"women cant play hockey with men bcus theyre so tiny!!1!1!1!"
OK, this is kind of charming and I want to see them next to each other, but the “why don’t they let women play in the NHL????” strain amongst women’s hockey fans actually…
i totally feel what you’re saying about the discussion coming too early, and being afraid that the narrative will take over at the expense of building up the women’s league. i’m not really sure what the steps are to combat that, to be honest, except to keep talking about the CWHL and building it up and being excited about it—but i also think that it is important to have integration in the discussion, because without it i think that you (that’s a universal you, not an ambitiouspants-you) will inevitably set up a women’s hockey VS men’s hockey dynamic, which is harmful for all the reasons you’ve listed (the standard, the “as good as,” etc).
i think in that case, we’re actually making the same argument but in different ways, which is basically that we don’t want the narrative to be that men’s hockey is the baseline and women’s hockey is like … “men’s hockey but at a level girls can ‘handle’.”
as far as the size issue goes, i dunno—maybe we’ll have to agree to disagree on it? which is cool. like ultimately i think that’s something we’ll just have to see either play out or not play out.
ultimately, though—and this has nothing to do with my thoughts on the politics or anything—i just …. feel very protective of the CWHL? like i will fight people about the CWHL, which complicates and is complicated by the fact that i also really, really, really want to see hilary knight fight claude giroux.
i am constantly torn about my desire for integration, but i really do think that having the discussion actually validates a lot of what we (“we,” she says, having skated like, 4 times total in her life) are doing in women’s hockey, and i think that the longer you put off that discussion, the harder it is to have, if that makes sense? i think that idly talking about and debating integration is actually, conversely, GOOD for women’s hockey, as it’s own, separate entity.
sidebar: i’m really sorry to anybody following me who is not interested in this discussion right now because i’m breaking your dashboard, but i’m just so into talking about this.
Our different attitudes here likely stem from our different assessment of the “size issue.” I don’t think we can wait to see if it plays out because I think it’s unlikely to lead to significant numbers of women at the highest levels of mens’ hockey, and in the meantime the assumption that it is likely to be feasible for cis women to compete against cis men in the foreseeable future is a harmful part of the discussion. (I failed to be precise that I was referring generally to cis people previously, apologies for that!!)
Including integration into the discussion INVITES comparison. THAT is what sets up a women’s hockey VS men’s hockey dynamic - or rather, a women players vs men’s players - by asking whether or not the women can compete against the men at the higher levels. Which, barring a few exceptional cases, they cannot (even if they’re more skilled!). Women playing against the men at lower levels is fine, and great if they get paid for it, but I don’t see how it’s preferable to them being able to get paid to play in a women’s league (more on this later).
Szabados practicing with the Oilers yesterday was super fun, and it sounded like she had a great time, and I hope she got paid for it and that it helps her sign a good contract and get good endorsements. And I know we can’t be confident that coaches and GMs are doing a decent, fair job evaluating her goalie skills, and it certainly seems that goalies are more able to compete against men at a higher level, but in the end, the idea of integration is still only relevant to a small number of players.
The discussion around Shannon I think has positives and negatives - it’s great that people can see what an incredible, competitive, elite athlete she is. But the fact that they’re only acknowledging this because she’s showing herself to be equivalent to men is fucked up. (On the other hand, I recognize that it’s kind of inevitable at this point, but I dream of a time when it is not.) And while it is drawing attention to her that will hopefully linger if she plays any games for the Calgary Inferno, I don’t think it’s otherwise that helpful to the CWHL. It says “THIS woman is a good player, because she can play with men.” It doesn’t necessarily come across as “women’s hockey is great as it is now.” [EDIT: a friend just linked me to an article on this!]
That said, I do think there’s value in opening up the highest levels of the sport to women, those opportunities should be open to them. But I don’t think it’s likely to be relevant enough to be a productive focus of discussion, and certainly not enough that I’m comfortable with how it dominates the discussion.
I think you need to have a women’s only league, or a league open to women, trans, and intersex players. If you don’t do that, then the alternative is changing the sport such that size and speed are less relevant (such as korfball, one of the only mixed gender team sports) and at that point it won’t be hockey any more, or the alternative is simply men and women competing against each other for spots and at that point, the womens’ league would just get slotted in amongst the hierarchy of men’s leagues by competitiveness (not skill or entertainment value), and salaries would follow. And the game would change, because less skilled men are able to be effective against more skilled women, so if you had a mix of men and women at the same “competitive” level, it wouldn’t be as good a product as a women’s league.
And as I’ve been saying, I just don’t think that’s the appropriate way to approach women’s sports, because the value of women’s sports does not derive from their ability to compete with men. It’s like the article that Noora linked to on twitter pointed out: women don’t have any type of career or future in the sport to dream about, which is important regardless of the number who are actually able to fulfill that dream. This is why a women’s league is important, and it’s a part of why it has an audience completely unrelated to whether or not they’re able to beat the men. Beyond creating opportunities for the small number of elite players who could compete against men at a higher level, I think focusing on integration only dilutes and distracts from that.