Let me start by immediately walking back on that title: I really, really appreciate the work Mr. Do does for our sport. Point in fact, I think he’s one of the most entertaining, important producers of bike polo content in the world. We’re lucky to have him and to have his dedication to our sport.
But there was something a little funny about the recent (beautiful) video he helped make called This Is Hardcourt. While it was wonderfully rendered and made me excited to call myself a bike polo player, it seemed strangely–I don’t know–singular in its content.
By this I mean: if I didn’t know anything about bike polo and watched this video as part of a sponsorship package, I would think that only white males play the game [there are a few frames where women appear, but no narration to back up that this is a normal thing].
And, to be really frank with you, that’s a pretty accurate depiction of the sport (it’s mostly played by white males, I’m not blind for goodness sake). But it’s not the whole story, and certainly not what I’d want to show potential sponsors.
If you read the articles on this site, you know that I am pretty excited by the co-ed nature of the sport. And while I haven’t touched on it very much, I’m also jazzed by how inclusive the sport is to anyone who wants to join in (we don’t have a gay-bashing, alternative lifestyle hating culture in bike polo, is what I mean). We’re a pretty open, awesome group of people.
But, if I watched this video, I wouldn’t know that. I’d think it was a boys club. A white boy’s club–which is kinda behind the curve, don’t you think.
As soon as this video came out a few folks reached out to me to get my opinion and vent, and I’d like to share what they told me. The first was Lisa, who explained:
I was disappointed when I first saw it because clearly its purpose is as a promotional piece and it obviously didn’t illustrate that this is a coed sport, neither did the commentary. I have spoken with Ben Schultz about it and he’s seeking an edit, which is good to hear. Women are working just as hard on and off the court and I think that will really appeal to potential sponsors. Polo is one of the few truly coed sports out there and it should be celebrated.
Next, Anne emailed me with much the same sentiment, though explained a bit more:
Often what you don’t say can be just as harmful as what you do. Media is strong, even videos made within a small niche community. The Mr. Do video is a really wonderful and well crafted video that does an awesome job of introducing the sport to people outside of the community. I think it’s an awesome step to show how far polo has come and the potential it has for a serious future. EXCEPT, the subtext of that future is a men’s only game like so many other sports we take seriously like hockey, basketball, and football.
The language of the video “This is Hard Court” by visually neglecting to include women allows a viewer to make the assumption that women are not included in this game [Anne later noted that there are two moments where women appear, one occurring at 2:09 in the video for a second or two]. Bike polo is co-ed, which is a part of the unique history and current status of the sport is completely forgotten. Not only is there a lack of female players represented on the court, the many that are represented are done so as spectators with the narration overheard as family and friends.
Upon seeing this video I immediately felt disappointed, left out, and hurt, that a community that I feel does so well (mostly) in including women as equals completely neglected to include them as a part of the definition of what the sport is. This video, which seems to be made to be a polished piece of media to share with outsiders as a tool to gain sponsors, future players, and attention at large, by leaving out the fact that women also participate and compete at all levels in this sport could be detrimental to the confidence of current female players (even though we deal with this shit a lot) and the ability of us to recruit ones in the future. How is a woman who see’s that video going to think that there is a place for her to participate in the bike polo community? She won’t. Just the same as I know I’ll ever get to play in the NHL. The message you send by failing to include women in this video is strong and alienating. That’s not the hard court I know.
Do I think that this was a conscious effort on the part of the people who made the video? No, of course not. I think the fact that bike polo is co-ed and inclusive is very important to the majority of bike polo players. But I do think that it’s something which should be addressed in (at the very least) the narration of the video. Even if you remove the element of equal representation, having a true co-ed sport is a great sales point for companies who are looking to sponsor something that is forward thinking. Bike polo is unique in many ways, but our egalitarianism is perhaps the greatest differentiation of all–and I don’t think it should be something that is glossed over. Lots of people put time into making the sport what it is, and to find them negated to a few seconds worth of footage (or, in the case of non-white players, almost complete non-representation in a “this is hardcourt” video) is dangerous.
I’m quite sure that I’m not the first person to think of this, and I am likewise sure that the NAH and Mr. Do are discussing possible edits to the video.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying that Mr. Do (or anyone who worked on this video) is trying to frame the conversation of bike polo one way or another. I’m entirely sure he has the sport’s interests in mind, and I’m likewise sure that part of the reason for the lack of representation is that he chose to use video from Worlds 2013, and from the top teams (which are mostly white men). Please also don’t think that I’m calling him out–he puts loads more work and time and money into promoting and advancing the sport than I do.
But I do think this is something which needs to be addressed, and something that I’m quite sure Mr. Do would want to look at as a fair broker in representing our game.
Editor’s Note: Dany wrote about this very subject late last year, and I encourage you to visit that post here: http://bikepolocz.tumblr.com/post/68298541049/the-picture-in-the-mirror-i-believe-that-our