The San Jose prospects are not toddlers and it's very wrong to call them that
No, it’s actually not very wrong to call them that. I’ve seen this weird argument springing up in hockey fandom over the last few months, that calling a hockey player a child/infant/toddler/son is somehow infantilization and is therefore wrong and bad. Listen, don’t come at me, an actual grown adult women who has studied this bullshit, about infantilization. Instead of “woman,” most of society still likes to refer to me as “girl” and I’m at an age where people are starting to wonder when I’ll find a nice man to take care of me because, in some circles, women are still viewed as too child-like and immature to handle shit for themselves. Women are pressured to remain as young as they possibly can for as long as they possibly can in order to even be seen as desirable by society. As women age, they’re less likely to see themselves reflected back to them by the world around them; try finding a book, television show, or movie that depicts the story of a middle-aged woman rather than one who is much younger and therefore, by society’s standards, more worthy. Women are praised for not looking their age and, when older women actually do see themselves depicted in advertisements, it’s usually for anti-aging products. I won’t even get into how the infantilization of adult women also sexualizes young girls and may influence child pornography, but know that that’s all out there, too.
Against that backdrop, no, calling a group of prospects “toddlers” can’t even hold a candle to the infantilization that women face constantly. And here’s why: calling an 18 year old dude who is 6′2″, 195 pounds, and who looks like he could rip the world apart with his bare hands an “infant” is being done because it’s funny. It’s not being said to demean him, to patronize him, or to insinuate that he shouldn’t be taken seriously by society. It’s not being said to make him believe he should act younger than his age if he wants to be respected and accepted by society. It’s not being used to influence the way he behaves, dresses, or presents himself to the world. It’s being said because, of course he’s not an “infant,” no infant could possibly look like that, and that’s the joke. Not only that, but a group of prospects is never going to hear someone call them “toddlers” to their face (in any sort of negative way or otherwise), while actual groups of adult women, in higher education courses and workplaces all across the globe (and in restaurants, bars, homes, stores, etc., etc., etc.), will likely still be called “girls” when another adult wants their attention. So no, I don’t agree that calling an 18 year old prospect a “toddler” is wrong, because there are no real, actual consequences attached to it and it sure as hell isn’t going to influence how that prospect, or any other prospect after him, engages with and participates in society, and it has no impact on how society values that prospect.
We’re watching a sport filled with grown, adult men who can take care of themselves, we’re all aware of that. The players are also aware of that. My calling one of them an “infant” isn’t going to change that and I’m not doing it in hopes that I will change it in any capacity. So I will continue to call grown adult men “toddlers” as a joke because it’s a damn miracle I still have any sense of humor left after being actually infantilized by society for more than two decades.