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How To Support Women Hockey Fans

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What do we do after we acknowledge that women are harassed online and that it's wrong?

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I'm scared to write this. But I'm also scared not to.

I want to talk about the online hockey community and how women are being treated within the community. I am not just talking about the recent egregious cases of online (sexual and otherwise) harassment and abuse of women--I hope that we can all say that those behaviours are wrong and that they need to stop. Instead, I want to discuss the people that are much more common: the people who believe that they are helping but are instead derailing the important conversations that need to occur.

Many of you are likely aware of what it is that led to this. If you aren't, these recent events have been covered pretty comprehensively in a Storify by @NearIdleLark and a very public firing in response to what is detailed here, here and here. First, I want to commend the women who have come forward. It cannot be easy to open yourself up to public scrutiny like that--and based on what we have seen repeatedly, the Twitter masses do not make it easy for people to do so. @Mariia19 and @ToniMacAttack have taken so much shit over the past few days. They need to feel supported and I hope that they do feel supported by us. However, there are ways to support and be an ally and there are ways to make the situation worse. This is a very far from exhaustive list of things to keep in mind when you are trying to be an ally to women (or others).

An important part of being an ally is acknowledging that your view of the world is only partial. Put simply, there are things that you will never truly understand because you do not experience those things. It is tough for a lot of men to see the ways that women hockey fans are disrespected, harassed, and sexualized because they do not experience these things in the same way themselves. There are things you don't know that you don't know--and this applies to all kinds of issues in addition to gender. If you are not a part of a marginalized group, you should do your best to learn as much as you can by listening. Dismissing and delegitimizing the feelings of women hockey fans is not helpful. It is important to realize that you cannot be the arbiter of things that people are allowed to be upset about, as it is all too easy to dismiss concerns that would never apply to you.  Calling people, say, "outrage hobbyists" (just an example) because they are upset about something that you will never experience? That is being a part of the problem.

For people who want to be allies in general, it is important to differentiate between intent and impact. In other words, having good intentions does not guarantee that your actions will not hurt others. Having good intentions also does not absolve you from any blame if and when that hurt occurs. The best analogy that I have ever heard is this: if you step on someone's foot, it is entirely unreasonable for you to expect that it won't hurt them because you didn't mean to do it. And further, getting angry with them for their foot hurting really just seems ridiculous here. And guess what? It also seems ridiculous to get mad at people for calling you out because you didn't mean to offend.

While no one enjoys being called out, it is important not to make your hurt feelings central if (and probably when) you are indeed called out. As much as it may hurt to be told that you did something wrong, this pain is not at all comparable to the pain that many women experience on a daily basis simply for expressing their opinions in a public forum. And if something happens to a person who did something wrong--say, they get fired from the Denver Post--expressing sympathy and sadness for the person who hurt others while ignoring those that were hurt sends the message that you do not care about the victims.

I think I speak for a lot of hockey-supporting women when I say that we want men to be our allies. Of course we want to feel supported as valuable members of hockey communities. Of course we want the message that women deserve a place in hockey to not only come from women. And of course we want men to take part in the reshaping of hockey culture so that it is more inclusive. But do we want allies who talk over us, refuse to listen to us, and refuse to acknowledge the pain that they/others have caused?

No. That isn't being an ally. That's being part of the problem.