Male Entitlement at the Rink

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Privilege operates all the time and often in seemingly innocuous ways.

I went to a stick n’puck session recently with a friend and I had to leave earlier than her. Stick n’puck sessions are usually co-ed; translation: 90-100% men. Due to the lack of women that usually show up to stick n’puck sessions, rinks don’t always delineate a women’s change room. Fair enough, I suppose.  So I was in the change room and this man walks into the room, sets his bag down, and turns around. At this time, his friend comes in as well. I just keep untying my skates and don’t say anything because it doesn’t really bother me if guys want to share the change room. I would prefer if they didn’t but not so much that I care to say anything or move.  Without saying a word, the man picks up his bag and follows his friend out of the change room. I look up in time to see a giggle/smirk on his face. You know the “whoops! There’s a girl in here” giggle.

I’m writing this post not because this happened once. I’m writing this post because it happens ALL. THE. TIME.  Men walk into the change room and assume that anyone in there before them must also be a man. I usually leave my stick by the door so anyone walking in should know that there is already someone in the room but never has a guy peered around the corner to check the room first.  He/they have always fully entered the room, usually sat down, and some have even started to unpack before they realized they were in a change room with a woman or even SEVERAL women (sometimes we travel in packs). Then he/they usually apologize for “intruding” and move into another change room.

Conversely, here’s how most women enter co-ed change rooms at the rink: we listen to hear if anyone is in the room, we go in and if there are sticks by the door we may turn around right there and find an empty room. Even if there aren’t sticks by the door we scan the room or we slowly open the door to see if there are men already in the change room.

When we talk about male entitlement and gender norms, this is a perfect example of something really inconsequential, in the grand scheme of things, but it demonstrates how space is political and can police and/or reproduce gender. It’s the difference between raising a son and daughter under the same roof and them playing the same sport, yet being socialized under different experiences that may never be discussed as “gender inequality”.

I’m not faulting men for feeling like own every inch of a rink because historically they have.  And, like I said, usually there are no women that show up to stick n’pucks or co-ed drop-ins. Maybe if more women went they would have to designate gender specific change rooms and this would be a moot point. But the fact that some people are able to enter the change room without a thought about who may be in that space, or already using that space, is a manifestation of power built over generations.  Likewise, the fact that others may enter a change room with a similar caution that extends well beyond rink-life (e.g. don’t go out alone, don’t run at night) is a manifestation of historical marginalization and oppression. Women have been socialized to always be aware of their surroundings, whereas (most) men are privileged with a freedom of movement of which women can only dream.

Some never question their presence in a space or have their presence challenged.

Some question their presence some of the time (example: men of colour).

Some always question their presence, and/or consistently have their presence questioned/challenged, in a space (example: women in male dominated sports, LGTBQ athletes).

If you find yourself in the first category, that is called privilege. Privilege, in turn, produces entitlement to space, resources, and opportunities. If you are pro-equality then step #1 is realizing that not everyone experiences space in the same way. Equal opportunities are not the same as equality of experience, safety, or respect.

In short, when you are at co-ed ice time, try and scan the room fellas.

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3 thoughts on “Male Entitlement at the Rink

  1. For real? Aren’t you faulting the guys for “scanning the room” and walking out because possibly they don’t want to make it awkward while changing/showering? You seem to have interesting view and I enjoy/appreciate your articles but have a different viewpoint on a few topics. As a white male adult hockey player I do not feel privileged- there are no grants for my demographic to become involved in the game. I personally volunteer for free kids clinics- diversity clinics- girls clinics and women’s clinics. Really the only “priveledged” players I see are goaltenders because who is gonna make them pay for a rental/rat?

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Anonymous. The purpose of this piece it to point out that one does need to feel privileged in order to be privileged. As I said, this is an innocuous example but representative of how privilege works. Now, you bring up a good example of how class can affect one’s privilege and certainly not all white men experience the same amount of privilege or types. But the programs you have been volunteering for exist because people of colour and women have historically not had the same opportunities and often face additional hurdles such as racism and gender norms that make their participation…less simple. They are attempts to equal the (unequal) playing field. There are no grants for white males to participate in ice hockey because ice hockey has been designed for the success of white males. The Hockey Hall of Fame is the perfect example of how white and male hockey is because if the NHL is pretty damn white, then the HHOF is extra-bleached. Thus, who gets to be remembered in such a space is also part of that privilege (i.e. black contributions to the creation of hockey have been ignored and players like Willie O’Ree are not included in our public memory). Again, that is not necessarily a privilege that you get to feel but it is definitely a lack of privilege that is felt by others. Pointing out privilege is to highlight that some things are “normal” for some people (it doesn’t make it on the radar), and for others it is a very conscious activity.

  2. There are four locker rooms at our rink, and a lot of times the guys in the session before ours will take up three or all four of them, even though two rooms are designated for us on the signage at the rink entrance. Last time it happened a guy came off the ice, walked in, saw all the women (in our designated locker room where he had changed & left his gear) and said, “Who made this the girls locker room?!” before grabbing his gear and storming off. The rink did – that’s why everyone for your session are in two other locker rooms and the other two were dark. Take two seconds to read the signs when you walk in, and don’t assume all of the locker rooms are there just for you.

    Thanks for the post.

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