Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Zealand Roller Derby - Paving a More Positive Way Forward

I've been engrossed in this issue for the last couple of days and I've come to a few realisations.

The NZRDA, while their statement was unfortunate in the worst possible way, are essentially trying to find their way in the dark. The words I've seen bandied about, that seem most apt, is "trial by fire".

It seems really important to note that, although this doesn't belong in any sort of press release, the NZRDA is made up of volunteers from the NZ derby scene. They're spread across the country (meaning anything they do takes time as it takes time to communicate).

More interestingly, the thing about being volunteers? The interesting part isn't the fact that they're not paid, but rather, they're the ones who volunteered for the task.

They're hindered by their own rules. It's that classic problem around control. The fastest way to get anything done is through a dictatorship. The least worst way to keep things honest is through a democracy. I've struggled with this one myself in various organisations I've been a member of.

The pitchforks and torches are now out. In this age of clicktivism, there's now a petition to remove Stacey Roper as head coach. It's interesting to note that after over 12 hours, it hasn't reached it's horribly low ball target of 100 signatories.

Which begs a few questions:
  • The people who would be directly affected by any such action are the final 20. Have they been consulted? Can they be consulted without fear of repercussion from their coach? People on both sides of the argument are making, what I think are, unsubstantiated presumptions on the effect this would have and what the options are.
  • What are the actions available to the NZRDA under their own rules? I would hazard a guess and think that ANY actions taken would have to adhere to their rules as they currently are. This is a difficult one as we discovered with Tangleball (though we didn't reach a crisis. It was realised that the society's registered rules did not reflect the practise as Tangleball is, by design, an anarchist society. It was decided to do a few review and rewrite of the registered rules due to possible legal repercussions).
  • Given the gravity of the situation, is this something that can be done quickly? A quick indictment, without having gone through due diligence, could be just as dire as being seen as complicit in discrimination.

I'm finding myself extremely conflicted on this issue.

Stacey Roper, from what I've seen, has gone about doing the wrong things willingly and without remorse. For example, I was told that she did issue an apology via her personal facebook page. The original comment was made elsewhere so this would seem to me to be underhanded. But worse than that, any such apology seems to either have disappeared, or to have been made private. Then calling discriminatory comments "off the cuff" would suggest to me that she doesn't understand the gravity of the situation.

I find it really hard not to condemn her outright. It's embarrassing to have this sort of controversy surrounding the only sport I've gotten invested in. One that's known for it's inclusiveness.

However, due diligence needs to be done and, like it or not, there are conflicting concerns. It's become an amazingly polarizing issue and there are no easy answers. This is where I think we need to address things. There's A LOT of anger directed toward NZRDA, but, if you step back and have a look, they've only really released a statement. It was a horrible, entirely regrettable statement, sure. But given the anger directed their way you'd have thought they'd had spent the intervening time killing kittens.

I found myself reading back through my last post. It's angry... really angry. Truth be told, I never really thought anyone would read it. I average around 30 hits a day though for the last month or so, that's dropped even further to around 20 hits per day. And then, suddenly, today... over 600 hits. I never got that sort of hit rate even when I was trying to do a post a day. It's an indication of just how personally invested people have gotten on the issue.

I'm really starting to regret the post. The problem with it is that I consider myself to be a ... positive entity? ... in (and kind of outside) the roller derby community. I don't necessarily get along with some individuals in the community and there are even a couple of leagues that I'm best to avoid BUT, for the most part, I would like to think that even my criticisms of bouts are all for the good. It's me hopefully offering an independent view into bouts. Away from the "Ra-ra! Look at how fantastic we are!" horribly biased write ups that seems to be the norm (I think there's only ever been one league that got took exception to this though they seemed to have issue with anything approaching criticism). But looking over that post, I can't help but feel that I've done the community a huge disservice. It's not in keeping with how I view myself within the community.

For that, I'm sorry.

Does this mean I don't think there's a case to be answered? Absolutely not! But it does mean that I think I, and I kind of hope I'm not the only one, should throw a lot more support behind NZRDA. For me, this means I'm considering becoming an "unaffiliated member". Hell, I may even offer to help where I can.

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