[Editor’s Note: This article by Alvin Ma is a response to Courtney Szto’s recent post about a human rights complaint filed by a Newfoundland coach over unequal ice time being given to some girl hockey players. Brent Watkins, the coach who filed the complaint, has contacted me to clarify his arguments and position, and has participated publicly in discussions in the comments section of the original post. In the coming days and weeks we hope to continue this discussion with further posts here on Hockey in Society. Alvin’s post is the first contribution to this ongoing discussion.]
I would like to preface everything I say with the note that I am neither a constitutional law expert nor a distinguished sociological scholar. I merely have my viewpoints as any other Canadian citizen, though I might as well put some of my political science knowledge to use here. Courtney Szto’s “A Violation of Human Rights? Girls Getting Too Much Ice Time in Newfoundland” post inspired me to discuss, or rehash my rants on formal essays and informal blog posts written when I was a political science student at the University of British Columbia about the phenomenon of “popular” online comments that could be deemed politically incorrect in regard to immigration policy, religion, gender equality, and the court system.
While I do not necessarily agree with the sentiments expressed by these commenters, my politically moderate self does legitimize the “highest rated” comments in the sense that they should be taken into consideration when shaping policies in practical terms. Szto links to the Yahoo publication of the original CBC article, the former of which has a consistent conservative commenter base. While many Yahoo commenters frown upon scandals at the hands of Conservatives, the highest-rated comments generally voice greater displeasure at progressive actions and causes. When I took a gender studies policy course last year, I analyzed the optics of the SlutWalk by comparing the highest-rated comments from the “What to Wear to a SlutWalk” Yahoo article with the highest-rated comments from the more progressive CBC commenter base in the article “Toronto ‘Slut Walk’ Takes to the Streets.” From Yahoo, with 14 thumbs up and 0 thumbs down, is the following comment:
Words of Wisdom from a father of 3 daughters. You never get a second chance for your 1st impression on others and your mode of dress has a lot to do with what people think of you. Rightly or wrongly. Dress like a #$%$ and expect to be treated as one by people who don’t know you, Dress like a thug or gang banger, same result.
And here’s another from another commenter, with 11 thumbs up and 1 thumb down:
Some of these outfits are pretty skimpy and suggestive. Is it possible that it’s actually the men that are being sexually assaulted?
Let’s compare those comments with a couple from CBC commenters. With 493 thumbs up and 160 thumbs down, one commenter writes:
Quite frankly, I think this police officer is on to something. More of this kind of thinking would solve a lot of problems in our society. Think about it. Would your house be burgled if you didn’t insist on keeping your electronics in it? Any homeowner who chooses to have a flat screen tv in their living room is practically inviting a robbery. And how often must we waste valuable police resources investigating things like bank robberies? Banks have a long history of making themselves the targets if criminal activity by irresponsibly keeping large sums of money on their premises. Can you really blame someone for being drawn to such a tempting target? No. It’s about time that banks took some responsibility for attracting so much attention to themselves. It’s like people who carry wallets out in public and then cry victim when they are mugged. Why must we spend our tax dollars protecting people who make themselves the targets of criminal activity by owning valuables?
A separate CBC comment with 52 thumbs up and 20 thumbs down:
It is easy to point out that women who dress slutty will have a higher chance of being raped. Whether that is actually true or not may be debatable, but for argument’s sake, I will assume you are correct. The issue is the comment was made by a police officer, in his capacity as a representative of the entire City of Toronto police force. The comment suggests, (despite what the reality may be) that the position of the Toronto police force is that slutty women have it coming. Imagine, as a Toronto native, you are visiting Montreal and decide to go to a hockey game. Luckily, there is a Habs v. Buds game! You go to the game wearing you’re Maple Leafs jersey, only to be met by some rowdy, slightly drunk, Habs fan, who proceed, to beat the snot out of you. When you report this to the Montreal police, they snicker and say, “well what did you expect?” If this story broke tomorrow, I have a feeling all of Toronto would rally around that victim. But in this case, with rape and slutty clothes, there is more indifference.
To segue back into the issue of hockey and human rights, I’d like to examine the highest-rated comments from the Yahoo article. With 27 thumbs up and 4 thumbs down:
As someone who played a lot of hockey in his life, I fully agree with the coach. I always found it so strange that girls were allowed to play on boys teams, but if a boy wanted to play in an all girl league there would be outrage. There are no women in the NHL, AHL, OHL, etc, etc, etc… There should be a male only league and a female only league.
With 5 thumbs up and 0 thumbs down:
Women need to quit making the stupid argument that men are “afraid” that a girl will be better than a boy. What’s always at issue is the discriminatory advantages provided to a girl to ‘compete’ with a boy for a position. Period. If some girl is clearly better at the job than some guy, she should get it – but not JUST because she’s female! Standards shouldn’t be lowered or altered in order for her to ‘win’ the postion. And she shouldn’t be provided with unfair or additional benefits that a guy doesn’t get, in order for her to ‘win’ the position.
If / when it was the other way around, women railed against it, and rightly so. But 2 wrongs never did, and still don’t, make a right.
The right-leaning National Post is another prominent news source where “Brent Watkins” is featured. Here are a couple of the highest-rated comments from “Coach Complains Minor Hockey Ice Time Favours Girls Over Boys“:
With 68 thumbs up and 2 thumbs down:
Of course Watkins complaint will be ignored or laughed at by the human rights commission because of which gender rights he is fighting for.
With 54 thumbs up and 3 thumbs down:
If you say equality the results ought to be equal. Affirmative action is the biggest shill and basically s+++s on the definition of equality, to enforce a political agenda.
Now let’s take a look at some of the highest-rated comments from the original CBC news article. With 178 thumbs up and 19 thumbs down:
This story hits close to home for me. I grew up playing in this association and noticed the same thing going on back then. Female players participate in their own league (which now has a full fledged house league and rep teams, same as the boys) but can then compete for roster spots on male teams. My daughter could sign up for the female division, make the U-15 female all-star team, and at the same time earn a spot on the male Bantam all-star team and knock my neighbours son off the team, the only team he can play for. My daughter could take advantage of 6 hours on the ice a week, while the neighbours son can only get on the ice for 3 hours. Why? Because my daughter is female.
Gender equality is a touchy topic at the best of times, and I certainly support equality, however, I do not support the gender supremacy which masquerades as fairness all too often nowadays.
With 91 thumbs up and 45 thumbs down:
I totally agree with this guy. It seems to me that we have tried so hard to have women’s equal rights that we are actually more sexist then ever! We are now in a world where males are being discriminated against on a daily basis. Weather it be the workforce or sports. Woman went from having no rights to having more rights then men. All this BS over gender has to come to an end. The best qualified should get the job, the best players should make the team, etc. Boys aren’t making the team because of men to woman ratio’s, and men who are more qualified to do certain jobs are turned away to take a woman because of the same reasoning. Total BS in my opinion…
Overall, I doubt that Watkins could be successful if a court decision is his final option. The relevant constitutional law that would be challenged is found in Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
15(1) Equality: Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination….
15(2) Equity: [The above] does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups
It would be difficult for Watkins to convince the judge to overrule the Justine Blainey case precedent, as the affirmative “amelioration of conditions” of females exempts Section 15(1) and outweighs the amelioration of conditions of male hockey players with a shorter opportunity of obtaining ice time. However, with the level of populist-driven support, Watkins has seemingly already won the public relations challenge.
While I am not trying to take a deterministically normative position regarding this pending case before the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, my point is that it is difficult to formulate societal policies without taking into account the prevailing sentiment expressed by commenters originating from differing political stripes. I understand that these commenters do not speak for absolutely everyone, so that’s why I decided to dedicate this entire post to bringing up this issue. Nevertheless, we cannot merely assume in our discourse that everyone accepts the macroscopic political theme of feminist-leaning gender equity, even if the commenter community has progressive tendencies.