We all know why the Flyers are reinstating their old-style ice team, complete with skimpy outfits for the women* and job-appropriate attire for the men. There’s little question about that. But there are a few questions we need to ask now.
We need to ask why the Flyers did away with their ‘ice girls’ to begin with. Even before this latest jump backward, it was pretty clear that this was never about conscience or social change. At this point I sincerely hope it wasn’t, because if the team’s moral compass is so easily spun by the booing of a lusty (in every sense) crowd, then the Philadelphia Flyers are irretrievably lost. Even as a Devils fan I can’t stomach that; I love NHL hockey too much.
But that’s probably not what we’re dealing with anyway. The Flyers likely eliminated the ice girl aspect of their snow-clearing squad – and, along with it, all the women on the squad – for fear of litigation after Mother Jones revealed some rather ugly treatment of the women in question. One infers that the team figured the easiest way to solve this potential problem was just to stop employing women to perform this task altogether, choosing to hire only men despite women’s equal ability to do the job. The best-case scenario here is that someone in the Flyers’ legal department finally woke up and realized this was just an invitation to a discrimination suit and the team is just using all that booing as convenient cover to reverse a foolish decision. But if and when (and I’d put the odds at about 999-1 that it’s “when”) the female members of the reconstituted ice team skate out in very, very different attire than that worn by the males, then the issues brought to light by Mother Jones will all just come rushing back again.
This makes the next question a simple one: What’s the plan? Are the Flyers going to reestablish a sexist practice but at least treat its female on-ice employees better? Or will things be exactly as they were before, with the same terrible working conditions for the ‘ice girls’ and, perhaps, a better-prepared legal department awaiting the inevitable law suits those conditions will inspire?
There’s a bigger question we need to ask, though. The Flyers have been disgraceful throughout this process, making sexist choices at every turn. They are, to be sure, a huge part of the problem. But they did not create the underlying issue, which is this: Many fans (and, pathetically, some members of the media**) refuse to accept the elimination of T&A from their NHL experience. And to that I can only say, Why?
Why, Philadelphia boo-birds, are you so angry at the absence of exposed female skin on the ice during professional hockey games? Why don’t you care that many female fans (and many male fans, particularly fathers of daughters) feel disenfranchised by your team’s use of half-dressed women as part of its in-game ‘entertainment’? Why do you feel that your desire to casually ogle these women should supersede our wish not to see the Flyers gleefully objectify women?
The Flyers might lack institutional integrity – and let’s face it, “might” is pretty generous – but they wouldn’t be bringing back their half-dressed ‘ice girls’* if a noisy segment of their fan base didn’t demand it.
The Flyers could choose to fight the disease of sexism, but they prefer to wallow in it. Like so many similarly fevered bodies, this organization will stubbornly refuse to get healthy until we address the underlying infection.
*They could conceivably be bringing back the female members of the ice team and having them dress the same way the men do, but that seems highly unlikely as it would just amplify the booing.
**Sam “@BroadStBull” Carchidi (“Flyers will hold tryouts for Ice People. I have a feeling a few guys will be hired to go with the girls. #PoliticallyCorrectWorld”) and Frank “@DNFlyres” Seravalli (“#Flyers announce the return of the Ice Girls, thank god, on opening night.”) might not have been the only ones celebrating the return of cleavage and bare midriffs to the ice, but they were the only ones who happened to be mentioned to me. If you’ve seen more, please let me know in the comments.