Editor’s note: Our posts about allyship thus far have been from adult members, and thus represent adult viewpoints. We sought to expand our understanding of allyship as experienced by a younger member of the fencing community. Our contributor, now a college student, started fencing at the age of 10. We asked our contributor to write something that addresses the following questions:
In what ways have people in the fencing world acted as allies to you?
What kinds of allyship have you found the most helpful or valuable?
What advice would you give to fencers who want to act as allies?
If you have stories of allyship you would like to share, please reach us at info@WFencing.org.
Throughout my fencing journey, I've had the privilege of encountering remarkable individuals within the fencing community who have acted as allies in numerous ways. Not only did they guide me through the technical aspects of the sport, but they also went above and beyond to accommodate injuries or illnesses. This consideration for my well-being not only ensured my physical health but also reinforced a sense of trust and support within the sport. What truly set my fencing club apart, however, is that even when the adults at the club were having harder days or experiencing stress in their own lives, they were able to exemplify kindness and empathy above all else. Even though the environment was not always stress-free the emphasis put on portraying kindness provided me with a safe place to grow within the sport. This environment became a refuge during times when I faced challenges in other aspects of my life. Fencing practice was not just about perfecting my skills it was about finding a space where I could be myself, unburdened by the struggles of daily life, and where there were always people, both older and younger, who genuinely cared about me.
One pivotal aspect of this inclusive and diverse environment was the presence of a female coach. As a young woman at the time, her role was particularly significant in making me feel more welcomed and empowered within the fencing community. Her leadership not only challenged traditional gender norms within the sport but also served as an inspiring example for young women like me. It underscored that fencing was a sport where everyone had the opportunity to thrive, regardless of gender. The multicultural, multi-generational, and multifaceted nature of the fencing community demonstrated the idea that diversity was not merely tolerated but celebrated. It emphasized that our unique backgrounds and perspectives contributed to the richness of the sport, making it a truly inclusive and dynamic space.
If I were to offer advice to fencers looking to increase their allyship within the fencing community, my personal experiences and the allies who've played pivotal roles in my journey provide a valuable perspective. A fundamental aspect of being an effective ally is the practice of self-reflection and self-awareness. As my coaches demonstrated unwavering commitment to accommodating member's needs, they were also always open to feedback, this demonstrates that self-critique is vital. It's crucial to critically examine your position within the sport and recognize the privilege that may come with it. Assess how your experiences, background, and opportunities differ from those of your fellow fencers, particularly those from underrepresented or marginalized groups. Cultivating a sense of community, as my coaches did, hinges on acknowledging your role within that community. It's essential to understand that the environment you help create can either be inclusive or exclusive. Evaluating your interactions, words, and actions within the fencing community is a constructive approach. Ask yourself: Are you actively supporting and welcoming every individual? Are you challenging biases, both within yourself and in others?
Embracing and celebrating diversity isn't just about others; it's also about questioning and evolving your own perspectives. My time in the fencing community made me appreciate the value of different experiences and backgrounds. It's a reminder that, as an ally, you should be open to learning from others and willing to challenge your own biases. By continually challenging your own perspectives and being receptive to the experiences of others, you can contribute to creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment within the fencing community.
The author of this blog post has chosen to remain anonymous.
If you would like to share your stories or ideas about allyship, please contact The Allies Committee (co-chairs Liz Mayerich and Taro Yamashita, and members Rich Weiss, Jeff Kallio, Vickie Miller, and Cathleen Randall) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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