When I started playing for the Detroit Mechanix, I didn’t really know anything about gender equity. I am privileged in many ways, maybe all the ways that somebody can be. Of course, as is typical with the way privilege works, I wasn’t aware of it for most of my life. As part of my personal statement about the AUDL boycott and publicly trying to describe my perspective, I wanted to start with acknowledging that privilege. I also want to describe my experience in the ultimate community so that people with different experiences can understand my perspective better, and understand a little more about how I got here.
I’ve played club ultimate for 10 summers, and all but one of those were mixed, with the fortune to have played mixed at USAU club nationals twice. I moved to Michigan a few years before the AUDL formed, and I’ve played for the Detroit Mechanix all 6 seasons since the AUDL started. As part of my interest in giving back to the ultimate community, I’ve been an observer since 2012. It’s incredibly fun to be able to watch some of the highest level of ultimate up close, and I have enjoyed the chance to give back to the community in a way that was rewarding for me. At the end of the club season in 2014, one of my teammates asked me if I would come help coach her college team, and these past 4 years of coaching have been more rewarding than I ever expected.
I am not one of the names on the boycott list that many people are likely to recognize – I’m not nearly as good a player as most of the rest of those folks. But I think perhaps my perspective is more useful to the typical ultimate player because of that fact and because I’ve had exposure to a wide variety of roles, skill levels, and perspectives over the last 10 years or so. Playing mixed and open club ultimate through USA Ultimate, playing AUDL, observing USAU games, and coaching college women’s ultimate has exposed me to a fascinating variety of perspectives on many of the ways that ultimate works, how it makes people feel, and why people enjoy it. Coaching has been an especially transformative experience for me personally because the women I coach have invested their time and energy in talking to me and sharing their perspective so that I could start to understand better a great many of the complicated ways that things are different for them than they are for me.
Learning about gender equity through the years, I have come to a place like so many others where I want to demand more from people with the power to improve the inequitable situations in our community. Learning about intersectionality and the idea that none of us are defined by any one attribute also underscores the fact that it’s not just about gender equity, but about racial equity and socio-economic equity, and finding ways to make ultimate inclusive and accepting to everybody.
When I heard about the chance to join the AUDL player boycott, I jumped at the chance to help send a strong message to the AUDL that there’s a growing group of people that would rather not support an organization that doesn’t take sufficient steps toward achieving equity. I’m proud to have been the person that wrote to the Detroit Mechanix roster on behalf of the folks organizing the boycott advocating for the boycott as a means for demonstrating that demand for equity, and I’m grateful for all the conversations that it sparked for me to continue to learn more about the wide variety of perspectives on such a complex issue. Almost all of my personal thoughts are already expressed on twitter or are things that others have written more eloquently than me in their statements and public letters and I would encourage anybody that is not familiar with all of them to take the time to read and think about each one.
The reason I’m writing this personal statement now is because after only a few weeks, I’ve decided that I don’t want to participate in the AUDL boycott any longer.
I want to help facilitate conversations between the leaders of the Detroit Mechanix and the local community to connect with the women that have been marginalized by the AUDL’s choice not to provide equitable opportunity, exposure, and coverage for women in ultimate. I’m eager to help push forward in cooperation with the Mechanix and the women in our community. I learned through my involvement with the boycott—by having open and honest conversations with people both in person and online—that I can be more effective bringing real change by putting my time and energy into helping be directly involved.
The Mechanix are working on having a plan to get from where we are now to an equitable situation, starting with showcase games and competitive exhibitions, and I know that I can help in many ways with that effort. I also know it takes work to make change, and it would be way easier and less work for me to jot my name on a list and sit back and watch things unfold. Instead, I want to make the choice to put in the time and effort that I can spare to helping make appreciable change. I hope that if I have a daughter someday, I can sit down and be proud when I tell her the story about why she has so many role models to look up to in this wacky sport that we play.
I’ve come to believe that having my name on the boycott list when 99% of the community doesn’t know who I am isn’t nearly as beneficial as putting my time and energy into conversations, into recruiting women to participate, into helping with logistics, and perhaps into coaching. To the credit of the leadership of the Detroit Mechanix, the opportunity wouldn’t exist if they didn’t want to make it happen. I believe that I helped start conversations that led to these opportunities, and I can continue to help.
I’m realistic about the impact that any one person can have on a system as massive and pervasive as these societal inequities have become. I think it’s important that each person does what they think is best for the right reasons, and at this point, I’ve found an opportunity to do more to help. My goal here is to promote the idea that anybody that wants to help make a tangible impact on promoting equity could do so if they’re willing to find their opportunity and do the work to make an impact. Especially for those of you reading that don’t have name recognition, or aren’t playing in the AUDL, I hope you can find ways to push our community towards an equitable future. Regardless of each person’s stance on the AUDL boycott, I hope to have shown that regardless of how skilled you are, how well known, or how much you’ve helped so far, there are chances to help now and in the future, and I encourage you to seek them out.