Ours is a society steeps in chauvinism - Denny Scott editorial
Not to stereotype those who stereotype, but you can usually guess where tales of discrimination or chauvinism can occur. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just the way the world works until we make it better.
I guess that’s why it shocked me deeply to learn that statistics, something that should be completely free of bias, can be pretty chauvinistic as well.
In last week’s edition of The Citizen, I wrote a feature story focused on local hockey goalie Kayla Black and her involvement with a goalie clinic for the Blyth Brussels Minor Hockey Association.
Kayla is quite an accomplished goaltender, having played in the American collegiate hockey system. She won several accolades while tending net for the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. That’s impressive for a player who started out in Blyth minor hockey (though not entirely unheard of, as we’ll get to).
I sat down with Kayla at Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company (where she works) last Monday to talk to her about the clinic and her past as a goaltender.
As I wrote last week, I like to have a certain level of knowledge before I start taking notes for a story. Whether that means conducting research before a council meeting or doing some professional stalking of a person before an interview, I hate being completely unprepared (though I also hate over-preparing, as that leads to me directing the conversation, which could bypass interesting stories).
I gave myself 15 minutes or so to do some brief research on Kayla before I interviewed her, but, as I found out, that wasn’t enough.
See, Kayla isn’t the first high-level athlete I’ve interviewed. Heck, she’s not even the first high-level goalie I’ve interviewed, just look at the Peters family.
Actually, that’s a great idea. Let’s look at some members of the Peters family.
Let’s start with Justin Peters. A quick search for “Justin Peters hockey” brings up multiple sites detailing his successes with NHL teams, Team Canada, and AHL teams. Some sites go all the way back to his time with the Huron-Perth Lakers.
Searching for Justin’s younger brother Anthony, who currently plays for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, the AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, shows similar results, tracking back to his time with the Lakers.
Alex Peters search results are similar, going through St. Mary’s University, where he currently studies and plays, back to the Huron-Perth Lakers in 2011-2012.
To be honest, I didn’t need to Google the Peters boys. I’ve done the research before for stories on the three of them because they’re pretty talented hockey players.
It was because of the ease through which I found their statistics that I anticipated a similar experience when it came time to research Kayla. Unfortunately, I fell victim to that old “assume” adage.
Despite having brushes with the national hockey system and four years in collegiate hockey, there is no central location to find Kayla’s history and I can only assume that’s because she’s, well, a she.
I was shocked and dismayed and I’m not typing that lightly (a disclaimer I’m providing because I’ve been accused of being dramatic).
I mentioned it to my editor Shawn, expressing my frustration, and then left the office to sit down for an interview with Kayla. I started that interview with an apology.
I said to her that I’m sorry, because I had to ask her about her history, something I usually would’ve had a grip on. I then said, I guess I don’t need to apologize, because it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
In the back of my head, however, I felt I did need to apologize. Here is a talented young hockey player who, because she’s part of half of the population who have two X chromosomes, is given less attention than her male counterparts. I felt I had to apologize because I’m a man and, well, I guess that makes me a part of the problem.
Gender plays a big role in sports, whether that’s right or not. The NBA has exponentially more fans than the WNBA. The NHL doesn’t even seem to have a comparison: there’s the National Women’s Hockey League and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, neither of which have the same following as the NHL.
I’m not going to get dramatic here and say it shook me to my core because, if I’m being honest, I shouldn’t have been shocked. The world of sports being male-dominated (and therefore male focused) shouldn’t have been the surprise it turned out to be which, again, is part of the problem.
It also shouldn’t have surprised me because, just a couple weeks back, I was writing a similar story about two members of Canada’s national U18 hockey team who have local ties. At the time, I chalked up their history not being as prevalently codified as it should be to their youth, but now, I know it had more to do with their gender.
Regardless of how I stumbled on it, the fact remains that this is a problem. We need to pay the same amount of attention to skilled athletes, regardless of their gender, and, going forward, I hope to try to do that, at least in my own way.