Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Girly Boys: boys who have gendered girl interests and boys on girl's teams.

Yesterday Linda had lunch with a female friend of ours. She has twin boys and there are three and a half now, I think moving towards four. And one of the boys is much like one of Linda’s nephews: if it has wheels it is good, trucks, trains, things that have wheels, things that can be raced or smash against each other or fight each other. The other boy like dolls, has dolls and likes make-up and just got his fingernails (and toenails?) painted with his mom. To his credit the father was surprised but said nothing (and probably not THAT surprised).(one of these is a girl, one is a boy....does it matter?)

Linda and I talked about it today because, I guess a lot of women our age who we know have kids and a certain percentage of the boys specifically chose items which are marketed gendered for girls. Now there are a lot of names for these boys: “sensitive” is the ones relatives often use, effeminate, feminized (willingly), feminine, sissy, nancy-boys, etc. The one I am going to use because in North America child magazines they talk about “girly girls” (ultra barbie, ultra pink, etc) and Tomboys. So, I mean no offense but for the context of talking with Linda and this post we will call these boys: girly boys (as in boys who like specifically gendered ‘girly’ things). In fact, this aspect is so common that in the UK the Guardian did a series about the percentage of boys (a decent percentage) who like to come home at young ages (like 3-6) and “dress up” usually in princess dresses. Some have sisters, some don’t, some grow up gay, some grow up transgendered or transition as transsexual, but most grow up straight.

So, we were musing about a boy we know whose mother seems both equally accepting and clueless. He is about 10-11 now, when asked what he wanted for his birthday he said, “A pink dress”, and he has a doll baby he pushes about in a pram. So, we have a pretty hard core girly boy and we asked the woman, “If XXXX is gay, would that bother you?” And she was, “Oh he’s nothing like that, he just wanted the pink dress because it was an anime character.” (I’m thinking, “Like Sailor Moon maybe!”) And our feeling is that quite honestly, it is no big deal. Or rather I sort of wanted a safe space for these kids, because kids should be kids and torturing a pet and a boy being girly shouldn't be treated with the same horror (one shouldn't be treated with horror at all is my thinking). So what we discussed because I am always trying to get people into sports is whether Linda thought that maybe having this 11 year old, if interested, join the girls soccer team or volleyball team would be emotionally appropriate? Because I know a boy who liked giving tea parties at 5 and now is into planes. But I also know that an 11 year old who wants pink dresses and paints his nails and is put on a boys soccer team is going to become a long blood smear along the grass. I know that girls soccer is serious (and you want violence, try field hockey!) but there are essential differences between girls sports and guys sports. For example, in watching the under 15 volleyball tournament for the mid-Vancouver Island, the guys are all serious and when someone messes up, they coach glowers at them, and yells about “killing” the other team. On the girls teams (equally serious), almost universally, whether the point is won or lost, there is a group hug. When a player messes up, they are not shouted at or yelled at but the OTHER players all come and give them a group hug and encourage them.

Now I am sure that there ARE coaches that tell the girls to “kill” the other players (hopefully not at 11 or 13), but the way that females play sports is different than the way guys play sports. Often a male “team” sport is actually many individuals trying to prove they are the best (just watch the many, many basketball and football documentaries to see this). While female teams are about, usually and especially at an early age, the team, making sure everyone on the team is okay (not that there isn’t tension and feeling). But for example, I know of one female varsity college team which when a sub was going to replace a regular and a big meet was coming up the team meet and talked for THREE HOURS until “Everyone felt okay about it.” (They went on to win). Which is different than the guys: “You’re up, you’re out, now suck it up!”

So, Linda thought that putting a girly boy who was 8 or 9 or 11 in a girls soccer team would probably be a good idea. Because for one, there would be some chances for friendships (common interests?) and that the style of coaching would be different.

I did a LOT of research today to look at different articles on boys joining female teams and basically it comes down to this. In North America it has been a generation since females have been able to join boys teams and I know plenty of girls who have done that. For example, if I was AB, I would probably join the drop in basketball although I haven’t seen a single female there in over a year and a half (Being the only female AND in a wheelchair…that would be pushing it, at least this month). So people are used to that. And generally the articles are how the girls are plucky or scrappy or talented and can beat like 1/3 of the boys on the team. But the general implication is that men are superior and when a REALLY talented female comes along, she might be able to keep up so SOME of the guys. However when boys try to join girls teams, that is a whole other story. This Canadian story from 2006 for example manages to hit most of the stereotypes. First is that it is such an uphill struggle to get women into sports and every male would take away spots; the head of the Manitoba organzation says in this self contradicting statement: "Everything that our organization has done … is based gender-equal. And if we all of a sudden get an influx of males participating, it could affect female participation and that would be a travesty."

The other idea, which has a quote is that women’s sports are ‘easier’ and thus males who can’t make the “real” team would still want to take court time on the women’s team. This is what I call the “betrayal story” because on the one hand, it is a threat given to women’s teams who accept males (like the volleyball coach who refers to Kyle Ray on the girls team and the threat of men on girls’ teams: “they’re just physically more advanced than women are.”). This is the whole, “if guys decided to take over the women’s sport they could.” Threat. But to Kyle himself, the article emphasizes that “At five-foot-eight and 140 pounds, Ray is not physically imposing and wasn’t the team’s tallest player or its hardest hitter.” Ergo, not a REAL guy. Presented as a traitor to males in general in not accepting his place as down at the bottom of the “more advanced” gender. “However, complaints and negative cheering became a regular occurrence throughout the season. During a game against one rival school, Ray was booed every time he touched the ball” And the coach specifically put him as setter to make sure he wouldn’t make a jump or kill shot (thus causing more hatred). But the girls on the team were for Kyle, “They all supported Kyle and never, ever questioned his motives. That was true of their parents too. The girls even signed a petition to make sure Kyle was allowed an opportunity to try out.”

In fact, the harder I looked, the more stories I found about sports being opened for females (and believe me I am FOR female sports, it is just if you look at my previous posts on this blog, I was more female sports but not on male terms – where non-traditional female sport athletes overcompensate off the field, and a majority of female athletes have eating disorders) but almost nothing about males. For example, a story from THIS year, 2008, tells how 13 year old Bobby Thorn was denied the cheerleading team despite having trophies in gymnastics and cheerleading. The reason from the female coach according to the other parents was ‘she didn't want a boy on her team.’ She is also the schools guidance counselor.

From a decade ago, here were the two boys who are on the girls field hockey team, benched for every game at the schools decision. Though they were both dressed in uniform, polo shirt and pleated skirt. ‘"It just seemed like fun," says Julian, who last year watched practices while waiting for his bus home.’.... “Some of Julian's and Andrew's biggest supporters are their female teammates. "If there's no boys team, then they should be allowed to join the girls," says the team's goalkeeper Maeve Miller. "I thought we were supposed to believe in gender equity."” Yet the school district has decided that if the boys play it might deter female from trying out.

A 2005 story from seattle is about a 15 year old boy who competes with the girl’s synchronized swim team. He is in this photo. “He first tried it seven years ago, following his sister, Layla, to practice. Since he joined the Aquamaids in 2003, his younger sisters, Summer, 8, and Ani, 6, have followed his lead. Smith said he likes everything about the sport: the intense workouts, the team camaraderie, the intricate routines.” To me, this seems like a good fit; he likes being there, he likes working together. What is the problem? The problem and constant mocking and taunts is GUYS don’t synchronize swim, and they don’t do it on girl’s teams.

Again, this seemed like such a case of where the principles, the “big decisions” were crushing individuals. It seems odd that the very laws that women fought so hard to move toward equality in sports (and believe me in money and sponsorship and coverage there isn’t anywhere near equality), are actually making life difficult for guys wanting to play field hockey or volleyball or cheerlead. Actually, not a good day for cheerleading, which for years has been trying to present itself as a professional sport.

Except that last year in upstate New York when the public New York High School Association determined that cheerleading support shouldn’t have gender bias, meaning cheerleaders cheer for GIRLS and guys teams, the 30 cheerleaders at Whitney Point High School dropped to eight. “''It feels funny when we do it,'' said Amanda Cummings, 15, the cheerleading co-captain, who forgot the name of a female basketball player mid-cheer last month.” The nationwide complaints regarding unequal support last year was 64, up from 28 complaints for the last four years combined. “''It sends the wrong message that girls are second-class athletes and don't deserve the school spirit, that they're just little girls playing silly games and the real athletes are the boys,'' said Ms. Pudish, an accountant

"Katelin Maxson, 17, a senior who is the cheerleading captain, said that while she does not mind cheering for the girls, it has doubled her workload: She has continued the tradition here of decorating the lockers of the basketball players on game days and bringing them treats.

''We joined sports to have fun, but they're basically taking the fun away and giving us more work,'' she said. ''The interest is down so much, and it's going to keep dropping, until there's no cheerleading anymore.''"

The problem isn’t just sports, as I found out, tomorrow I will try to cover some of what I found from “The Gender Police” – where parents tell of using flashlights to expose that their boy is wearing the Barbie hand-me-down nighties and how they pull him from it to push him into the GI Joe pajamas he SHOULD be wearing.

Or if you want a taste, look here at this topic “Boys wearing girly colored diapers?” : “no, I would not put my boy in a girly color/print diaper unless it was an absolute last resort and then would feel funny about it.”; “Its weird I guess, I wouldn't think twice about putting a blue diaper on a girl, but I would cringe if I saw a pink diaper on a boy.” And this eyebrow raising one, “I don't think that I would put a boy in a girly diaper (unless of course it was a last resort) but I wouldn't think twice about putting a girl in a boyish diaper. Maybe it is because I don't have a problem "stealing" clothes from my husband but I wouldn't really be comfortable if he did the same to me?” It does seem that a lot of decisions about what genders are allowed to do come from "feel funny" or other "gut" insticts (almost like social brainwashing!)

Sigh. So no resolution except that girly boys unless they live in Berkley are going to live a hell life and it seems that is if they are able to escape the “gender police” who start at infancy? I tend to have a “no one should have a crap life” and “sports should be about having a good time” and to me, it seems that there are some guys, maybe girly boys, who would benefit or enjoy being on girls teams. And beside the “gut” saying that an 8 or 9 year old boy on a girls team (or even an 11 or 13 year old) is WRONG, what is the problem? Because instead, jamming a girly boy on a boys team to "toughen him up", well I smell traumatic incident, don't you? And then someone spends the rest of their life instead of having good memories saying, “I never was good at sports.”

I know that opinions will differ (and feel free to give them, just try NOT to be anonymous). It just seems that if these boys, regardless of the fact that studies show girls get talked to more, praised more, are treated different, less rough, if despite all of that these boys, who aren’t planning or conniving, just being themselves, which in this case is painted nails, dolls, probably horses and princess dresses, then, why is there no place for them to go? At least in terms of sports?


Anonymous said...

Tricky question, gender....
I knew a child, who wanted makeup like his sisters, and likes to be on stage. At the same time as he was very fond of boobs, weapons and war. (He now seems to go for the last three things.) His mum and I used to joke that she had been wathing to many Eddie Izzard shows when she was pregnant.

I think the kid will turn out to be straight:) (by the way i'm not)
(not a very clever remark, just very bored browsing the Internet)
(You got a very good blog, but sort of scary...shouldn´t say scary... well to me it is since I'm terrified of being ill, a nosebleed and I pass out:)sort of...
thanks for the blog can't stop reading

Meredith said...

Double standards, big time :-/ But I don't think society is harder on girly boys than on butch girls. It's just more...subliminal and subtle, but people DO hate me for not using makeup, not shaving my legs, not wearing skirts, sitting with legs apart, striving to be smart, etc. It's all about individuals against the system of patriarchy. If anything threatens the social construct of male superiority and the doctrine of each gender having their "proper places", the "gut feeling" appears in people who internalized these. I'm not saying we should go for aggressive feminism (eg. gender affirmative action) or that icky thing called political correctness, but it's certainly a touchy problem still. Just look at Simon Baron-Cohen; although he accepts the advantageousness of autism in some situations, with a spin he declares it a difference that is much more likely to occur in males - and that it's just the "extreme male" variation. Being both an Aspie and female, this makes me downright sick. Like it would be a male privilege to think logically and be straightforward. Gnarh!

But you're also right. The general attitude of people is like it would be a female privilege to be nonagressive and have feelings. And this is the same bullshit as the other. (Interestingly, as far as my circle of acquaintances goes, ASD folks somewhat tend to fall into the "genderbending" category - guys being shy and articulate, and girls being decisive and tough. And, not surprisingly, there is no 4:1 ratio... more like 1:1, lol.)

Anyways. I think having boys on girls' teams is a good idea, but oly as a temporary option - until our society makes the transition to all-inclusive, with mixed teams and nonsegregated bathrooms, dressing rooms, etc. (The dressing room thing is particularly funny for me: the original principle might have been the idea that if genders are segregated when undressed, there is no sexual tension at an unnecessarily young age or something. Now take a girl who likes girls, but doesn't even know that, and put her into a room full of bare breasts. That was me, at 15. Sheesh.)

yanub said...

I never really thought about boys on girls' teams before. If there is not a boy's team equivalent, then there should be no question that a boy should be allowed to join a girls' team. But if a boy is simply not very boyish, but still wants to play a team sport, he is going to have to try for the boys' team. Bullying is a separate problem, and should not be allowed for any reason. If there is both a girls' and boys' basketball team, for instance, and a boy joins the girls' team, the girls may not be abusive toward him, but there is a lot of time not spent on the court during which the other boys will find and pulverize him, if bullying is promoted by the school. So, I guess I'm saying that being able to join the girls is not going to offer protection to what you are calling a girly boy. (Wouldn't the equivalent of tom-boy be nancy-girl? Doesn't it reveal the sexism and gender discrimination of our society that "tom-boy" is OK but the word "nancy-girl" itself is considered demeaning?)

If a boy or a girl wants to be on a recreational team, they should join a co-ed team that was set up to be co-ed. From what I understand from people who enjoy team sports, the "girly" ethos of community and support predominates, which is why a lot of men join.

As for cheering, I can see that girl cheerleader's point about having to cheer for all the teams taking the fun out of cheer and turning it into work. Maybe if cheerleading had been opened up to the boys with the prospect that they'd be cheering for the girls' teams the workload problem would not have emerged. At most schools I know of, the cheerleaders only cheer for football and basketball, though, so there is already the precedent that cheer doesn't cover support for all athletes. Makes you sort of wonder why there's cheerleading at all, doesn't it?

Shanta Everington said...

Wow, what a post! I'm very interested in this debate as I watch my two year old son (aka smallboy) develop and express his individuality.

I was determined when he was born NOT to do the stereotypical gender thing. He had a lot of pink bibs as they were on sale.

But it is SO hard when everything from clothes to toys is so gender marketed and also when you have to negotiate family and friends buying presents (thank God no-one's bought him a toy gun yet as that would be non-negotiable!)

He had the usual baby stuff - mobiles, dangly things, sorty things. I didn't buy him lots of boy things but when he started pushing daddy's slippers round the room and vrooming them, I thought I better get him some toy cars. Now he is addicted to anything with wheels.

Having said that he also loves taking care of his cuddlies, wrapping them in blankets, feeding them, putting nappies on them and pushing them round in his buggy. Oh and he likes putting my makeup on with me. I encourage any form of expression that he shows an interest in.

I just love watching him. I love his lack of inhibition and his acceptance that he can be all things. Why can't we all do that?

Saw you on OUCH btw and thought I'd take a look. I'll be back!

Neil said...

As a St. John Ambulance volunteer, I attended a university women's hockey tournament. Nobody needed me, so I got to watch some of the best hockey you'll ever see. It was "non-contact" (yeah, right), which only meant there was no intentional checking people over the boards or smashing faces into the corner glass (like in the CBC's NHL ads). The women skated fast for the entire game, they passed the puck, there was teamwork - it was a beautiful thing to watch.

A one junior (boys') hockey tournament, I watched parents screaming at their sons to shoot the puck (at least let him get possession, then control of it, dad), berating the kids when they missed a shot, and angrily booing at their kid if he allowed the opposition to score a goal. And gods help the goalie who got scored on. One coach got ejected from the game, then from the stands, then from the BUILDING. And when I applauded team A for a very well-played goal, while standing near team B's parents, I got hostile glares.

Last example: Girls' ringette tournament. 12-14 yr old girls - oh, my goodness, what energy! Aerobics to loud rock music to warm up (boys: three half-hearted jumping jacks and one lazy stretch); they did the warm-ups without being told to, as far as I could tell. And since it was April 1, the Quebec team was running around screaming Poisson d'avril!!!! to each other. And the actual game? If you don't know ringette, look it up on wikipedia: FAST, non-contact, and can they pass that rubber ring around. If you offered put them against an NHL team with ringette rules, those pre-teens would have laughed hysterically; the guys can't control a puck as well as these kids.

There was still a lot of "kill the other team" comments, and much analyzing of the opposition, and they didn't mingle with the other teams, but they had more FUN than any male team I've ever seen. And they could skate rings around the WHL (Regina Pats anyone? Teenage goons, more like).

My point is that girls and boys play the same or similar sports differently. And if a boy wanted to play ringette, he'd better be a damn good skater; the teamwork and no-contact rule meant that the ringette teams had to be good athletes - yes, better skating and ring/puck handling skills than the guys' teams, and faster skaters, with not as many stops in play. There's also more fair play, more teamwork, and more laughter. They have FUN working out. Sorta like a Beth we all know and love.

If female cheerleaders don't want to cheer the female teams, it's possibly because they don't want to date the players. In Saskatchewan at least, the high school quarterback always seems to date the prettiest cheerleader.

I'll have to ask my older sons whether there are cheerleaders for the girls' sports in high school.

Gaina said...

I always got along better with boys than girls and I don't think it does you any harm to exercise that masculine side of yourself just as I think it's healthy for boys to be encouraged to acknowledge their feminine side. I personally believe that lots of emotional turmoil adults of a certain era go through is because gender roles and expectations were very strictly defined and it's nice to have generally more scope to express oneself these days.

I personally function better on “suck it up!” mode than the touchy-feely sisterhood thing. Again I think this is from my preference for male company and the way my experience with male peers moulded me.

Whatever race, colour, religion or sexual orientation a child is, there's one certainty about growing up for everyone - eventually *somebody* WILL try to kick your ass, and it's something we all have to go through in order to develope. This is when you decide what kind of person you're going to be - do you 'get the first punch in' and stand up for who you are, or conform to their flock mentality for the sake of a quiet life? This may happen when you're 5 or 15, but it does have an impact on the adult you turn into. I personally would put that 8-year-old boy in the boys team for a short amount of time. Somebody IS going to kick his ass at some point so the earlier he learns to stand up for who he is, the better. When you are determined to be who you are despite the oppinions of others, you get more respect.

If he does turn out to be gay then he'll probably be so comfortable with it (because he stood up for who he was early on) that straight guys will accept him because he's not insecure, OTT, and 'pushing it in people's faces' like some gay people do if they have been given negative messages about their orientation.

But back to sport....

We have a female boxer here called Jane Couch and she's phenominal, I love watching her (actually female boxing matches are far more entertaining to me - the speed and ferocity is quite startling in comparison to the mens' matches). She trains with Men all the time (and has given them a pasting by their own admission!), so I cannot for the life of me understand why they won't let women like her compete against men when she practices with them. As long as there are men willing to fight her then I think they have to make that descision for themselves, although she does think (and it's a logical point) that women can't fight men simply because they are all power and women are more nimble. Mind you I am not entirely sure I accept that argument either because a scientist did an experiment where he put a man and a women through exactly the same traning for Army Rangers and found that the woman had developed just as much physical strength as the guy at the end.

As for crushing individuality, isn't that what ALL schools are about?

Aaand another thing about cheerleaders.....(I'm on a roll, excuse me).

'She has continued the tradition here of decorating the lockers of the basketball players on game days and bringing them treats'.

Coming from a country were we don't have the whole jock/cheerleader thing, Football/basketball and cheerleading has always seemed to me to be about sex. The cheerleader is in training to marry the 'jock' - first making cookies then babies as the obedient little wife.

From the scantily glad girls who get in the ring with the 'round number' cards to 'pit stop babes' at the Grand Prix, it's like the only role men will accept for women in these sports is when their hormonal ego's are pandered to.

Veralidaine said...

I have never understood segregating sports by gender. I think there should be two leagues in all schools: A varsity league that is for the best players regardless of gender and focuses on competition, and a sportsmanship based league where standards for getting a place on the team aren't so strict, competition is less emphasized, and year end awards are given for sportsmanship and improvement as well as just the trophies for being the best. Both desegregated.

I mean, with the vast variety present in the human race, why would we segregate by something as arbitrary as gender?

Dawn Allenbach said...

I say let kids enjoy what they want -- gender is a spectrum, not two oppositely defined endpoints.

Neil said...

A woman could walk into a men's wear store, outfit themselves from the skin out in male attire, including socks, shoes, underwear, and three-piece suit. And she'd be complimented on her fashion sense. Never mind that she's cross-dressing; it's considered perfectly fine for women to wear men's clothing.

Now think of a male wearing something resembling a skirt. Now think of him in something OTHER than a kilt. In Sri Lanka, the sarong is a make item of apparel, and men wear something like the sarong, tubular or rectangular, throughout much of southeast Asia, and most of the south Pacific.

I've seen guys wearing sarongs three times here in Regina. It looks just fine to me. But most of North America is too hung-up on stereotypes to let us get away with sarongs, let alone a proper, non-feminine skirt; even though non-bifercated clothing was male apparel long before women stole our Levis.

It's only acceptable for the clergy to wear skirts and dresses. Hmmph!

Hope you're having a good day, Beth!!!

Ellie said...

I saw a documentary about Kenyon Smith, the young man on the synchronized swimming team. He qualified for the Olympics, but because men are not allowed to compete, had to stand down. I felt so sad for him.

Ellie said...

I should clarify; the documentary was Synchronized Swimming: The Pursuit of Excellence and followed two separate teams. It wasn't about Kenyon specifically, but his was one of the stories in it.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Anon: Yeah, tell me about it; many people can be very passionate about it. I openly admit that I "don't get" a lot of guys which is I think what women mean when they say "Where are all the good ones." I mean, can playing a Xbox 360 game over and over and over be THAT good? So, it was a little odd doing research on guys and trying to figure out what was good for the individuals.

I think probably you are right, boobs interest tends to be a giveaway for straight males; I'm glad you like the blog.

Meridith: I agree that butch girls get a hard time but again, I can only speak from personal observation and experience, it seems that girls get until they are 11 or 12 and THEN the conformity boom hits (also depends on how obsessed the parents are on a HAVING a girly girl). Tomboy is generally a positive term for a young girl. Same as "scrappy" or "tough" - however, when you are 15, parents and principals call you "scrappy" - NOT a compliment, more like, "When will you decide to grow up?"

Yeah, the whole patriarchy does come to squash particularly the intellegent, (and forbid) competitive female.

Oh, I HATE Simon Baron-Cohen and is FUCKING "super male" brain theory, which it has been showen that female ASD individuals have completely different traits (like an affinity/understanding/empathy with animals for example). And yes, spatial reasoning and logic is the "male" thing? In germany they have catalogued 'empathetic' autism spectrum disorder individuals which suddenly BAM, now there are tons of females with autism spectrum disorder traits but not acknowledged becuase they communicate in a particular way or are overly empathetic and it isn't as simple as "must all act like ONE TYPE of male ASD" - sorry, I don't normally go into ASD issues as so many people cover that better than I but that guys name is like "Michael Bailey" to me (the researcher who tries to find how gays are gay to "correct" them in the womb). Interesting observation about the gender bending, I guess throws out my previous paragraph, oh well, on to learning.

I agree that women are still seen as "sexless" and thus women changing together is non-sexual while a male in there would make it sexual (becuase ONLY the male would be looking, the females would have NO interest in the guy sexually at all! Right?). But I guess I do have a thing with the integrated aspect becuase I am in integrated sports most of the time and the ratio actually determines the dynamic of the class. So it is hard, from my experience to say that integrated solves the problem when for example I LIKE boxing classes a lot more when there are 8 women and 5 guys than when there are 14 guys and 2 women.

Thanks for commenting and if you haven't and want a postcard, plese send me your address on an email (everyone is doing it - honest, I am too fatigued to stalk, I just send postcards!)

Yanub: Well, I didn't either until this came up which is why it interested me.

I agree that the bullying policy and enforcement is something that would need to be made sure becuase either way, the guy is toast, at least in today's social attitudes.

I guess my problem is the line between "learning to integrate with others" and when you can see a boy who is 8 or 9 or 10 and you just know, seeing his father yelling at him to "suck it up" or watching him getting run over in some boys sport that this guy is just NOT socially, personality or whatever brain wired the way the others are. Doesn't want to play war games, wants to have a tea party. Now, a girl who wants to go with the boys and play war games, no one has a problem: "ha ha, what a little tomboy." So they can see it too. It is just that it seems the 'girly' boy (boy interested in traditionally gendered female things) is simply denied access to the social areas which would allow him friends. Yeah, he could be bullied, hopefully with the policy not, but then he would friends which I still see as better than having no friend AND getting beaten down on the soccer field.

Co-ed teams, I agree tend to try to keep the co-ed ethics but even they tend to be gendered as I noticed in our summer booklet where it only gives age ranges and activities for some and gender and activities for others but things like Ballet are described as "Come and fullfill your desire of becoming a ballerina!" Yeah, that's kind of gendered language. Same with some of the other sports.

I guess I don't understand, if cheerleading ISN'T just a way to get dating dibs on a particular group of popular boys, why the girls teams wouldn't be cheered in basketball? If this IS a professional varsity athletic program. I mean, yes, I suppose doing a back hand stand walk over while yelling "Go Tina!" might be a bit different than yelling a guys name but if the moves are 'athletics' and NOT sexualized, then it shouldn' matter....unless they are sexualized moves to give emphasis to the sexual attractiveness of person X to group Y?

Shanta: Thanks for commenting (if you want a postcard just send me an email with Postcard as the topic! - sorry, this little obsession I have!).

It is interesting, and I guess more difficult for mothers becuase a) society has expectations which you may try to shield your child from but GOOD LUCK and b) I am guessing it makes you face your "gut feeling" the way writing this made me face mine. And I know of two couples who wanted gender neutral toys and for one boy, by two and a half his stuffed animals were having wrestling matches! And the thing with vehicles. Where does it come from? But yet other boys, it just isn't there. That is what is so interesting about siblings same sex or different where for instance the brother is WAY more into girly stuff than the sister.

THanks for coming by from ouch. Yeah, why can't we all be like that with accepting. Your story about taking care of his cuddlies reminds me of a story I am going to use in today's blog, but also how, in the "modern world" (aren't we always in the modern world), having a boy learn or mimic or do caregiving for babies is actually probably a skill which they will later have to use. Babysitting isn't just for girls anymore, and neither is night time feedings (well one uses a bottle!).

The other thing is that while many man want a non-gender split world, I don't think the marketers are going to give us this chance; no longer are there just white diapers, it is girl colours and boys; EVERYTHING seems to either have been marketed or they are trying to: "We think that the 2-4 year old girl's market can be developed more in pushing certain foods as 'girl power food!'" - I am sure this conversation is happening someone in corporate land.

Neil: I like the hockey story becuase one of the things I HATED growing up in LA is what mens basketball or male basketball is, which is 5 guys trying to prove they are the best, and though "non-contact" it has the violence, at the high school level of NHL hockey.

And I have noticed also that the parents are just as bad as coaches with the pressure. For girls it is "Have a good game" and for boys it is, "You're gonna score today right!" or "Your not going to let X walk over you today, right, show them blah blah!" I am, as anyone who has seen my boxing photos a competitive person who enjoys competition. But I compliment both sides; even in boxing I say, "Good hit!" or "Great way to get through the defence" whether I am boxing with guys or not (I dunno, does this make them angry? - I am just being sincere).

I found that except at really high level, most women's tournaments have other women, yes analyzing each other, but also trying to cheer people up (the locker room for changing of people eliminted turned into a discussion of hair colouring and temp and permanent tatoos and everyone started showing thier tatoos! - that was the nationals). While guys not only wouldn't even TALK to other guys but would still be mad a week later. I dunno. I like to have fun and sometimes, like in badminton, I would rather take on a "no holds barred" female doubles team than a male - it is just different. For instance, we all laugh when the birdie gets stuck in your hair! So I can very much imagine what you are describing.

Gaina: I agree, though I have gotten in trouble with terminology before becuase some say that being agressive or acting a particular way doesn't stop them being female/feminine and others say they are tapping into thier masculine side. But I agree that there are some females who are quite at home with guys, want to take it to them sports wise and get on with guys better than girls. Sometimes that disappears at puberty, sometimes not.

I sort of guessed you prefered the "suck it up" style honestly.

I guess, from my experience, with bullying and those who I have talked to is that 8 or 9 or 11 is not the time you come out of the closet. And that boys will cry and run home. And that is pretty consistant. Linda's nephew is very much into cars (I think his bed IS a car, he has a blanket of cars, his wallpaper is cars, you get the idea) and he works on a farm and yet, someone bullies him, he runs home to mom crying.

There was a series during the last election called "Coming out in Middle America" and it talked about 6 or 8 different gay kids who came out at 17, and how THEY could not go to school becuase people had set thier car on fire. There is a reason why NY, and toronto have schools just for LGBT students - becuase they have the highest drop out rates becuase they can't stand up. Sure, I am sure there are people who can and have but the majority can't. And to expect a 8 year old to do it when I waited until I was like 29 or something seems a dunno, harsh. I mean the truth is that if someone wanted to systematically bully me; they could get me to the point I could not leave my apartment. I had a mental break down, as an adult, becuase I would NOT give in to people who were assaulting me. And then I couldn't leave the apartment for about a year. So I guess I earned thier respect (no, I didn't they just turned to trashing our car, and shoving crap through our mail slot) - that is what hate crimes are about. Sorry, that was probably a disproportionate response to your comment, I guess I am saying that if even today I don't think I could handle daily or regular systematic abuse, then I can't expect a 9 year old boy who likes girly things to stand up to it.

And maybe this is only for guys, the "first punch in" rule or whatever, but I took it for 19 years without saying a thing. And as you see, I am a completely "go with the crowd sort of person" (or one that is good at math as in 50 lb child v. 200 lb adult does not end in a good result. I know people who moved out at 14, I didn't.)

back to sport....

The problem isn't really so much that men won't let women into men's sports - they will, they like the women, they call them scrappy - that's what made GI JANE such a huge hit. But that is just feeding the idea that "Being a man" is pretty much the pinnacle of life. I tell guys all the time that Paula Radcliffe (female marathoner) IS going to break the world record...not the world record for women, she cuts off a few minutes every time she runs, but break the MALES world record. Then female would be the fastest marathoners in the world (she didn't start running marathons until her 30's, she has great endurance and prefers to run in mixed races where she can run with pack of elite males). So what is going to happen when there are 3 women who have faster times than the 3 top men, does that mean the elite women should be allowed to start ahead, run them together, only to see the men come in second. When women clearly dominate in a sport, I believe that we are going to see what happened to Oscar Pistorius, that people are VERY invested in keeping the status quo as the status quo.

As for the roles women play in boxing or racing, I guess the other problem I have is, why do we not have the same sort of coverage for knitting as Nascar (I know, just go with me). I just don't think there will EVER be as many women in Nascar as racers as men cause.....they don't like doing it. But if cross stitch or knitting were an olympic event, how many guys would make the cut? True, they probably wouldn't be out there in shorts showing a card to tell people which round it is (that is just sexism). But for all of Nascar, it is statistic fact to the point you get a cheaper insurance rate for simply being female - women drive safer (and guys, in what is I think is sexism, have to pay higher preiums for all the yahoos who do drive dangerously). But...back to sports. I just think that we are currently in a society where a mother can say to her girl who is 10, "oh, you are off to play cops and robbers with the boys, you better not rip those jeans!" But not say to her 10 year old boy, "Oh, you have your sparkle pony and you are off to play with the girls and have a tea party..." And that is showing up in sports as well. I just wish I knew how to change it. And those mothers who DON'T let thier girls play "war" or whatever with the boys ("GOOD girls don't DO that!").

Elizabeth McClung said...

Veralidaine: I agree, and I sort of don't. For example, when I left Canada there were three women who were professional hockey players in the NHL (because it did not have a rule saying that players had to be male). They made the cut, they were on the team. There was some controvery. I come back, I thought there would be 30 women, it does not appear so. I don't know what happened (maybe a ruling was brought in?).

Certainly, in basketball, girl's basketball is becoming more like guys basketball in terms of aggression, and floor control, as seen in the documentary (Girl got game). But would I want to try out for football for example, AHHHHH, no! I loved basketball, but would I try out for a varsity team which is going to have some 6'8" guy weighing 220 trying to run over me down the lane? Uh no!

I honestly like the idea of competitive teams and recreational teams but I think by 'nature', guys will end up taking oer the competitive teams. And I don't have a solution to that. And actually in varsity awards are given on improvement and "sportsmanship."

As for the arbitrary, I still think I would rather be on the girls team than the "left handed people's team" (though that would be interesting - in fencing for example there are FAR more left handers, particularly in women's fencing than in the population - because it gives them an advantage). I dunno. Let me think some more.

Dawn: yeah, I agree, but also make sure there are some aware and empathetic refs in there to make sure that good sports play and fair play is honored above all.

Neil: It is interesting because that comes into today's piece, women have so far gone into mens fashion that there is/was a trend, in California and other places of guys buying women's jeans because the spandex and the tight fit make them look better. Goth, for example emphasises androgyny for guys, so skirts and dresses and combos of male and female clothing for guys is common. But I guess, besides a tie, if a guy bought a woman's pantsuit, except for certain areas (like hips) how much a difference would there be? Becuase in the office, how many skirts or dresses do you see? Linda certainly hasn't worn one in years (decades?). But does she buy them for ME, yeah, double standard in our relationship! Then she's like, "I'm not butch, I'm just not as high maintainance as you!" Linda, a LITTLE lip gloss and some foundation is NOT high maintainance! - oh, I think this got off topic.

Yup, women steal everything from men including the high heels and stockings (from the french). And eye shadow make up (from the egyptians several thousand years ago). It is odd being back in a country without kilts, kimonos or anything for guys but jeans/pants and plaid I gues.

Ellie: thanks for commenting, I will definately look out for that documentary. It sounds like a very interesting story, even if his story is a side part, it reminds me of the woman who had to run the marathon outside the stadium becuase they wouldn't officially let her inside (nor the women's marathon for another 96 years). I hope he doesn't have to wait that long until society changes...

Victor Kellar said...

My big family (my siblings) is a gender divide. Eight kids. Four boys, four girls. Two of the guys (second oldest and youngest children) are athletic and competive (did lots of organized sports). The other two guys (oldest and "middle") are athletic but not competive.

Two of the women (third oldest and sixth) never really did sports or any kind of athletc, the other two women are athletic and competitive.

The two athletically competitive guys are the most outwardly "macho" mostly by their builds, the way they move .. but they are quite passive. The two non comptetive guys tend to be assertive and aggressive in everyday life.

For the women, the athletic ones are more aggressive, where the other two are not so much (but certainly not pushovers, all of my sisters are strong women)

So what does this mean? In the guy world the jocks are usually considered the more aggressive but not so much in my family, were the jock girls have the more assertive personalities.

We all grew up in the same environment, where sports was not emphasized but I would say it was outsife influences that guided them to their niche; friends, school, etc

My eldest sister (a non athletic one) wanted a toy dump truck when she was a little girl (I'm thing 10 years old maybe) and wears her hair short, rarely wears dresses or makeup. One of my more athletic sisters is a real girly-girly girl, her high school nick name was Barbie.

In my family we were often left to our own devices, we got to choose our own destiny. As stated, there were always outside influences, but I don't really understand how we all made our choices, were any of them predetermined? My two "jock" sisters can often match or beat most guys they play (at anything) where I could never imagine the jock boys playing on a girl's team .. that would not be serious. The two not so jock bro's will play anybody, hope to get beat early, and get to the real family competition .. that would be beer drinking

cheryl g said...

Wow, what a lot of thought provoking comments. This is definitely a topic with no easy answer.

What do I think? I agree with Dawn. Let kids enjoy what they want and be on whichever team they prefer. Coaches and teachers and parents need to take an active role in stopping bullying from both kids and adults.

shiva said...

I'm not going to get into talking about sports, because my passionately held position is that sport shouldn't be in, or anywhere near, schools at all... but i know there is NO ONE who agrees with me on that one (tho it will, at some point, be the subject of a future Biodiverse Resistance post)...

As for gender... well, as i've said before, i'm pretty sure i don't have one, and i also suspect (tho i know Elizabeth disagrees) that a LOT of other people don't have one either, but just think they do because they have been socialised into it (note that i'm NOT saying, as some postmodernists and certain-types-of-feminists tend to, that this is true for *everyone*, because the existence of transsexuals proves that an "internal" gender must exist in at least some people, and i argue that one as passionately as i argue that some people *don't* have it...)

In my ideal world, there wouldn't be "boy stuff" and "girl stuff" - kids would all be able to play with whatever they wanted to, wear whatever clothes they wanted to, etc, without their being any sort of association between that and whatever anatomy the kid happens to have between their legs. To me, there's just no logic in making any association whatsoever, so the only explanation for the fact that such associations exist is that our culture has been fucked up by historical oppression and irrational groupthink bullshit, which i think anyone who's interested in the liberation of *any* human beings has to work to abolish.

As for clothing... i've got to say that i really don't get why *anyone* would want to wear a dress or skirt. Those items of clothing seem to be designed with the specific intent of being as impractical and putting their wearers at as big a disadvantage as possible (likewise high heeled shoes, make-up, shaving, complicated hairstyles, etc). I mean, i could understand them as fetish wear, but as everyday wear for going to work or to the park or doing the shopping (especially in winter)... ????

But yeah, i think it's definitely a sign of deeply ingrained sexism in our culture that it's acceptable, even laudable, for girls/women to do "masculine" things, and yet deserving of mockery and disdain for boys/men to do "feminine" things - if it's a compliment to a women that she is "like a man", but an insult to a man that he is "like a woman", then that clearly shows how men and masculinity are positively valued in mainstream society, and women and femininity are negatively valued.

So, the fight for "boys" to be "girly" if they want to be, and not get bullied or ridiculed for it, is very definitely IMO part of the fight against sexism - even though, in *my* feminist utopia, the concepts of "girly" and... "boyey" (or whatever its opposite is - i guess it's kind of telling that nobody says that) wouldn't exist...

Oh yeah, and :) for Beth feeling good enough to write posts like this :)

SharonMV said...

Wow, competitive cross-stitch! finally a sport I could compete in. Well not in speed-stitching, but maybe tiniest stitches or if there is a creativity category. Beth, you give me hope & then I read the comments about the left-handed team - maybe there will be a special league for us left-handed embroiderers. By all means, let the men compete too. There are some very talented males in the needlework field.


PS - I was always the "nurse" when we played war. If I'd known better, I'd have been the doctor. But over half the troop was female - more girls in our neighborhood (five of them in my family alone). And for nearly a decade in my 20s, I wore a skirt almost every day, even at home.

shiva said...

Oh yeah, and SBC is a cock. "Extreme male brain", my genderqueer arse ;) He should go back to doing embarrassingly racist and classist "comedy"...

Elizabeth McClung said...

Victor: so basically no girly guys in your family and only a few girly girls? And no guys who would have any interest in a girls team because that wasn't serious enough. Even though your sisters can beat the guys, so the team they were on could beat the team your brothers were on; but the brothers wouldn't want to be on the team your sisters were on because they are girls, and thus, not serious? Either I misunderstand or your "jock" brothers must be seriously into losing....mostly to your "jock" sisters (who sound interesting to me, becuase I have to wonder what sports they do?).

Shiva: I think you were not on line when everyone had a good memory lane moment about high school PE classes and I think most poeple has a sucky time. So, I dunno, not sure you would find some/many supporters here.

I have to say that yes, I find your statements that neither you nor a LOT of people have gender but that you KNOW it does exist because of transsexuals, or transitioned transsexuals to be a logic I have a hard time "grok"ing. But hey, sign me up for the borg. This whole body thing is a pain in, well everywhere these days and if I can be a ball of energy, then where do pulse my energy agreement.

I take it in your "ideal" world most of the marketing people and most people who work for large corporations have been taken out and shot; along with those who run curves gyms? I agree that I would prefer that children be children without having gender social markers of THAT culture shoved down them. I tend to think it has more to do with what is between the ears than the legs but yeah, wombs do come in handy and until cloning comes around, I suppose sperms has SOME use (to be sold to sperm banks and sold anonymously).

I agree completely with your take on North American/Western masculinity and femininity as social value and tried to cover that.

Well, I didn't use the "F" word - becuase I didn't WANT this to end up linked on I blame the patriarchy or somewhere where most of my day is spent trying to moderate the 102 comments that seem to emerge when the "F" word is used, not that they seem to care much about boys to be honest (except, according to the Vancouver Rape Center as all being potential rapists).

As for clothing, well, I could refer you to a few good lesbian books called "femme" or I could ask why you wear shoes since if you didn't your feet would be tough enough to deal with all that and why aren't your clothes all sort of dull brown so the dyes don't pollute the earth (unless your clothes are and you don't wear shoes). Becuase people have individual tastes. Geez, I wear corsets, everyone knows that, and lace shrugs and arm wamers and these all have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with practicality. But a lot to do with Elizabeth. Choice.

And just out of cuuiosity, until this utopia comes, what is your opinion about girly boys on girls sports teams?

Sharon MV: Haha, yeah, I would have been a specialist. Though to be honest, growing up in gangland LA, on a quarter block from the 'knife pit' - "war" had rather a different meaning and I was VERY good at running, from various girl gangs (how do girls become 'gangs' at age 9 or 10?)

There are some talented male knitters and embroderiers (sic?), but I still think women have a sort of historical advantage; if we made that a televised sponsored event. Re: skirts. Well, I think that puts you deep in the girly catagory, unless you had some sort of weird upbringing or deep indoctrination on "Good girls do..." Or went to my church or the Amish. Or was there some other reason? Or a phase? I wore combat fatigues bottoms for a year. I think I thought they were cool looking, now I am not sure anymore.

Cheryl: ARGGGGGGGG! Set my head on fire.

SharonMV said...

I lived in Berkeley & there were lots of neat stores with imported clothing. And because it was Berkeley, long, flowing skirts were still in fashion & I liked them. Probably part of the whole textile enchantment thing. I mean, if I was doing heavy gardening or going for a walk in the woods, I'd wear jeans or pants. But I'll admit to being on the girly side.

rachelcreative said...

Seems to me that they only way to have equality eith gender is for gender to not be a factor. Having a division by gender, even classifying by gender (womens team, mens team) seems a little ridiculous in the face of your research and what you have told us about here.

Sport needs new ways to classify. I don't know what that division or classification should be - but just using gender as it's easy and mainstream kind of misses the point really.

The competive types always put me off sport because I don't fit well on that kind of team or with those kind of opponents. Not to say there's anything wrong with that competiveness - it's just not a good fit with me.

When I played netball with colleagues from work years ago it worked for me because we were having fun and trying our best. Winning would have been great - taking part was more important. But the other teams in the local league (most of them) were highly competive and sucked all the fun out of it. A lot of them seemed to really hate us because we were crap and a bit clueless.

So I needed a league where trying was valued more than suceeding, and where you support each other and not try to kill the opponents.

All of which is nothing to do with gender even though the teams were all exclusively women and girls.

Hmmm. Complex. But kind of simple!

Meredith said...

"wombs do come in handy and until cloning comes around, I suppose sperms has SOME use (to be sold to sperm banks and sold anonymously)."

Haha, true! Although, there's a different solution emerging:
Well, as a bio-geek I always found somehow discouraging that same-sex couples can't have biological children of both... but soon they can! Yipee!

Neil said...

Perhaps if a school allowed boys on girls teams up to a certain percentage, and looked for other schools with the same attitude, things might work out okay for boys in girl sports. And if the boys start to outmuscle or outnumber the girls, then it's time for their own team and league in that sport.

I imagine that if the boys want to play by the girls' rules, they'd be better team players, and wouldn't WANT to outmuscle the girls, even if they could.

Have you seen the movie "Bend It Like Beckham?" The main character is a teenage girl who wants to play football (soccer), and does so against her parents' wishes. She's East Indian in England, and there's a wonderful locker room scene of her teammates laughing as they try to help her wind into a saree after a game. The movie's about Indian stereotypes vs. English "Do what you want" social rules. But it's a good movie to see once, and on the DVD version, the director has a cooking show in the extra features.

Speaking of Beckham, there's a photo floating around the 'Net of him in a sarong, walking somewhere with his wife; and another of him in a suit with manicured nails.

On hot summer days, I sometimes wear a sarong around the house, and my kids' female friends have complimented it. Their male friends carefully ignore it. I don't care what people think, mostly; it's just cooler and more comfortable than pants.

Sorry, got off-topic again...

Zen hugs, Beth

Victor Kellar said...

Yes, the two guys who played organized sports had it drilled into their heads that girls were not real competition, even though they were. The two other bro's just like to have fun and play and will play whomever (as long as we have beer at the end)

My sisters played baseball, volleyball, basketball, one of them is a gymnist, they golf (way better than most guys I know)tennis, and the one sister is involved in martial arts, mostly judo

Neil said...

Girls play with dolls; boys play with, um, Action Figures...

Yeah, right, GI Joe is a d - action figure for boys.


Anonymous said...

As always, your posts are great!
It is ironic that some of these parents or "gender police" as you call it, consider themselves feminists and are all for gender equalit -- as long as it applies to equality for females. Males are left out, regulated, molded, restricted. Probably out of fear that they'll turn out gay -- yet when women started doing traditionally masculine things, they didn't turn out to be lesbians in any greater proportion than before. (Please understand that I am not against lesbians).
What this shows is that seemingly enlightened parents, in particular feminist women, are often hypocrits -- they want to expand the opportunities for their daughters but refuse to allow the same for their sons. Our society restricts men, too, nowadays sometimes more than women.

Aviatrix said...

Funny you should bring this up, as I had just been thinking that the disabled sports' desire and inability to classify you was akin to Olympic committees being stymied by intersex individuals. Everything is a continuity. Do we need to completely remodel competitive sport in order to cope with that?