The last few months have seen many big names across all industries brought down by accusations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. It has been served as the hot topic at many lunches and dinners in my social group recently with a lot of debate and opinion. A very serious topic that, for sure, deserves serious conversation. Amid all the mealtime debates, a question was posed to the women at the table: Who can count themselves in the #metoo campaign? This, of course, being the campaign where people hashtag “MeToo” in order to signify that, at some point in their lives, they have either been sexually harassed, abused, or felt the effects of gender discrimination. Eira and I have been the only ones over several meals that profess to not in fact had that real, obvious experience...until now!
I want to be clear up front. We at The Distillery, Inc. take the #metoo campaign seriously, so the story that I am about to tell does not diminish in our minds anything that any woman has gone through. But, it does show how deeply ingrained gender discrimination is in our society.
We arrived at the sports field on Sunday for our boys’ flag football game. Things on both sides of the field are improving, meaning that I am progressing as a neophyte sports mom and our sons are learning more and more of the game. I got my canopy chair and brought snacks for the whole team…although not wrapped in neat, brown paper bags like some other moms do But, it is a start. The kids are starting to really get into playing. The one thing that still seems to need help is our coach - who has great intentions but is still struggling. Remember the coach’s son from a couple of blogs back? The one who didn’t want to play on the first day? Well, the coach let us know a couple of days before last game that he would be missing the game on Sunday for that same son’s birthday party. WHAT?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Not only is it game 3 out of only 6, but it is PICTURE DAY! The day when the kids take a picture on their own but also with their whole team... including their COACH!!! I don’t begrudge the man or his son the right to celebrate his 5th birthday but, come on, it is not like the coach didn’t have the schedule even before we did.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the point. After a bit of chaos and some help from the substitute coach (another dad on the team) and another father, the boys have their individual pictures taken. It was now time for the group photo. Wanting to ensure the picture had at least a couple of “coaches” in it like the other teams did, the substitute coach grabbed the other dad and brought him in to strike a pose. No problem. But, then, for some unknown reason, it seemed like substitute coach wanted to one-up the other teams and asked another father to join in and strike a pose. Ok, excessive but fine. And, then substitute coach went one step too far.
My husband was standing behind Eira and me watching the scene unfold when the substitute coach started waving to what seemed like Eira or me. Hands were waving and the “hey you” started to float in our direction. I gestured back pointing at myself as if to say, “you talking to me?” No clarity from the group. So, after another few seconds of this, I started to walk over and, as I got closer, they said, “No, not you, the guy behind you. Tell him to come get in the picture.” Uh, excuse me? There are 6 kids there with only 4 dads in attendance, and you only want the dads in the picture? My husband, who was totally uninterested in being the picture, reluctantly went while Eira and I were transformed into two lionesses, stalking their prey back and forth and ready to pounce as soon as they were done smiling for the camera. How DARE they exclude the moms from this picture?
The moms who, most likely, took the time to sign the kids up in the first place. The moms who had all shown up all three weeks. Only one of the dads in the picture had been there for the three games, and it was not even my husband. The moms who organized the snacks for the kids each week. And, at least one mom, that being Eira, who pushed the substitute coach in the first week to step up and help out our fumbling, first-time coach and gave feedback to the coach and the league! It was pretty shocking the idea that only the men should be in the picture with the kids came so unabashedly naturally to these guys.
Now, I don’t think our substitute coach had any mal intention. I just think it has been so ingrained in our culture that certain sports are for the guys and the women’s participation is more as cheerleader than anything else. We did a whole show on women in sports and the facts are showing a completely different story. But, for sure, a shift change in thinking is still a long way away if this type of gender discrimination still pops up on the football fields of youth sports.
And, while we, meaning Eira, pounced on our worthy substitute coach and gave him an earful at how ridiculous the scenario played out, I think the only way to create a shift change is for sports moms to take bigger roles. We should step up and coach more…heck, I know way more about football than my husband. We should put ourselves in a position to run the leagues…they always need more volunteers. We should show our kids that stereotypes can and should be broken for their sakes, not ours, because limited thinking limits everyone. I know I want my son to think big in his life. So, watch out flag football…you may see a new female coach next time around and her name is Mommy!
By: Wendy Rosenthal