Equality In Sprint Canoe

There has been a lot of discusion in the canoe kayak community regarding the recent ICF decisions on women’s C1 at the Olympics. I was angry, disappointed and embarrassed by the ICF’s decision. I want to offer my support to the women canoers hurt by this move.

I do, however, want to mention something that has been bothering me about this discussion. I can’t help but feel there is something dangerous about me, and other men, weighing in on the various specific arguments for or against women racing sprint canoe at the Olympics. It’s patronizing, and there is a nasty whiff of bigotry and/or ignorance in some of the unsupportive opinions. I think we would do well to forget about specifics and argue the principles of the issue. Any arguments for why we don’t have equality are nothing more than apologies for inequality, which is an inexcusable position.

I arrived at this stance after writing my initial draft about the issues. As I reread the draft, I was struck by the thought:Who am I to argue these points? I can’t really empathize with the women about this topic, and though I have my opinions, they’ve been better made by women who actually live the issue. So, I erased it and wrote what you see above. I felt that by voicing my opinion about the specific arguments I was inadvertently playing a game that I didn’t want to play; a game that often obfuscates the real issues and sees nothing constructive done.

For those interested, here’s a great article from WomenCAN International about the specifics.