The tweet above was my first reaction to the news that Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn were suspended for game 3 for a “team rule violation” that was reportedly closing down a bar in Scottsdale, AZ at 4 am. I was mad on behalf of those players and I was mad on my own behalf since I had written a post on the xenophobia informing the critiques of Radulov’s performance in a game where he was, apparently, hungover and tired.
Ultimately, the critique is still valid. I believe that the NBCSN rant was drenched in xenophobia and the blog post comments I posted indisputably were. Unfortunately, that point will be lost now as the unenlightened see confirmation of their worst beliefs about “Russians” (never mind the fact that AK46 is technically Belarusian.)
And again today, if you read the Puck Daddy comments or search through twitter, you’ll see that people are using this as an excuse to paint all Russians with the same brush. Never mind that when American Patrick Kane gets photographed shirtless in a Vancouver limo, or arrested after an altercation with a cabbie, or photographed in bed after a one night stand, nobody runs around assuming American Zach Parise does the same. Canadian boys Mike Richards & Jeff Carter get labelled as party boy bad seeds and are shipped away from Dry Island but nobody accuses Canadian Jonathan Toews of the same.
It’s difficult enough for North American guys like Kane, Richards and Carter to shake their individual reps (even when it’s clearly not impacting their on ice performance) but for Russian and Eastern European players it’s damn near impossible.
By the way, if you think I’m overstating this or there aren’t broader repercussions, look at this report from Hockey Prospectus about 2012 draft prospect Alex Galchenyuk (born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin):
“The top three players in this draft are all Russian.” When I asked him if he meant Galchenyuk, seeing as he’s worn US colors in International play he responded, “He’s still a Russian to me.”
Mark Spector of SportsNet’s post, “Bad Image for Russians” plays the “where there’s smoke there’s fire” game even as he couches everything in hedges and rhetorical questions.
As I was thinking about all of this today, I realized it ties into something else that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as well, the extreme distaste that many female sports fans (myself included) have toward ‘puck bunnies’ or practices that are lumped in with the ‘puck bunny’ stereotype, like bringing dirty signs for player warmups or wearing Mrs. Hall & Mrs. Eberle shirts.
If we speak about these things we find distasteful, it unfortunately tends to come out as catty or bitchy (and, let’s face it, sometimes it is) and all we’re usually told is, ‘well she’s not hurting anybody so shut up.’
That’s both true and false.
What I realized is that in the world of hockey fandom women are like Russians. We are a minority group that are battling everyday against the weight of oppressive and offensive stereotypes. A Canadian coasts on a few shifts and he’s ‘having an off night’. A Russian coasts and he’s ‘lazy and not living up to his potential.’ In hockey fandom misogynist insults are common and women are dumb puck bunnies until proven otherwise.
It’s complete and utter unfair bullshit… but it’s reality.
That doesn’t mean we accept it, in fact it’s all the more reason to fight against them. But it also means that, again, as unfair as it is, there is a frustration at those who live up to the stereotypes (or at least appear to play into stereotypes even as a joke).
Hockey fandom includes a lot of amazing people of every age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc. but, like society as a whole, it also includes racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, etc. and we all need to work together to change that. Sometimes it feels like we are banging our heads against the wall, so when we lash out at players and fans who don’t behave as a ‘model minority’ it’s born out of frustration of dealing with injustice. Being a ‘model minority’ or ‘representing your identity group well’ is fraught with issues in and of itself, don’t get me wrong, but it’s often seen as a stepping stone along the way to acceptance.
And you have no idea how strange it is for me to be even *remotely* be advocating this. I’m the girl who read Michael Warner’s The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life in college and said “fuck traditional identity politics” and proceeded to write a master’s thesis on transgendered representations in film using radical queer theory. I still want to say ‘fuck traditional identity politics’ and hope someday soon we are long past them but in the 10+ years since I read that book I’ve seen how damn far we still have to go to get there. It doesn’t mean we stop fighting, it doesn’t mean we all do it the same way.