A few weeks ago, I was OPRing a home team game in a convention center with a crappy floor. Rather than being concerned with avoiding pitfalls in the OPR lane while skating or looking for back blocks, my attention was constantly drawn to two men leaning up against a wall near turn 3 just outside the track. The first time comment they made sounded like “nice ass.” I ignored it because I wasn’t sure it was about me and I was too busy looking for a multiplayer block to worry about what some guy in the crowd was saying. A few jams later, the pack accelerated very quickly and as back OPR, I yelled to my fellow OPRs that I was dropping back to give better coverage to the front of the pack once they came around the next turn. At this point, I was well aware they were watching me when one of them said “Yeahhh drop back, Amber.” I looked back and was given a thumbs up and a wink. Again, I brushed it off. The game was far too fast paced to worry about these two men heckling me. The last straw was a few jams later. The jam was called off when I was near turn 3. I heard what was definitely the tail end of a statement by one of them: “…so fucking hot.” Those three words are what really set me off. Here I was volunteering my free time at a sporting event, doing what was expected of me as an OPR, and yet I was STILL subject to the cat calls, comments, and harassment I face on a daily basis. Even in a position of “authority”, I would not be respected.
I gathered up as much courage as I could muster, turned around, looked one of them square in the eye, and told him to “Knock it off.” I then went to my HR and told him about the situation. He promptly went over and gave them a warning about being kicked out of the venue if they continued. I didn’t see them after this point and was extremely grateful.
As a sexual assault survivor and regular subject of unwanted male attention, I’ve found it very hard to speak up and assert myself in situations like this. Why rock the boat? They’re going to do it anyway. I’ve been slowly working on this, but fear of violence or continued harassment is real.
To be completely honest, there were only two reasons I spoke to my HR about the incidents at this game:
1.) I had a horrible experience during a game at a men’s tournament the prior weekend where I had to give my first misconduct call to a guy (who could be my father’s age) for inappropriate language. I wasn’t sure if it was directed at me, but all I know was I was still shaken by the angry look in his eyes as he proceeded to the box. This team repeatedly made their games hellish to officiate, generally speaking. By the time I got to the following weekend, I had had enough.
2.) My head ref at the convention center game was male and a bigger guy. I am a small, very feminine lady. If my head ref was also female, would the guys in turn 3 have listened to her? Likely not, in my opinion. They obviously didn’t respect ME enough to let me ref, so why would they listen to a woman asking them to stop making comments?
Toxic masculinity is real in derby and it doesn’t even have to be on the track. Which sucks.