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?
3 hours ago