Dec 07
earleyg's picture

Level Up

From the first week of school, I joined a volleyball club. I wanted to be more active and this was a great way to make new friends and bond with those I already had. The first time, I was picked second to last by the captains. I was disappointed, but was like, "I'll show them my skill and maybe next time, I'll be chosen sooner." The next time we picked, I was chosen second. My skill paid off. I'm not a volleyball star but I love the sport and make up for my inexperience with eagerness and aggression to get the ball. I've been playing now for a few months and have noticed a pattern. There are a top six or seven white guys who are basically all MVPs and are chosen first while weaker members or less experienced players are given reluctant debating stares before being chosen. This is drop-in volleyball. This isn't the official team where you make the cut or not. The number of women who came to volleyball in the first few weeks were small enough, but now, only four-five of us are left. Strange since volleyball seems to be that unisex sport in other places.

What my point is there seems to be a mental priority list the two white captains go through when choosing teams: male, white, experience, tall, anything else. At 5'2', I'm the same size as one of the white guys, maybe even a little taller, and he's chosen way before me. I'm aggressive like one of the white guys, he's chosen way before me. I'm Asain like one of the guys, he's chosen before me. The only difference is my gender. Every time we line up, I feel like I have to "sell my stance" in order to get picked before half the line is gone. I take on intimidating stands; arms crossed, hands on hips, slightly cocked head. The fact that I feel like I have to act in a different way just to make sure I'm not last in line is sad. It's almost always a woman that's last in line. Maybe not me specifically, but it doesn't matter whether it's me or another fellow female. I once positioned myself unintentionally in the midst of the Top Six and they were all chosen before me, then left me standing alone while the captains chose the second class athletes. The fact that it was so obvious that I was being singled out was infuriating, even if it wasn't intentional. I spoke up to the captains once, asking why they wait to choose the girls till the end. To my dismay, they gave me blank stares and confused, stuttering sentences. They were avoiding my question and making me look like a fool. I bit my tongue after an awkward minute and the game began, but I didn't stop thinking about it. When I challenged the captains, no one backed me up, not even those who I was trying to support. It was humiliating to me at the time, but looking back, I don't regret a single thing.

This is bias against women, even at this trivial level. I don't care if it's at the financial level or the picking-teams -for-drop-in-sports level. At its core is the same bias. A fear crossed my mind while I was reflecting that day I challenged the chiefs. Did no one speak up and support me because they were too anxious to, or because they were too content with their current status in the male-female-other order? What if they don't see a problem simply because this is just drop-in volleyball and not something more serious like the massive wage gap in salaries? I could be seen as just overreacting, but again, at its core, this is bias, and can negatively affect those who are on the receiving end. This may be seen as a little dent in the car, but continue to give that car little dents and it will eventually fail. I do not like seeing my fellow females ignored as the favored Top Six are taken without hesitation. We're just as strong, sometimes even better. I will challenge the captains again if I feel the need to, next time with more confidence. I may be one of the first females chosen for teams but that's not the point, and I'm not doing it just for me. The point is that you, Captain, is that chose me first after you selected the only best men for your team, now you can deal with the collateral, but even in the expendable selection, you pick the best for yourself and the novices are so obviously singled out when everyone around them leaves. It's sickening. Am I blowing this up too much? Am I making a big deal out of something tiny? I think I'm trying to level the playing field, so to speak.