This video makes me miss Berlin Bike Polo so much it hurts. Especially on a grey polo-less day.
BEYOND WORDS EXCITED.
I have been known to complain about polo in relation to gender politics (plz. did you see this blog blow up last week? sometimes it pays to be a h8er). My previous clubmates (and they are numerous, considering I’ve called 5 clubs on 4 continents home at some point) will remember me as the person who wouldn’t shut up about gender and polo. I have no regrets about that, but at some point I gotta stop complaining and offer up some solutions – so that’s what I’m going to do.
(Originally this was going to be a much longer article, but I feel that much of what I was going to say has been better stated in the recent letter to the polo-verse.)
1. Feature photos of players of all genders in advertising for your club, and explicitly point out that polo is co-ed. If there are pictures of men playing on ads, and it doesn’t say that polo is co-ed, people will assume that it’s not.
2. Related to #1, if/when you talk to media outlets, or even just friends, outside of the polo world talk about how polo is co-ed and why you think thats cool. We all talk plenty about the speed, the agility, the addiction of polo, so let’s also talk about polo being co-ed as another thing that makes our sport unique and rad. It’ll help to recruit more WTF (women/trans/femme) players, recruit more dudes who are people who we want as part of our community, and generally make people feel awesome about this community
3. Have all players play all positions, and assess how much time you spend in goal in relation to teammates during pick-up.
4. Have a beginners night, and mean it. This is more for beginners/general inclusiveness (because as someone commented “I have mixed feelings about those groups [women/newbies] being automatically combined”), but if you say one night a week is a beginner night, keep it a beginner night. And as a sport we need beginners nights to replace old players who keep getting injured.
5. If someone wants to host a women/trans/femme polo night, encourage and support them to do that – spread the word, lend out extra equipment, etc. And when it happens, only stick around if the organizer asks you to. If people are coming out for a ‘no-bro’ polo night (or however its advertised), it’s because they feel most comfortable starting in that space.
6. Most people aren’t coming out to play polo to try to date people, so don’t assume that they are, unless it seems like they are super into you- in which case, submit your love story to 321polo.
What else do you think should go on this list?
I’ve been asked to re-post this letter here, and I do so enthusiastically. Please read and reflect.
**DISCLAIMER: This article was written by a group of women across three continents who love this sport and are passionate to see it’s evolution continue as a co-ed entity. This is not the view of any one person in particular, but many of us. This article has also been vetted by a number of people who chose to include either a statement or feedback and have endorsed its being posted.
Open Letter to the Polo-verse…
This letter comes in reaction to events that happened in the polo community this past week (the NAH video, the GQ article and an insightful reveal about filming the Adidas London Ladies ad). As well as things that have happened to us as women in the past – having to stand in a line at a tournament so the men can decide by applause who the Female MVP is; giving all female participants in a tournament a prize, not based on merit, but because we have vaginas; having to deal with comments about our bodies at the court “Hey! [insert name]! You have the best ass in [insert city]!”. These are but a few of the everyday obstacles we deal with as women in bike polo. This letter is written with the aim that we be proactive to avoid these mistakes, misfortunes and embarrassments in the future.
The conversations that have been occurring this week are too numerous to keep track of, and just about everyone has had an opportunity to have themselves heard. People have been hurt, felt ignored, and are angry because well-intentioned folks were too busy to see their mistakes; inexperienced with the media and misrepresented by and in the media. These events rocked our foundation and brought into question, for a lot of us, the changing future of this sport.
Let’s lay it out. Last week we saw two examples of sexism: Sexism by omission and sexism by possession. Each are prevalent in our society. The NAH video and commentary is an example of omission and Brian Dillman’s comment is an example of possession.
At the risk of always sounding like a hater (I swear I post positive things on my blog, it’s just that my h8er articles are the only ones that blow up), let’s step back and talk about how awesome the responses have been to the Do-gate and GQ-contra scandals.
In both cases, people stepped back, took ownership of what happened, offered a sincere apology and are taking steps to right the situation. The NAH is editing the video, and Dillman had a crash course in what it feels like to have the media twist your words and will now be hyper aware of his words in the future.
Let me just say – these responses are what make me proud of the polo community. I still think that calling things out have a place in all this – if there hadn’t been an overwhelming response of people being upset, people wouldn’t have ever apologized. It’s important to have these conversations, so that people know where we stand as a community around issues of sexism and exclusion.
I really respect Mr. Do, the NAH, and Dillman for taking ownership of mistakes and apologizing. It’s literally all anyone can ask for.
And now. Let’s remember that beautiful time a week ago, before any of this happened, and we all watched this video on repeat. Ok cool.
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.
Dopest 15 second video I’ve ever seen.