Minnesota Windchill, the Twin Cities professional Men’s team in the national AUDL league, recently announced that they will be hosting a “Mixed High School Showcase Game” this Sunday 5/28. We love that youth are being given a chance to showcase their teams and talent, but the organization of the game has a few very concerning aspects.
Windchill invited two programs to combine their open and women’s teams to compete in a mixed showcase event prior to their official AUDL game. GUPI will be cheering on the high school players and teams invited to participate in the event (especially the baller young women) no matter what, but here’s why we don't support the mixed showcase game:
1. There is no mixed division in Minnesota high school ultimate
Though middle school students compete in mixed teams, current high school ultimate in Minnesota has two divisions: Open and Women’s. Showcasing mixed high school ultimate doesn't actually promote the youth ultimate of our state. If the goal of the game was to actually promote high school and youth ultimate players, the event would showcase open or women's programs that reflect actual teams that compete in the Minnesota high school league. Showcasing mixed programs does not accurately represent the play we see in the high school division and therefore does not promote high school level ultimate.
2. The teams participating are not mixed teams
Because mixed doesn't exist in high school level play, inequitable actions that we see in mixed play will be even more present. In the open letter to Minnesota Ultimate published last month, youth women discussed their experiences playing youth level mixed ultimate and called for change because of the consistently sexist language and treatment of women in youth mixed experiences. A few summarizing quotes from the letter include, “[in youth league] When a woman messes up she’s no longer thrown too,” and “[Mixed women] were injured by the plays of their teammates, constantly had to prove their athleticism, feared mistakes would result in not being involved on-field, were looked off constantly, and coached by their peers.”
The historic treatment of young women in mixed play is of concern especially if it’s present on the field and acting as a showcase-worthy example of high school ultimate. The two programs competing are not mixed teams and do not participate in ultimate because of their desire to play mixed, because of this they have not had conversations or real-game experiences to ensure safe and equitable play.
Additionally, showcasing mixed is not showcasing the highest level of play in high school ultimate. These teams are not used to playing together as a mixed program and will not be showing the public a realistic example of high-level and competitive youth play.
3. Showcasing mixed ultimate does not promote gender equity
Windchill is the only professional ultimate opportunity in Minnesota and consists of only male-identifying players. Our state is in the midst of an overdue conversation about how to better support the women frisbee players of Minnesota, and the decision to host a mixed showcase game, as a men’s team, does not promote gender equity. In fact both high school players and coaches have asked Windchill to consider making the event a youth women’s showcase game. The decision to highlight mixed play sends the message to our young women that the only way to be involved in the AUDL, as a girl, is if there are men on the field.
4. Equity and equality are not the same thing
We believe that Windchill hopes to promote youth and gender equity by hosting a mixed game because it gives the opportunity for both male and female identified players to participate. However, the current organization of the game does not support gender equity. Equity and equality are not the same thing. Equity is prioritizing a marginalized or underrepresented group to combat inequality. In order to reach the goal of equality in ultimate, gender equity means prioritizing women’s ultimate to make up for a history of discrimination. Showcasing mixed might provide equal opportunity for boys and girls to play publicly but it is not creating equity. Windchill is a men’s only program, which means women don't have the opportunity to be professional ultimate players. Because of the inequities that plague ultimate institutionally and culturally, young women need to be given the opportunity to play and be showcased as women's teams. Equity does not exist because there are already more opportunities for men to play. A mixed showcase is not equitable because it is giving boys another opportunity to be showcased instead of focusing on the girls that don’t have the same opportunities.
5. Privilege check is in order
The game is being advertised as a fun way for boys and girls to play ultimately publicly. However, ignoring the implications mentioned in this article highlights the privilege of those who are making these decisions.
Additionally, Windchill has the platform, privilege and power, to encourage widespread actions that support all communities within Minnesota ultimate. Instead of a mixed showcase game for entertainment, there could have been a game to promote women in sports or advocate for equitable mixed teams. These are intentional decisions being made that choose not use the AUDL platform to encourage equity and inclusion. Their privilege as professional ultimate players comes with a responsibility to support the community and use their voice to call for equal opportunities for women.
GUPI is pumped for the high school teams invited to show-off their skills but we wish Windchill had done better in creating an opportunity that was productive for the community.
Something to keep in mind when figuring out your weekend plans.
Brought to you by the Girl Ultimate Players Initiative
Stay tuned to this page for updates on women in the Minnesota youth ultimate scene as well as info on GUPI's latest projects!