Ultimate Was My Community

by | October 31, 2017, 7:05am 10

Ultimate was my community, my workout, my outside time, my happy space.

I stopped playing frisbee for a variety of reasons, almost all of them relating to sexual violence. If I tell you that I don’t play because, “I’m too busy,” I am lying to change the subject.   

People have told me that “ultimate is different.”

The ultimate community is a safe place.

We are special.  

We value and listen to women.

We don’t have the problems that fraternities do, even though we party like a frat, have bros like a frat, and generally act just like a frat.

I cannot judge people for holding those opinions, I held them too.  It’s not that those statements are false, it’s just they are simultaneously not true.

Perhaps your friends recently deluged your social media with posts like “me too”, #meToo, or in my case: “Ooooooh, is this a fun game!? Can I play [me] too? #waitThisGameSucks.”  Let me assure you, some of the people who perpetrated that assault or harassment are members of the ultimate community.

It is brave and powerful for folks to proclaim that they experienced gender-based violence, but this is not a new concept.  I have only seen one ultimate player publically own that he was a perpetrator by posting, “I, have.”  

How much will change if we continue to see sexism as a problem outside of our community?  How do we start recognizing the ways we are complicit, the ways we are perpetrators?  I believe in modeling the behavior that I wish to see, so I will go first.

I have coerced and cajoled people into doing things that they did not want to do.  This includes pressuring obviously uncomfortable people to shed more clothing for an underwear point and partaking in rock paper scissors that required the winner to kiss someone who did not know what was coming.

I have looked off open women because I was afraid they would drop the disc.

I think I laughed when I heard that the male alumni at our home tournament brought a not-so-secret Miley Cyrus CD as a prize. A prize for the guy who had the largest age differential between him and the girl he hooked up with.

I did not listen when my teammates talked about ultimate being too heteronormative. I did not make the effort to understand.

This list is grossly incomplete; I have more work to do.

Want to work with me?

Intentionally, I called out no individuals besides myself here. However, I think it might be useful to call out USA Ultimate.  I reached out to them to ask if they had any policies or resources for dealing with sexual misconduct within the ultimate community. To summarize their answer: this is an important issue, and we want to work on it, but please wait. Over two years later, and I’m still waiting for some advice.   

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  • Rick St Jean

    I chose to play on teams that didnt line up with my values.

  • Guest

    USA ultimate does have policy as they took action against my predator in my sexual assault case. Everything you said was great and valid- I was just happy to provide a positive experience of an organization protecting me. I may be a rare case though… not sure.

  • Beckie Menten

    At Potlatch I was a gleeful perpetrator of the “show us your butt” chant, causing hundreds of people to feel pressured to, indeed, show us their butts. I have pressured many people to make out with similar chants. Chanting always works…..so maybe I should recognize the power of peer pressure and do a little less chanting. #ihave

    • ResistUltimate

      Please don’t use the P-word.

  • Expired

    Thought this article was about sexual violence… It ended up being about peer pressure, not throwing to women, laughing at a dumb prize, and not “listening”.

    Is this even an article? What about those things make ultimate not a safe place? What about them deal with gender-based violence? The body of this doesn’t even match the intro…

    I’m guessing the unrelated intro was to sensationalize an otherwise lackluster article?

    • marf

      If you’re not able to connect the dots between the examples of ultimate culture and how they contribute to and cultivate an attitude that is damaging for non-male identifying players then it’s certainly not the author’s fault. I think what she’s saying is pretty clear. I encourage you, as she does, to be more self-critical in this moment.

      • Jeremy Ziskind

        The author is a woman, talking about the things SHE did.

  • All these things should pass the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson test…

  • NH

    Thank you for sharing. The sport is my favorite; the culture is not.
    #metoo: Despite starting on my team’s universe line freshman year of college I left after my sophomore year because the parties and culture were deeply uncomfortable. I had no place there: I did not want to drink, I am extremely uncomfortable in dresses or being naked (dysphoria), and I was a closeted genderqueer player on a women’s team and was told by my captains that they did not want the team to see me practicing with the male/mixed team despite their concurrent practices on adjacent fields.
    #ihave: made assumptions about women players, not spoken up about any of this in frisbee communities, left instead of taking on leadership roles to shift this culture
    …also a grossly incomplete list.
    This is a thing. Thanks for talking about it.

  • Mandy

    #metoo: My sexual assault was at the hands of a fellow ultimate player, at an ultimate party, filled with other players who didn’t help
    #ihave: laughed at or ignored teammates’ vulgar jokes about women or sex