It’s been a bad week to be a person who cares about bike polo and sexism. Which should mean that it’s been a bad week for most polo players. First, Mr. Do’s video was published for the NAH as an outreach tool for sponsorship and failed to meaningfully feature a single female player for more than one second. And then, GQ published a feature on the Beavers, which contained one line that had me fuming for hours. In the article, the three are watching the London Ladies Adidas ad (video further down) and Dillman says,
“They found like the six attractive girls in the sport and put them in one room.”
There are a lot of things that can be said about these two incidents, but what I find important is these incidents represent explicit and implicit sexism in the polo community. There is sexism by omission, and sexism by boiling down women to sexualized bodies. And as a community we should care about this.
The first scenario with Mr. Do’s video is sexism by omission. Mr. Do and his team put together a top-notch video to do outreach to potential sponsors, and failed to meaningfully include women and women’s voices in the video. When activists talk about various forms of privilege one of the first indicators of privilege is being able to open the newspaper, turn on TV, and look at your elected officials and see people of your gender/race/class/sexuality/etc. Now, you’re unlikely to open a newspaper or turn on TV and see anyone playing polo period, but it’s a hard hit when your own community is producing their own media and fail to highlight people of diverse identities. Sam Bell wrote an excellent article on this, as did Crusher, and Dany wrote a related article as well a while back. Long story short, shit blew up on the internet, and Mr. Do and the NAH offered a sincere apology, which I saw as an incredibly positive step forward. I give them a lot of credit for recognizing their mistake and taking responsibility for it.
And then GQ published the Beavers’ article, and I angrily stomped around my apartment for a while. Because what Dillman said about the Ladies London Polo ad is explicit sexism by saying that women’s worth comes from their sexualized bodies and their attractiveness.
Now to be entirely fair, it’s totally possible that this quote is out of context or makes it seem worse than it really was. I wouldn’t put that past GQ. And I don’t know the Beavers personally, so I don’t know if that is part of their fuck-everyone attitude. But I think the bigger problem is that women in polo are so often referred to in terms of their attractiveness. Dany points out in his article that when you type in ‘female bike polo players’ into google, within the first page or two of results is ‘who’s the best looking player.’ That’s whack. It’s hard enough to see women’s bodies be sexualized by the media all the time, but it’s even harder to see that in a small community that I care about and put a lot of time and effort into it. It feels like a slap in the face.
This is all to say, it’s been a rough week for sexism and bike polo. And it’s Wednesday. Can we please post something that includes and validates other genders participation in polo in a way that isn’t sexualizing them? I would super appreciate it. K thanx.