(Reader advisory: This essay contains coarse language that some might find offensive.)
Only one man has called me a cunt.
I ask that you trust me when I tell you that I did not say, nor did I do, anything that should have positioned me on the receiving end of such a vile, disgusting epithet. Suffice to say, I was working as a cover girl at a popular nightclub and this male patron was of the misguided notion that his stuff didn’t stink. He believed himself to be exempt from paying our $5 cover charge. I thought otherwise and told him so. Politely.
“You’re such a cunt,” he said as he stepped through the entrance doors.
“Excuse me?” I responded, in full recoil.
He stopped, turned back and took two steps toward me.
“I said,” he repeated, “you’re such a cunt.”
So there you have it. Two C-bombs in less than a dozen seconds.
I was not impressed. Nor was management. He was escorted from the building by a rather large lad with much muscle power.
Now, it’s my understanding that the use of the word “cunt” is not on the A-list of insults in other parts of our world. It is, after all, just a word. We do not, however, live in “other parts” of the world. Here at home, “cunt” carries radioactivity. It is toxic and hostile in the extreme. It is deep, intense and has unmatched shock value. It is sooooo degrading.
It is with this in mind that I ponder Greg Betzold and Jake Marchment, two young men who have achieved considerable notoriety for launching C-bombs. Because both are performers in the Ontario Hockey League, our great game itself is under assault for its culture of mysogyny and entitlement. This saddens me.
It also saddens me when a male athlete says something stupid then follows with a forced mea culpa in an attempt to convince us that what he said isn’t who he is.
A case in point would be the aforementioned Betzold.
The Peterborough Petes forward goes on the dating app Tinder and calls a woman a “dumb stupid cunt.” Not only that, he posits that she has a post-university future in “taking dick for a living.” So, she’s also a whore-in-waiting.
What does this tell us? Well, it tells me that Betzold is not the type of fellow I want my daughters dating. But let’s not leap to any assumptions. Calling a young woman a “dumb stupid cunt” and a whore isn’t really who Greg Betzold is. A mysogynist? Nope. Not Greg Betzold. We know this because he has posted an apology on Twitter assuring us that his comments “do not reflect my true values or views.”
Well, yes they do, Greg. What we say is who we are.
I have never met Betzold. Probably never will. I doubt, however, that this was the first time he’s dropped a C-bomb on a girl. Ditto Marchment, who, in a nasty Tinder exchange with a lass professing she had better things to do than spread her legs for the Belleville Bulls captain, branded the woman an “ugly cunt.”
I roamed countless hockey changing rooms, both at the Junior and professional level, during 30 years in jock journalism dating back to the late 1960s. They are, if nothing else, testosterone-fuelled, alpha, frat-boy man caves, where the C-bomb would rank a close second or third to “fag” or “mother fucker” as the slur du jour. They are vain, vulgar dens. Trust me. This is how hockey players talk in chamber. Thus, the coarse language used by Betzold and Marchment is not fresh fruit. It’s just that the majority who occupy these chambers aren’t so thick that they use hockey-speak on social forums such as Tinder or Twitter.
Basically, Betzold and Marchment, a Los Angeles Kings chattel, have brought the masses inside the changing room. Those unaware that such a culture of mysogyny and entitlement existed are now up to speed.
Not surprisingly, the deep-thinkers in the OHL’s ivory tower are unamused, which is why they’ve told both Betzold and Marchment to go away for the next 15 games, presumably to gaze at their navels and contemplate the reaction if someone were to label either of their mothers a “dumb, stupid, ugly cunt.”
I’m not prepared to cut either Betzold or Marchment an inch of slack. Can’t go there. What I can do, however, is perhaps provide a pinch of perspective.
The theatre that is junior hockey mostly plays out in the nooks and crannies of the country. Junior hockey is Penticton and Pembroke and Portage la Prairie and Prince Albert. The players, mostly 16-19 years of age, have been spirited from the shelter of home and are now big fish in small ponds. They are fussed and fawned over. They are rock stars in small communities. It must be emphasized that they’re also horny, teenage boys for whom getting laid is as simple as spreading peanut butter on a piece of toast. I mean, go to any rink where the Junior game is played and you’re guaranteed to find teenage girls prepared to lift their skirts so they can tell friends that they’ve bagged themselves a hockey player.
That doesn’t make it acceptable to speak of, or treat, women like trash, but galloping hormones and the players’ pack mentality refuse to recognize societal standards.
Some, of course, handle the entitlement with greater grace than others, and I suppose it’s fair to suggest that Betzold and Marchment have some work to do in this area. But they are a product of their environment. Not their home environment, because I doubt very much that they learned to call women “dumb, stupid, ugly cunts” while gathered around the dinner table with mom, dad and little sister. Hockey has made them this way.
The OHL has been applauded for acting swiftly and forcefully in the Betzold-Marchment case. A 15-game suspension is, to be certain, a harsh piece of penance to deliver, but I can’t help but take a cynical, if not dim, view of the sentence. Is the punishment designed to grow the players as people or simply to prevent their sexist, degrading comments from surfacing on social media? I hope it’s the former but I fear it’s the latter.
It’s sad that nothing has changed since I rode the iron lung with a Major Junior hockey outfit through Western Canada during my cub reporter days in the early 1970s, and I’m not sure what, if anything, can be done to facilitate the expungement of mysogyny in junior hockey.
Here’s a place to start, though, boys: Never, ever call a woman a “cunt.” Not unless you have one of your own. That would be entitlement.
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.