Juggling community

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He everybody I just wanted to take a moment today and address some things that are going on in our community right now, a lot of you might know what that is or we might not. That’s OK. I’m going to fill you in. So basically, there is a list that happens every year called the Top 40 Jugglers of the Year. It was started by Louis Burrage a long time ago. And essentially he puts out a video. People can vote for their top 10 jugglers of the year, whatever that means to them. And then he will take all of the responses and compile a list of the top 40 results that’s been going on for a while. It’s always been like that. And, you know, it is what it is. However, for a while now, people have been pointing out that the list doesn’t seem to accurately reflect what we see in the real world in juggling year after year. The list is primarily composed of white men and has an alarming lack of both women and people of color. And yes, clearly white men make up the majority of our community. And so it’s not surprising that a lot of them are on the top 40 list. But many people have criticized it, saying that it clearly favors white men more and that so many people are unfairly left off of the list for a variety of reasons. I’ve seen this discussion happening for years. I’m sure it’s been happening since the list began. But I have especially seen it really talked about in the last couple of years, and especially this year.

People have been talking about the inequalities within our juggling community so much more this year and frankly, how the list reflects that and is clearly a symptom of that and also feeds back into the problem. And it’s been an interesting discussion. Yesterday, Luke, the creator of the list, came out with a new rule, he said, in an attempt to try something new and different and fun, he wants to do an experiment where instead of voting for just any top ten jugglers, you can vote for up to five men and up to five women, essentially creating a gender quota on the results of the top 40 list. Now, one of the main concerns with that is that by doing that, by creating that quota, you are allowing more women to be put on the list who are theoretically less deserving of that spot and as a result, pushing more men off the list who otherwise would be deserving. And I think that’s a completely valid concern. That is a common concern with quotas in general, with equal opportunity actions. It’s a bold move. And I think on the surface, it appears like pretty unfair one. And I think it’s worth discussing and having an honest conversation about. And honestly, when I heard this, I was expecting most jugglers to say, yeah, this doesn’t sound like a great idea, but we’ll give it a try and see what happens.

I genuinely thought that was going to be the response. The response I saw instead really disappointed me. Immediately after Lou posted that announcement, I started seeing a flood of men in our community strongly opposing it, commenting on how bad it is, how unfair it is, how it’s not going to work, all these very intense, strong reactions so quickly. And I was shocked. I was shocked because so many people in our community genuinely opposed to this thing that they hadn’t even thought about yet, that they didn’t even give it a chance. And yet they were so quick to tear it down, to shut it down, to boycott it, to claim that it won’t work, to claim it won’t fix the problem, a problem that I don’t see most of them ever discussing or trying to really understand unless something like this happens where it affects them. And the fact that so many men in our community were so quick to tear this idea down, to give it no thought, to not even try to understand what it’s trying to do. And the problem it’s trying to fix was so disappointing, because, believe me, I don’t necessarily think that this is the right solution. I don’t necessarily think a gender quota is something our community needed or could handle clearly right now. And I think having that discussion about whether a gender quota is effective and can be helpful is a great and important discussion to have. But it’s clear many people in our community don’t want to have a discussion about it. They just want their opinions and perspectives to be heard, opinions and perspectives that are formed by a person who isn’t even affected by these problems, who has done very little research into how to fix these type of problems. Is a gender quota the answer? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s definitely worth discussing. It’s definitely worth thinking about more than the hour or two that many of you gave it. And in my opinion, it’s definitely worth trying.

Why not?

And a lot of people are saying, why not? Because it’s unfair. Because by doing this, you are. Overcorrecting the problem and making things unfair, and when I hear that, that tells me that you think the list was fair before and that’s a problem because the majority of people in that list have always been white men. And if you’re telling me that you genuinely believe the people on that list are the most deserving, typically, then you’re telling me that white men are the most deserving jugglers. And if you tell me, well, that’s because that’s the people at the top. The top jugglers in the world are white men. I would agree with you. I do think the majority of the top elite jugglers in the world are white men. But why genuinely, why? Why is that the case? Because if you’re telling me it’s purely because of determination and hard work and talent, then you’re telling me that white men are somehow naturally genetically predisposed to being better jugglers. And if we follow that train of thought, we can universally say that women and people of color naturally are not as good of jugglers. You’re telling me that nature naturally gifts white men with those abilities? I would disagree with that. And I think many people in our community and the world would as well, including many scientists. So why then are the top jugglers in the world and on the list, typically white men? That’s where privilege comes in. You’ve probably heard that word thrown around a lot this year because it’s been discussed a lot and a lot of people genuinely resist the idea of it and say that it doesn’t exist.

And that to me is absurd. In my opinion. Privilege clearly plays a major role in whether or not a juggler excels. And there are a lot of types of privilege. There are a lot of factors that go into whether you can become a great juggler, hard work, determination and talent, hard, just a fraction of it. What country you’re born in, what language you speak, how much money you or your family have, what age you were when you were first exposed to juggling, when you were born in the timeline of history and technology, your gender, your sexual orientation, your race, all of those things and more are really complicated. And they can add up to create a significant privileged advantage for a lot of people, typically for white men. And that is not to say that hard work and determination and talent don’t factor in. Of course they do, because if that weren’t the case, then all white men would be Anthony Guto. And that’s clearly not reality. You still have to have an amazing blend of incredible hard work, incredible determination and incredible talent. And that’s not even to say those without those privileges can’t make it. Clearly, we do see people break through all of that stuff and still make it. We have amazing women jugglers throughout history. We have amazing jugglers of color.

But when that ratio is so disproportionate, you have to acknowledge there’s something else going on that a lot of those people are simply not getting as fair of a chance that they’re getting filtered out before they ever get to reach their potential because of factors that have nothing to do with hard work or determination or talent. That’s privilege. And believe me, I’m not even saying that being a woman is the biggest hindrance you can get in juggling. I don’t think it is. I have a ton of privilege. Being a white woman gives me a ton of privilege. Everyone watching this video has a ton of privilege because there are jugglers all around the world that don’t have access to half of the things we have just because of the country they’re born in. And I can guarantee you there are some of those jugglers that have far more hard work, determination and natural talent than all of the people in the Top 40 list. But they will never get there because of privilege and it continuously trickles down. And every barrier you add to a person that has nothing to do with juggling the odds of them not making it go up. And the fact that a couple do make it there are a couple people on the list that are different doesn’t negate the fact that if they didn’t have those barriers, more people like that would probably make it. And if you’re so concerned with fairness and having the best possible competition, you would want everyone to have a fair shot.

We genuinely tried to make this a fair competition, genuinely tried to help those with less privilege have the opportunity to be great as much opportunity as those with privilege. If we genuinely did that, I think we’d be amazed at how much the technical ability goes up in our community we’d be amazed at. How much diversity we would see in the top, but those people are constantly getting picked off at various parts in their journey for factors that have nothing to do with how hard they work. And if you’re really concerned with how fair the list is and you really genuinely think that those who deserve it the most should be at the top, then you would care more about correcting that privilege so that those who do deserve it can get there. Not to mention that the top 40 jugglers list is essentially just a popularity contest. And if you really think that popularity is based purely on skill, I don’t know what world you’re living in. Popularity is so heavily affected by things that have nothing to do with juggling things like how active you are in a community, your ability to be active in a community, to even go to a community, how active and public you are online, your ability to even do that, your comfortability in the public eye, your comfortability being judged, how relatable you are, how much people feel like they connect and relate to you, even what you look like, whether people are attracted to you or that you fit the mold, that they expect somebody who’s popular in this area to look like and of course, yes.

Skill, all of those things and more go into popularity. But it is not all about skill and it is definitely not all about who deserves it. More popularity has very little to do with deserving, which is something that people had no issue pointing out. When I made it into the top 10, they had no issue telling me over and over again that I don’t deserve to be up there. They had no issue telling me that the list was not fair when I’m on it. But now suddenly so many people are claiming that the list was fair before and it’s now not with this new rule. Or is it rather that before it was primarily benefiting you based on judging criteria that benefits you and your privilege? And I think this is all complicated. I do. I genuinely think popularity is complicated. I think privilege is really complicated. I think racism is complicated. I think sexism is complicated. It’s all very complex and the answers are not obvious. And I totally understand why. For most people, the idea of judging this list based on who works the hardest makes sense because it’s simple. But when you do that, you’re ignoring the fact that the world is not simple, it is complex, and all these other things are so complex.

And by having a list that appears so simple that people then use to reinforce some of this negative behavior, to reinforce this idea that they don’t have privilege to reinforce continuously marginalizing members of our community, that list can become a really harmful tool. And for some, yes, it’ll be a great motivator. And for others it’ll be a reminder of where they stand in our community and their limited potential. It’s complicated. And will a gender quota fix it? I don’t know because it’s complicated, but it’s something we haven’t tried. At the very least, I think it’s worth more than the severe lack of thought that so many people have given it already. I think it had the potential to be interesting and fun and have some fun ripples in our community, especially for women. But I think based on the intense and immediate negative reaction and how clear it is that so many people are unwilling to give this a chance and are destroying this experiment before it even begins, I don’t think it will help at all. The only possible positive effect that I think it could have is that we are having this conversation right now and maybe, just maybe more people in our community will make more of a genuine effort to understand these problems, to listen to those who are saying problems exist, to being open, to trying new things that address those problems, even if it makes your life a little harder to give these things actual thought to have conversations about this, other than when it just affects you to try to see change in our community in more ways than just a list.

That doesn’t matter. I know there are probably a lot of people watching this, especially white men wondering how can I help genuinely wanting to try to help solve these problems? And to you, I say thank you. Thank you for being somebody who’s willing to make these changes as to what specifically you can do. There are a lot of things I encourage you to do, research online about gender inequalities, about equal opportunity actions, and try to understand how those could and do apply in our juggling community. Encourage you to listen when women in our community and people of color in our community specifically speak about their. Experiences and instead of telling them how to react to those situations, tell the people who are making those situations to stop talk about these issues in your local communities, specifically making place for the people who are experiencing these issues to talk, calling out other people who are doing and saying things that are sexist or racist in our community, no matter how small they are, no matter if they’re a joke or if they’re a parody, say something, shut it down. Be willing to at least try something different to see if it might help and genuinely try to understand and acknowledge the privileges that you have in your life.

We all have some figure out what they are, try to really understand why they’re there, and take time to try to give opportunities to people who don’t have those same privileges. It will make our community better in all of the ways it will give you better people to compete against. It will make you more deserving to be in the top 40 jugglers. I have so many more things I could say about this. I have researched it and thought about it and talked to so many people about all of these things. And I genuinely think they are valid, educated thoughts. And I would love to share them with you and I will someday. But sadly, it feels like today we’re at a point where we just have to acknowledge there’s a problem. First, we have to acknowledge that the top jugglers in the world didn’t just get there because of hard work and talent. If we can acknowledge that that’s a problem, we can start to understand why. If we can start to understand why, we can start trying to correct it. If you genuinely want to see juggling be the best it can be, you need to make sure that jugglers have the opportunity to be the best they can be. Let’s just wrap it up there. Yeah, do better. Just do much better.

Much, much better. Do better.


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