This phrase, along with a handful of others, has come up along my travels in our sport. I’ve heard it, said it, and taken part in conversations circulating about the attractiveness of various female players and the qualities of that attractiveness when compared to the attractiveness of women as a whole (the implication being that female bike polo players are generally unattractive when compared to most women, hence polo hot suggests that a woman is hot for a bike polo player).
Today it’s sticking in my throat. Today it’s bothering the hell out of me.
Bike polo is pretty cool in that we have guys and gals playing side-by-side at tournaments and pickup. It’s nice that we are breaking down a wall (or more appropriately, trying like hell to build a wall to start with). I’ve had plenty of conversations with men and women about whether women have a place in high level play (women rarely make it to the highest levels of competition), and if women in the sport would be better served with their own league.
Those are two topics that I think I’ve covered in the past (links below), and not the subject here. This is about a particular mindset that male polo players seem to possess. I use seem here because there has yet to be a tournament I’ve gone to where the hotness of a female player hasn’t come up–either in a positive or negative manner (by this I mean someone shouting a quasi-sexual, positive heckle at a female player or saying to the nearby group that a particular woman was hot).
This term and the connotation behind it bother me for a few reasons. One, it’s helping to build that wall of misogyny where a woman is judged first on her looks and then on her skills as a player. Second, it removes the quality of the player, making it a secondary feature of the person. Instead of being a hot female player or an ugly female player, let’s focus in on the player.
I’ll be the first to admit that I notice what people look like. I’m a writer, for one thing, and that means that I’m always trying to absorb people into my understanding. I am also a human, and as a human I have the inclination to be sexual. I’ll even admit to you, dear reader, that I find certain players in our sport to be attractive, for to deny that would be to carve out the honesty of this post.
But even in all that, I try (try) to be hyper-aware of viewing female players as people–which of course they are. Judging the sexual attractiveness of a player (and then sharing that decision with other people) is not just a matter of what comes naturally–that’s a bullshit excuse. I can find someone attractive and not reduce that opinion to the qualifier of how I a. refer to them b. think of them or c. introduce them to others.
“Polo hot” is something I’d like to avoid ever hearing again–and certainly something I try to avoid taking part in. It might seem like a tiny thing, an inconsequential observance between friends, but every single time to reduce a human to an object to be evaluated based on looks you reduce the ability of that person to be more than their body or face.
I guess what I’m getting at is this: bike polo players are not your typical sports players. We, in my experience, are more sensitive to how we treat each other. We are more aware of the world at large and are, for the most part, educated in our actions (I’m not speaking here about academics, I’m speaking of self-awareness). When we reduce someone to only their sexual potential, we are reducing the quality of our sport to be something more. It’s not about shutting down your urges nor is it about treating anyone in the exact same way as everyone else–it’s about deciding if you, a fellow bike polo player, wants to reduce another polo player to their looks.
I for one do not.