When the Philadelphia Flyers stopped sending out half-dressed women to clean the ice surface at the start of this pre-season, I lauded them for it as a progressive move. But all it took for them to reverse course and abandon their plans was a few thousand Philly fans to start booing the group of young men dressed in full orange jumpsuits who replaced them.
Nothing says “the courage of your convictions” like cowering in the face of some sad males who don’t enjoy hockey enough to appreciate it without hyper-sexualized women. Do these dudes realize that, through the magical wonders of the internet, they have the option to see pretty girls in skimpy clothes any day of any week of any year for the rest of their lives? Are they so unfamiliar with the female form they require constant visual reminders of it during the three hours they spend at the rink? Did they read thisMother Jones account of the shoddy treatment/salary afforded to ice girls and think this is an issue worth fighting for?
More importantly, do the Flyers actually believe fans will stop coming to games if they didn’t have women displaying their thighs, stomachs and shoulders like dehumanized meat products on the ice? How did they ever manage to sell tickets before the franchise started their ice girl crew in 2003-04? I guess the fans who booed the male ice crew just refused to attend games before then, right?
Some will make the argument that “the fans have spoken” in Philadelphia and that Flyers management had no choice but to bring back ice girls. The easiest way to refute that line of thinking is to take it to its logical extreme and ask this question: if you asked Flyers fans if they wanted to see two attractive women strip naked at center ice each and every intermission and start kissing, do you suppose they’d cheer for that, too?
Of course they would, but that doesn’t legitimize the concept. The same holds true for ice girls. Sure, they’ll appeal to a certain segment of hockey fans, but those fans aren't so special that they ought to have a heightened enjoyment at the expense of female fans who’ve said in no uncertain terms they don’t appreciate being reminded of their sexuality when they’re paying big money to watch their favorite sport.
Now, could the Flyers have done a better job of revamping their ice crew? Absolutely. Going from an all-female crew to an all-male unit wasn’t the ideal solution, as the organization put young women out of work when they could just as easily have given them the same full-body jumpsuits as the men and continued to employ them as members of a mixed-gender ice team.
Instead, the Flyers have bungled the situation by making it an all-or-nothing showdown – and sided with the one group (men) who are affected the least by the issue. That’s an outrageous insult to female Philly fans and to women in general. That tells them their opinion has less value than that of a man. And there's no justification or rationalization that makes it OK.
The good news is that, since the Flyers have flip-flopped on this issue, there’s no reason they can’t reconsider again and either re-adopt the principled stand they took at the start of the pre-season, or compromise with the aforementioned mixed-gender crew.
But if that doesn’t happen, they will have catered to the lowest-common denominator – and for what? To shut up a few squealing misogynists who are being asked to wait until after a game to get their creepy kicks?
Can call that customer service all you want, but the truth is it’s a much greater disservice to hockey fans who deserve better.