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December 24, 2017

It’s All About Respect

“Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” – Hillary Clinton

Why am I blogging again about how sports intersects with “real life?”

Maybe that’s the universe telling me something.  Maybe I need to go with it.

“Matt The Producer: Blogging at the intersection of sports and life….”   Hmmmmm.  I’ll talk to the boss.

In any event, let me start here.

The accusations against Harvey Weinstein have, once again, brought sexuality, abuse of power and the male/female paradigm to the forefront of print, video and audio media.

While I would prefer to not wade too deeply in the waters of this subject, the aforementioned allegations neatly dovetail with my most recent interview with Hayley Wickenheiser.

If you’ve not had the chance to watch Hayley’s TED talk on “Bucking It,” do yourself a favour and click this link.  Enjoy!  She’s wonderful.

Further, if you haven’t had the chance to hear our interview with her, please click here.  She’s loquacious, speaks beautifully and her answers are the definition of succinct.

To put it plainly, I AM A FAN! In fact, I have listened to her and taken notes on how to respond to a question effectively.

I’ve had the opportunity to interview many an athlete over the last 7 months and I realized something while assembling my thoughts for this blog.

Not once have I made the distinction between male and female when prepping for an interview.  I’m happy to say that it’s a distinction that has been wholeheartedly subconscious.  I have neither a background in psychology or sociology so my conclusions should be considered little more than guesses; but here’s why I think I’ve never made that distinction.

My mother is fierce,  she’s strong and leads with a gentle but assured hand.  The pat on the back she gave me as a young one was warm and motherly, but filled with so much fire that her hand print was seared into the back of my jacket.  You would not mess with my Mom, her husband, or her children without coming away with some egotistical bruises.

Financial ruin crippled our family.  My mother, buckled to her knees, picked herself up and made about making the best of an awful situation.  My father’s health failed enough times that we practically had a room waiting, at the ready, for us in Peel Memorial Hospital.  She cried and then went to work.

One Christmas, she chipped frozen limestone from the interlock patio of an unfinished landscape job just to scrape together enough money to buy my sister and me Christmas presents.

She is the matriarch with a capital M.

She watched as the bank came and took everything we owned, stripped her of pride and dignity and left her a shell of a person.  NOT A WOMAN.  A person.  Her gender is incidental.

Then, do you know what she did?  SHE WENT OUT AND GOT IT ALL BACK.

Why?  Because BUCK (believe me, BUCK is not what she said) the universe.

My mother is a person that just happens to be female.

Hayley Wickenheiser is an athlete that just happens to be female.

You notice now that works?

Why does the gender of a person matter, in any way, when it comes to grading accomplishments?  Would my mother’s strength be considered more admirable if it the roles were reversed and it was my father who went out to “be a man?”

Would Hayley’s gold medals hold more weight if she was male?

I don’t understand this concept.

Maybe it’s that my mother was on the end of a shovel and threw a baseball and listened to Metallica… Maybe she gently erased gender bias in my mental makeup.

When it came time to be intimate with a women, I took things slow.  Glacially slow.  I never make the first move. To a fault.  It might have cost me relationships.

Those tendencies, too, surfaced subconsciously.

I was taught to respect people.  Not women, not men.  PEOPLE.  Buck the gender bias.

I spend my mornings changing my daughter’s bum and taking her to dance classes.  Am I less of a man because my wife makes the lion’s share of the income in our house?

No!  My wife, the person, just happens to be female and a professional.  My daughter’s father, just happens to be male and her primary caregiver.  Our genders are incidental.

One afternoon, while my father was recovering in the hospital, my mother took my sister and me to a local park.  While there, a group of older boys decided to see how Lynne McFarland’s son looked, being pushed face first, down a slide.

She stood up, calmly walked over to a bike owned by the ringleader of the assault, and hurled it down a nearby ravine.

This was met with much consternation from the assailant in question.

“Don’t touch my bike,” the young man said.

“Don’t touch my son,” Lynne McFarland retorted.

“Your parents need to teach you respect…”

Thanks, Mom.

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