Ultimate Was My Community

by | October 31, 2017, 7:05am 0

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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