The Fictional Hockey League

Critiquing hockey romance novels, of which there are many. Overthinking it is the point.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Offside: Post 10

Chapter 13: The FHL Commissioner Gets Ranty

This chapter introduces readers to Deidre Forest, mother to Logan and Connor, and apparently the town’s grande dame of sorts. She throws yearly soirees in order to raise money for the “community support center—one that catered to seniors, teens and adults in crisis” (208). Wouldn’t … wouldn’t that include everyone in crisis? People in crisis? These shindigs are apparently THE event of the year in New Waterford and they’re always exquisite and themed. (Previous years were Mardi Gras themed and “country hoedown” themed, “complete with… some hot imported cowboys to boot” (208).) Sure… This year she moved the soiree to be held at Halloween and its theme? Drumroll please…. is Halloween.  …Clever? And its centerpiece is an adults-only masquerade.

That sounds like it will be an orgy. Spoiler-alert: it’s not. That should be a good thing, given that family members are all there, but given the way that Logan describes his mother…  I’m serious, it creeps me out. Deidre is “decked out in a  witches (sic) costume” and when Logan sees her, he thinks about how she goes to the gym multiple times per week.

His mom took great care of her body and mind and he knew that his dad was one hell of a lucky guy. Maybe she was the reason he’d never been interested in settling down. How was he ever going to find someone as perfect as his own mother? (211)

It’s one thing to envy your parents’ relationship. It’s another to envy your father for your mother’s body.

Great. Now that everyone is squicked out (thanks book!), let’s talk about Logan’s costume. The book never comes out and say it, but between the description and other characters at the party saying that “he looks just like Eric from—“ (217), he’s supposed to be Eric from True Blood.  Logan did not pick out this costume, however. His mother had it sent to him, along with someone from the salon to do his hair. Apparently he acquiesced mainly out of guilt for not bringing Sabrina-the-Towel-Folding-Ex to the party. He did, however, refuse one accessory, as his mother points out.

“Where is your teeth?” (213).

Seriously? I can accept (not really) comma splices from non-professional editors maybe but “where is your teeth”? No. Just… no. Unless this is characterization, in which case maybe Logan’s mom needs to take better care of her mind, no matter what he thought two pages previously.

All right. I’ll stop ranting about grammar. For now.

Before asking about the teeth, his mother actually asked about Sabrina, then told Logan that he’s afraid of commitment. Post-costume questioning, Logan’s father joins them and conversation turns to how they’d had a bet going about whether or not Logan would bring Sabrina to the party and how happy they are that Connor brought Billie to the party, and that they like her. In fact, it totally reads like they want Logan and Billie to get together (spoiler alert: I’m pretty damn sure they’ll get their wish) which is fine and all but doesn’t say a heck of a lot for their opinion on their younger son (the convenient veterinarian).

Logan excuses himself, partly to avoid someone he thinks is Sabrina (he sees platinum hair), which is kind of odd. I mean, if Sabrina is at the party, why would his mother be surprised to see Logan alone when he arrives?

The band begins to play and apparently it’s led by “his buddy, Ike” (215), which I have to assume is the same Ike from the coffee shop in chapter 10 (post 7), who thought that it was an abomination to let women into the men’s league, lest the men be forced to not fart. After some flirting with women who realize that Logan is dressed as Eric but think that Logan is more attractive than Eric, he runs into Tracy and Jake. Tracy is one of Billie’s friends, briefly mentioned when the Billie showed up at the (town’s only) bar and everyone went silent because she (Billie) was dressed in a tiny red dress and didn’t look like a hockey player (which nearly set everyone into a brawl). Jake has never been mentioned before.

Logan knew Jake had been so pissed that a woman had infiltrated their league that he’d asked for his money back and drove out of town to play in another league, the next county over (220).

You know what? I am so [expletive] sick of these [expletive] asshat, douchebag, misogynist [expletive]s. In some ways, this book reads like a freakin’ parody. I mean, seriously?

“The point is, she’s a woman and it’s a men’s league. Last time I looked, she didn’t have a dick between her legs” (220).

Jake, dear, you are so wrapped up in gender norms that I’m surprised your little cisgendered, male privileged self hasn’t choked.

Fortunately, Logan is also pissed off by Jake’s comments and defends Billie, pointing out that possessing a dick or not, she does have a slapshot that could take off Jake’s head or balls.

Jake immediately goes for slut shaming, suggesting that Logan is only defending Billie’s right to play because he and the rest of the team is probably getting some from her.

Who Billie chooses to sleep with or does not choose to sleep with is 100% her own damn business, for starters. It also has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not she can play hockey.

I’m not actually criticizing the book here because the “Oh I bet she’s sleeping her way into X, Y, Z” is incredibly common and totally a realistic male response to female success of any kind. I am, however, criticizing that fact. That’s patriarchy in action. That’s male privilege being threatened and lashing out, declaring a woman worth only her body and what she chooses to do with it.

Tracy steps into the conversation here (since she’s dating Jake) and tells him that he’s being an asshole (true! And good for you, Tracy!).  But then she tells him that if he doesn’t improve his attitude, she won’t sleep with him. That is totally, 100% her prerogative! But it also reinforces the idea that the only thing women have to bargain with is their bodies, which is kind of proving Jake’s completely incorrect point.

She continues on and it’s not exactly shocking that she doesn’t do so with a “patriarchy, you’re soaking in it” kind of response. That’s my job, apparently. Instead, Tracy chooses to point out that Billie needs to play hockey for a lot of reasons (because her life is falling apart) and that Billie is her friend, so get over it already Jake. This seems to me an odd choice of argument in a public setting, particularly when we discover that Tracy knows that Billie is standing behind Logan.

On the bright side, she does finish her tirade by poking Jake in the chest and telling him “You’re intimidated by the fact that she’s damn good and better than any of you” (221).

And she’s right, of course, given what we’ve seen on the ice. But it’s not like they’d be having the same argument if some guy who’d played in the NHL but got an injury showed up and started playing beer league with them. Sure, they might complain that he’s a ringer, but none of it would be couched in what’s between his legs, if he’s putting out, and how he’d invaded their sacred space. So while Tracy is correct that Billie’s skill intimidates the men, it’s not just because she’s skilled. It’s that she’s skilled and a woman and that’s threatening.

Frankly, I think Billie should go back to Sweden as I’ve seen no satisfactory medical reason why she can’t play, and she should forget about New Waterford as fast as she can (with the exception of her father and grandfather) and never return. While I expect this book will have most of the guys in the men’s league accepting her to some extent by narrative’s end, I can’t see how it’d be anything but a hollow victory.


  1. I know there *are* men who are this horrible about women playing hockey, but seriously ... there are ways to write this kind of gender essentialist character without the whole book buying into it. Dangit.

    Also, what happened to the editor?

    1. Yeah, it's a problem when the people defending the non-standard point of view (in this case, women can play hockey) do so using the same vocabulary as the problematic view. (I've been thinking about this a lot, actually, because I just taught the Wife of Bath and couldn't quite get my students' heads around the question of dismantling the master's house using the master's tools, but then I'm not sure *I* have a complete handle on it.)

      As for the editor, I think s/he took off for cocktails. :-P

  2. Well, you know my vote is for Sweden. And then all the guys would naturally look like Eric, instead of having to specially dress up like him. It's interesting that every interaction in this town seems to boil down to sex, whether it be the whole Oedipus thing Logan has going on or Tracy and Jake's power struggle.

    What bothers me most is that I remember this book as being not too bad. Lately I've become depressed about the sheer quantity of hockey romances that are ridiculous and yet so positively reviewed. The worst hockey romance I've read has nearly 50 four or five star reviews. Many state things like "I don't know anything about hockey, but I'm sure hockey fans will love this." Uh, no. Are we alone out here, Commish?

    1. I kind of want to know more about Tracy/Jake but I think it would just make me angry. But yes, EVERYTHING is about sex, generally about how much a man does (or does not) want to sleep with a woman. Every woman's worth is based on sexual desirability.

      This book is definitely better than, say, Play the Man or "Rejoice: A Burden", in my opinion, and the hockey makes sense (even if the weaponized hockey does not.)

      I was going to say that were I reading this more quickly, I would probably have a lot fewer problems with it, that I might not have noticed some things. But the gender struggles are so over the top here that I'm not sure I can believe that. Plus, given that I have played Beer League Hockey (and it was an incredibly important part of my life and still would be if I were anywhere near a hockey rink) I also might be noticing some things more on account of that.

    2. That said (sorry, computer issues), I do think that most readers of these are only interested in the hockey because hockey = hot men, as opposed to really liking hockey in and of itself. So if someone likes the genre of romance, and is not picky about hockey, then they'd probably like all of these...

      That said, I did like Nickolai's Noel. I just show my love by being snarky. ;)