Guest Post By Samantha Slotnick
A few hours before my last home hockey game, I stumbled across an article that was shared by a handful of my Facebook friends. The headline read: “Mocking the US Women’s Hockey Team for Crying Over Their Loss to Canada is Sexism, Pure and Simple.”
Members of the US Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team crying after losing gold-medal game
Baffled by the title of the article, I clicked on the link to learn more. The author calls people out on their responses via twitter to the women’s team for crying. Some of the tweets she referenced included (please note that I use italics to draw attention to the shocking things people had the audacity to say): “The US women hockey team are such ungrateful assholes. The damn Swiss team is so happy with bronze & you’re crying cause you won silver;” “The women’s US hockey team crying after they lost is exactly why women shouldn’t play sports. Grow some ovaries. #GetOverIt;” “To the US women’s hockey team: ‘There’s no crying in hockey.'” I was enraged.
I followed the US Women’s Ice Hockey team’s journey in Sochi and watched the entire gold medal game versus Canada–all the way down to the devastating overtime loss. I watched the medal ceremony that immediately followed too, and quite honestly I did not even think twice about the girls crying over their loss. To me, that was normal. These 21 girls had not only trained four years to win gold in these Olympics, they had been training their entire hockey careers for this. You don’t just magically become an Olympian–it takes hard work, dedication, and a drive to succeed that is built upon year after year after year.
It was not until I sat in the locker room before the last game of my college career that I realized what hockey truly meant to me and that it was almost over. Our coach, with whom I and the other seniors have a very close bond, gave a heartfelt speech about four “little girls” who began playing the game of hockey, and shared cute little tidbits our parents sent in advance. This was when it really hit me. I thought of the relationships I built with my teammates and family, and about how important hockey has been in my life as a necessary escape from reality from time to time. Something about realizing that this game–a game that played such a prominent role in shaping who I am today and the relationships I cherish–was coming to an end, brought me to tears.
There is in fact crying in hockey. We see it every year in June with the winning team of NHL players hoisting the Stanley Cup over their heads as the losing team exits the ice as fast as possible fighting back the tears in their eyes.
Henrik Lundqvist crying after losing Eastern Conference Finals–Keeps NY Rangers Out of Stanley Cup contention
Ray Borque crying after winning the Stanley Cup for the first and only time in his 22-year career
Why is it okay for grown adult males to cry when losing in a professional competition, but it is not okay for a team of females representing their country, with an average age of 23, to cry when losing the gold medal to their long-time rival? As a female hockey player, I am not naive to the fact that I carry some bias in my argument. This issue hits close to home. As a human being though, I cannot help but wrestle with this double standard. The American culture socializes us to believe that men don’t cry; women do. But in the case of sports, why is it okay for men to cry but women cannot?
This is just one of the many contradictions female athletes face. We are expected to be strong and intimidating on the playing field, but sweet and feminine off the court– “dolled up” with makeup or sexualized in the Sports Illustrated swim suit edition. As a society we tell girls it’s not only okay to cry, but expected of them, yet attack females for crying after losing in a sport? Where is the logic? So, now I ask the really tough question: how do we work on socializing generations young and old to understand that expressing our emotions is not only okay, but actually psychologically healthy for all human beings alike?