I had an interesting experience the other day at the 8-10 year old basketball game here on the USAG. We were watching the game of the son of a friend of our family at which The Kid was cheering with her cheer squad. It was the second game we had attended that day, as Kid cheers at any or all of the games that happen during game days.
During the halftime period of the games the squad does a dance routine that they have been working on to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”, a favorite of mine, I don’t mind saying. It looks pretty sharp, and I am hoping to get a vid of it up soon(ish), and the Coach has really done a great job putting it together. Of the six and one half minutes of the halftime period they use about two or three. Most of the teams have been gracious to clear the court to allow them their two minutes to perform.
During the last game of the age group, however, one of the teams decided to run layup drills. During the cheerleaders performance the coaches of the basketball team were shouting to their kids, and the kids were running and yelling and dribbling and running back and forth from half court to the hoop. It was really distracting to the team, and in my opinion, it was incredibly disrespectful to the girls.
I took the opportunity to mention it to the director of the Child and Youth Sports Services, a man who is usually sitting in the corner of the gym. With my coffee in hand, I walked over to him at the end of the squad’s routine and leaned to him so as not to be heard by everyone, and mentioned that I just wanted to let him know that I though the team on the court had shown poor taste and disrespect to the cheerleaders.
The director kind of chuckled, and told me that he had no problem focusing on the girls, and that he didn’t think the team was disrespectful at all. I felt that this was beside my point, and a bit dismissive, but I restated my opinion, and told him that I just wanted to let him know what I thought.
He said to me, more sternly, that this was just my opinion, and that I needed to watch how I was talking to him, that it was inappropriate for me to talk to him the way that I was. I asked him what was wrong with voicing an opinion.
He stood up from his chair and leaned over me, being much taller than I am (and I am not a short woman at 67″ tall). He told me “I am the Director of this program, and you are just a parent. You will not speak to me this way, waving your hands about.”
For the record, I do gesticulate a bit when I speak, but I turn my hands in small circles, and for crying out loud, I had a hot coffee in one hand.
He proceeded to tell me just how disrespectful I was being to him, walking up to him and talking to him in front of everyone this way. No matter that he was now yelling at me in front of a gymnasium full of parents and children. He mentioned that we could continue this in his office, to which I agreed, but he never took me to his office. Instead, he moved towards where the cheerleaders and coaches stood, who were now staring at us as he yelled at me.
No matter what I said, he had a dismissive remark to silence me. If I said I had a right to voice a complaint, I was using a disrespectful tone. If I said that the cheerleaders were enrolled in an athletic program just like the basketball players that parents also came to see, he said he had waived the Winter fee (only true for some of them). When I tried to explain that I was merely advocating for them because cheerleading as a sport is disrespected from early on through professional level, he yelled that he has a 20 year-old daughter, that I don’t need to tell him about respect.
My partner came over and extracted me from the situation at this point, because we had to go relieve our friends’ babysitter soon, and my other friend had come over to make sure I was OK, but this man was already storming off, shouting about my attitude and that I could talk to his supervisor. (Believe me, I will) He left me there shaking, glad that I hadn’t agreed to go into an office alone with him.
More so than him yelling at me I was angry at the things that he had yelled at me. Dismissing my concerns outright was infuriating. He could have even simply placated me, a common military tactic (Yes ma’am, I’ll pass that along, or I’ll take that under advisement would do).
Firstly, this man’s job here at USAG would not exist if not for the parents that he seems to hold such contempt for. I got the feeling that what he meant was “mother” who dared to speak out of turn, as he had no problem chatting up the dads, either in uniform or who were volunteer coaches. Obviously I have no real worth after spitting my kid from my loin, but I really was gobsmacked by the way he spit “parent” from his mouth like it tasted bad.
Parenting is an important job. I am not going to go on about the holy sanctity of it being the most sacred of jobs, but it is not to be scoffed at. Daily, when I want to rip my hair out, or actually do, wondering if I am doing a good enough job, or am scrutinized for the job I am doing, or when I have some pre-pubescent behavior issue I am sidelined by, I know that my work is cut out for me.
But, I also know that this man looked at me and decided that I was worthless and that he was automatically nothing. He knows nothing about me, or the other hats I wear despite my womanhood holding me down. How on Earth could I be a Sailor while having ladybits? Veterans don’t have anything but good and sturdy penises, surely. I couldn’t be active in the DAV, or on the PTO (Oops, is that too close to parenting, and therefore not a real thing?) I am a writer, a blogger (but depending on who you ask that doesn’t count either), and a political/social justice activist. I am a disability rights advocate both online and off. All of these things and more, and he waved it away with the narrowing of his eyes at me, and looking down his nose at me as if my State College sweatshirt somehow put me beneath his shoes.
We are not the sum of our titles. We are people, who beings comprised of many things, and we wear titles. It is what we do that matters, how we treat the people around us, ultimately, that matters. Being a director of a program over people you hate somehow doesn’t de facto make you better.
I think I am most angry because for a few fleeting moments I let this man convince me that he was right, that I didn’t matter and that I had done something wrong. But luckily there are good people surrounding me who reminded me that standing my ground the way I did for the right reasons was in no way wrong. That is a relatively new experience for me, and at its most basic, the crux of what I was trying to accomplish. I wanted those girls to know that they have a right to be respected.