not playing devil's advocate. So why then is the opposite not true?

At early ages (5-8?), it doesn't matter (generally). Of course this also depends on competitiveness and perceived importance. But once kids start to hit 10, 11, 12 and upward, things get more complex.

Sometimes, the issue is fairly simple. If you are in a community that cannot really field teams for both genders, certainly it makes sense to combine the team. But what about the communities that can support both? This is where the issue starts to get prickly.

I'm going to use hockey as the example sport. This is an activity that has almost religious significance in the communities I've been associated with. In Ontario (the province of Canada I live in), the hockey governors have decreed that girls shall be allowed to play on boy's teams. This even if an appropriate girls team exists in the same community. Additionally, by the age of twelve, rinks are required to provide separate dressing areas for the boys and girls. Hockey is a sport where you don't come to play dressed in your equipment and uniforms.

Why am I discussing this now? I just received a copy of a newspaper article from a friend of mine who has a son on a Peewee hockey team (12-13 year olds). His team also has a girl on it. The article is about this team and the complaint that has been lodged with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The parents of the girl are upset because she is forced to change alone in a separate room from the rest of the team. Rinks do not often have enough rooms, and so the girl is required to change in another room (first aid room, for example).

Now here's the problem. Rinks are forced to provide separate change areas for the girls because of complaints in the past. Common sense says you don't want to submit your daughters to the leering stares of twelve year old boys. Now, one parent wants to force all girls back into the dressing rooms with the boys.

Reading through the article, I think the biggest issue is that she is all alone. This is because she is the only girl. Honestly, I think the solution is for the coach to provide a set amount of time before game time (say 10 minutes prior to the on ice time) for the entire team to gather in the one dressing room. Any boy not ready by then can have the girls' room, providing the girl is ready. Same for after the game; have a five minute period where the team stays in their uniforms for a quick team summary. If this isn't acceptable then someone's being unreasonable.

But I want to touch on some of the other issues in the article. The big one being a statement that "she plays on a mostly boys team" (emphasis mine). She plays on a boys team! Why can't we allow there to be just boys teams, or clubs, or organizations. We allow girls teams. In the community she plays in, there is a huge girls league, at all competition levels. Having a boys team is not a violation of human rights. If it is, then so is having a girls team. So far, in all of the arguments I've had on this issue, no one has been able to come up with a rational explanation for this accepted inequity.

And, on a lighter note, the article also complains that the girls are required to "dress alone in tiny rooms" that are "dirty with no chairs". This sounds like every hockey dressing room I've ever been in. The disgusting state of some dressing rooms is promoted as a feature of some rinks.

1 comment:

Mike Churchward said...

As an update to this post, I received an email from my friend who provided me with the orginal newspaper article. The article had a photo attached showing the girl sitting in a dumpy maintenance room that doubled as a first aid room. I'm familiar with this rink; I play there once a week.

When the picture was taken, the team had one of the two big dressing rooms. These rooms actually have one large dressing area with an attached smaller dressing area in the back. She changed with the team in the attached room. They posed her in the other room for the picture only.

Good journalistic integrity. Nice.