Gender bias

So I’ve run into this a shocking number of times recently, and it’s really starting to piss me off.

In all of the correspondence for football, and in much of the correspondence for hockey, people talk about “your son” this and “the boys” that. I have at least one friend who thinks (wrongly) that girls should not play football. He has some lame-ass reason that doesn’t hold water, to which I usually stop listening around the point where he says: “you need to understand” or “I’ll tell you why” or somesuch thing. To be fair, I don’t think he’s saying that girls are not *capable* of playing football. He’s saying they *shouldn’t*. He also thinks that most kids under the age of…what…fifteen? Shouldn’t play tackle football. I listen to that reason more frequently than the girl thing.

I have another friend who works for someone who believes that there is woman’s work and man’s work and that ne’er the twain shall meet. The guy won’t or is incapable of making his own lunch. I’m pretty sure the guy would urinate on his own leg if his wife had to drive the tractor.

This really, really makes me angry. All of this gender-bias bullshit. If I had a daughter, you can bet your arse I’d be putting her in football. And if the minor football association gave me grief about it, I’d take them to court. It pisses me off that my boys can’t go into Guides if they want to, too (it’s not a fight I have to fight because they’re not interested. But if they are, I’ll be there with gloves on). It’s this kind of small-minded, backwards thinking that makes me livid.

There’s nothing wrong with ‘girly’ things, but that has to go both ways – if you have a son who wants to be a princess, then don’t be a nutbutter; let the kid dress up as a princess. If your daughter wants to wear boxers, just remember they’re probably better for her than a thong. If my boys want to play with dolls, I don’t mind (I kind of draw the line at Barbie and ‘Whores-R-Us’ dolls or whatever they’re called, but I’d draw that line if I had girls too). If they want tea sets and all that jazz, I’m cool with it. So much of gender identity is dictated by society, and honestly, that scares the crap out of me. Because for the most part, society is just wrong.

Part of it might be because I’ve always been a tomboy, and because if I wanted to do something, I bloody well did it. Because my mother was an amazing woman who did stuff that people of her gender weren’t supposed to do. Because my father has some backwards ideas, but he was never reticent about teaching me what I wanted to learn and supporting me in what I wanted to do.

I’ll give you that at some things, *most fellas* are more naturally gifted, and at others, *most wimmins* are more naturally gifted. And there are some things that are physically impossible for each gender. But hey. I played contact sports; I did firearms training instead of babysitting courses; I took my bike apart so that I’d know how to put it back together piece by piece. I’m a ‘jill of all trades, master of none’, if you will, and the idea that there is something I cannot our ought not do because I’m female is, frankly, idiotic.

I thought for the longest time that I wouldn’t know what to do with a girl child. But I think I do. I think I totally know what I’d do with a girl child. I would teach her what I was taught. I would teach her that most of the girls and women portrayed in the media are far worse than fantasies. I would tell her that if she wanted to play ball, or hockey, or any sport, she was welcome to play on the boys’ teams, and that if someone gave her grief, they’ve have me to answer to. I’d treat her the same as I treat my boys; we’d rough-house, we’d cook, we’d build fences…we’d do everything together. I’d raise her up to be confident, self-sufficient, and not bound by any ridiculous idea of gender roles.

I think there are a whole lot of people out there who need to get their heads out of their arses.

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

37 Comments

  1. But what if your hypothetical daughter was into fashion magazines and dress-up dolls and glamour make-up?

    1. I knew someone would ask me that.

      Dress-up dolls I don’t care about. For daughters or for sons. As long as they’re not Barbies or Whorez dolls. I don’t know about make-up. I don’t use the stuff very often (other than for SFX), but I do remember both of my boys wanting their fingernails painted. Probably I just wouldn’t buy the stuff. And wouldn’t let people give it to my kids – there has been a moratorium on toy guns in our house until I am confident that the boys know that guns are tools and not toys. Make up is the same way.

      Fashion magazines I wouldn’t let them waste their money on, just like I don’t let my boys waste their money on fashion magazines. Or gun magazines. Or magazines in general unless there is educational material inside of it.

      Sure, I might wind up with a child who is really in to all the false trappings of ‘femininity’ that is pushed down our throats. Whether that child is a girl or a boy, I would indulge them to a certain point, and ensure they knew all the lies they were indulging in.

      1. Good answer.

        Personally, I think that the deal with fashion and glamour is to redeem the awful elements by deliberately accepting, using and encouraging the merely silly elements.

        Fashion is, and always has been, silly. However, for most of human history, fashion has at least been in line with the human norms for reasonable/healthy body shape. It’s only in the last 150 years or so that it’s gotten out of hand, both in what it expects of women (and men, though less so) and in the fact that SO MANY people pay attention to it.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with children buying magazines, or having gun toys or makeup, but your logic is consistent which is all I was after.

        For the record, I asked the question not because I think you’re a knee-jerk reactionary against social norms, but because you came across as saying not “I would support a daughter, like a son, no matter their interests and predilections”, but as “I would support a daughter, like my sons, in the things I personally find interesting and satisfying.”

        1. I also want to make it clear that if I had a daughter who had no interest in football or other contact sports, I’d be fine with it. She would have no choice but to play at least one sport per year, and at least one cultural/arts activity (this is the same rule we have for our boys), but if she chose gymnastics over football, I’d be there for her 100%. I’d HOPE that she’d choose a sport that wouldn’t destroy her self-image and confidence.

          Anyway, yeah. I wouldn’t force my girls to play a contact sport just to prove a point.

  2. Do you think there is anything inherently wrong with teams or organizations that are split according to gender?

    I’m not sure just now what my answer would be to that question.

    1. I’ll toss my two cents in and say that I think it’s a good thing, in certain circumstances, as long as having gender restrictions doesn’t keep someone from playing.

      In contact sports, between 12-15, I think having mixed genders is going to make things awkward for the players. Not because of some outdated notion of chivalry, but because I know that when I was 13, I would have been horribly embarrassed and thrown off if there was a strong possibility that I’d end up all tangled up on the sports field with a girl.

    2. Not inherently wrong, unless it means that if a girl wants to play on a boy’s team she ought to be allowed to, and vice versa.

      Mike makes a good point, however, I was going to say pretty much exactly what Stark Raving Dad said about how gender bias ought to break down at some point.

      All of that being said, I do support gender separate classes in schools.

      1. I for the most part agree, but I am a little uncertain about having a girl play on a boy’s team or vice versa if you do have gender-segregated teams. I guess the thing is why are the teams segregated – is it about attempting an equal playing field and/or having a safe place, or is it because the boys get better equipment and more attention than the girls? If the latter, while yeah, sure, but that’s just because I think the girls have a right to equal opportunities in sports and if the only way to get that is with the boys, so be it. But sometimes mightn’t it be the former? Especially if it is a boy wanting to play on a girl’s team. Like, even adult women do seem to want female-exclusive gyms and the like, and we allow that as a society. Or is that something you also think should be disallowed – if a man wants to go to a woman’s gym(say it is the closest and most convenient to his home), should he be able to? I do not know.

        1. Right now, Wade, it’s because there are no equal opportunities for girls who want to play more aggressive, contact sports. Perhaps not NO equal opportunities; there aren’t many.

          And I don’t know why there are female-exclusive gyms. I really don’t. I think it’s less because women only want to hang out with other women, and more because they’re expected to. But whatever. If the *only* opportunity for a woman to go to a gym is to a co-ed or ‘men’s only’ gym, she should be able to go if she wants to. And vice versa for the men.

      2. Gender separate classes? Like what?

        And what is the point of gender separate teams and activities, if the rule is ‘unless you want to play on the other team”?

        1. In the case where there aren’t enough girls to make up an all-girl football team or league or an all-girl hockey team or league. Like, oh, say, the Women’s Hockey League. There aren’t yet enough women playing at that level to really justify an all-female league. The point *is*, if I had a daughter, I’d be hard pressed to find somewhere for her to play football, if she wanted to. And that makes me livid.

          And yes, gender-separate classes.

  3. *claps*

    Well said Ceno. Nothing pisses me off like these things. Want a real treat? Go to McHellnolds and buy a happy-meal. They specifically ask if you want the “boy toy” or the “girl toy”!

    Leaving aside the inherent problems with taking one’s child to McD’s (which I ashamed to admit we do sometimes), who the hell says my son doesn’t want the unicorn over the car? Sometimes he does.

    Gender equality in sports at its most competative levels may make sense, I don’t know enough about high level sports to reasonably say whether men or women are better at particular sports based on purely physiological reasons. But at anything less than world class competitive levels, it just shouldn’t matter.

    And yes, maybe teen-aged boys might be uncomfortable, as Mike noted, but that’s all the more reasons to mix the genders together. Until there is no more uncomfortableness (a word I just invented by the way), we have to keep chipping away at people’s perceptions and preconceptions.

    It is really starting to get under my skin that I agree with every damned blog post you make though… that’s gotta stop damnation!!!

    1. “Leaving aside the inherent problems with taking one’s child to McD’s (which I ashamed to admit we do sometimes), who the hell says my son doesn’t want the unicorn over the car? Sometimes he does.”

      Not that I am arguing against the rest of your comment but they *do* ask you which one you want and you *do* have the option of saying you want the “girl toy” for your son or vice versa. The only thing that might be uncomfortable there is how the parents feel about requesting Barbie or Dora for their little boys or hot wheels for their little boys.

      Interestingly enough, I think that, in this case, the girls taking the boys’ toy may be socially perceived as the upper hand because gender biases in our society suggests that a boy liking “typically girly” things actually means the boy is lowering himself, whereas a girl doing the opposite would be seen as trying to take a step up. It isn’t right but it is the way society views things.

      Just a thought…carry on.

      1. Its not so much that the ask or don’t ask. Its just that one is labeled “boys” and the other is labeled “girls”. It would be just as simple for them to say (based on today’s shameful trip there), “Would you prefer the superhero or the kitten?” Or even, in the interest of fast food expediency “Hero or kitten toy?” No gender connotation at all.

        1. So you are saying that you really want people who work at MacDonalds (or any such establishment) to think about gender bias when handing out toys? I don’t think they are doing it out of gender bias but out of being busy and just not paid enough to care.

          Not that I am advocating this but you really need to pick your battles. In the end you choose how you feel about these things and you also get to choose how you react. When you reply, you can just as easily say “Hero” or “kitten” instead of just regurgitating their language.

          1. “So you are saying that you really want people who work at MacDonalds (or any such establishment) to think about gender bias when handing out toys?”

            Yes. Yes I do.

            If people don’t think about it, it will never change. And yes, you have to start at every level. From the 18 year old on the cash register to the president of the company. Everyone should think about it. Until we don’t need to think about it at all. Then we win against prejudice and discrimination. And I have to find another job. :)

            1. If it needs to start at every level, then start it on the ground level by challenging the kid asking for the toy’s language, like Melistress says.

              Knee-jerk, ingrained views do not change by mandate. They change by getting people to actually think about what they really believe. So challenge them, and make them think about what they’re saying.

    2. “And yes, maybe teen-aged boys might be uncomfortable, as Mike noted, but that’s all the more reasons to mix the genders together.”

      In this particular case, I (obviously) don’t think there is. My concern isn’t the challenging of social mores. It’s that those are the years when boys and girls are coming to terms with being different. I don’t see that rubbing their noses in an uncomfortable situation is going to do anything more than make them uncomfortable.

      1. But at that age *everything* they do makes them uncomfortable. If there’s a girl or a bunch of girls who are confident enough to play on a boys’ team, or vice versa, I think they ought to do so, and if people are uncomfortable with that, they’ll just have to get over it.

        1. eay to say from the female standpoint, where it’s been all about ’empowerment’ for the past decade or two…

          but for young males trying going through puberty and trying to figure out where they fit in the world, they have very few options for being around other young males exclusively, because ‘boys only’ is seen as discriminatory whereas ‘girls only’ is seen as supportive.

          Boy scouts? “That’s wrong,” they say. “Girls should be allowed in too. Plus they should also have girl guides, for girls only.” wait – what?

          This carries over into the adult world as well, with male-only business clubs seen as “old boy’s clubs” and discriminating against women, whereas women’s enterpreneur clubs can not only exist but get special government funding.

          Men’s only gyms? sexist. Women’s only gyms? “comfortable places where women can work out and not get oggled”. As immodest as this may sound, I’ve caught women oggling me a few times @ the gym. Women are sexual creatures capable of experiencing lust too.

          The main difference is that as adults we can discern that much of this is caused by a backlash at how women used to get screwed over, and outdated notions of a “glass ceiling” and old stats on women in tech and management jobs, etc.

          But a 12 year old is a 12 year old, regardless of gender. It’s a confusing time. When one gender is filled with “you can be anything you want” and offered gender exclusive or mixed options, while the other gender is offered only mixed gender options, how is that fair?

          1. I agree.

            The effects of this is maybe starting to show in labour market and has already definitely been shown to have an effect in secondary schools.

            Boys (young men) now occupy less than 50% of university enrollment.

            We need to start supporting our boys as we have our girls for the last thirty years or we will end up with extraordinary problems in 30-50 years time.

          2. Actually, that would be completely counter to my point.

            I did say that if my boys wanted to join Guides, they wouldn’t be allowed to, which is Wrong. I don’t like gender-specific gyms; I think they’re Just Bad.

            Which is one of the reasons I really like the idea of single-gender classrooms for children between the ages of ten and eighteen.

        2. Thank you for the discussion. While I can’t say I agree with all (or most) of your conclusions, it’s been a wonderful insight into your perspective.

  4. Y’know I hate being used as an example. :)

    Not that Ceno will listen to this answer but my reasons for girls not playing full contact football are as follows:

    1) The equipment isn’t made for them. The striking that is done in the vast majority is in places that are more sensitive to girls (The technique I teach my linemen to hit with is jokingly known as ‘tits and pits’).

    2) While I’m not going to get into the debate about who has the higher pain tolerance, I will say that a male’s body in humans is made to take a bit more damage. That being said, I also don’t think kids under a certain age should be playing full contact football without me coaching them. I don’t trust the vast majority of coaches out there to teach proper contact, as well as properly monitor the kids’ health and know enough about taking caring of the little niggling things that happen in football.

    3) I don’t coach with machismo, nor with some misguided idea of what it means to play football (Go out there prove yer a MAN!) bullshit, however, the unfortunate part of football is that it happens more often than not. I am lucky, I coach on a team where our coaches are all former players at various levels (up to the professional level!) and we all understand the building blocks of football depend less on personal ‘manliness’ and more on teamwork and co-operation. Girls in football always turns into a very ugly ugly thing on several horrible and disgusting levels. Some fights? Ain’t worth it till other ideas change.

    Feel free to dismantle at will.

    1. OH which reminds me. I gotta make it out to your place to make sure your kid knows how to position his body in his pads and due to my own mistrust of others in the sport, make sure the equipment is fitting right for him. :)

    2. True that the pads may not cover the best areas on all genders equally, but they do cover the basics. Not sure what pads you have, but ours covered the chest area just fine. :)

      As for kids under a certain age playing full contact – well that’s a huge debate. Considering the punishment that my two year old routinely puts himself through, and the full contact “battling” that our five year old does though, I think with the proper coaching and proper equipment, they can certainly withstand some full contact ball. Of course, the important word there is “proper”. If they aren’t getting the right coaching on how to take a hit, then they need that first. You teach them first how to take a hit, then they get to learn how to make the hit. But that’s not a problem in the sport per se, that is a problem with the people that are teaching them to play. And has nothing to do with should boys and / or girls play the same sports and on the same teams.

      Not sure how many “ugly” and “horrible and disgusting” situations you have encountered, but the mere fact that those are happening is all the more reason to integrate the teams across genders. If I might draw an analogy, when the sports were segregated across colours, then integrated, I am sure there were many “ugly”, “horrible and disgusting” situations there too… but we persevered, and now have a HOPEFULLY better situation there.

      Social mores are the only reason to deny girls the chance to play on boys’ teams. Plain and simple. And those social mores need a swift kick in the butt.

      Our junior high and high school teams had one female player. Once our gender biased QB got past the idea that “girls can’t play” she became a decent asset to the team. She played wide receiver, and ended the seasons she played with about average completions and average yardage. And yes, average number of times that she got slammed into the turf at high speed by opposing team members. In other words, the only thing that separated her from the rest of the people playing that position was her gender. Yes, she showered and changed in a separate area, but outside of that, nothing was different. There were some awkward moments when she first joined the team, but that ironed out quickly (mostly due to some great coaching) and then she was just another member of the team. Which is exactly how it should be.

    3. **fume**
      1) What, in this age of flying cars and renewable energy, we can’t invent football pads for girls? Seriously?
      2) Don’t. Get into that debate. Just don’t. Kids under a certain age, I might give you that. But the minute you try to tell me that girls cannot withstand as much physical pain, torture, or damage as boys, you’ve just lost all arguments about gender bias. ALL of them.
      3) In what way does ‘girls in football always turn into a very ugly thing on several horrible and disgusting levels’? Particularly if they don’t ever get to play? And how the fuck are those other ideas going to ever change if there are people out there in the world who think that women are somehow differently abled than men or more delicate or more emotional or more fucking susceptible to pain? Grow up.

      1. You’re fuming? You’re the one that dragged me into this. And rather than just be dismissed I gave my reasoning.

        I didn’t say they couldn’t take as much pain, or were more emotional, actually in some positions, being able to ride an emotional wave would be a damn good thing. I’m taking more about the basic physiology of men and women. Men are built a bit sturdier on average. That’s all I’m saying.

        As far as the ugly things, I can recount a few sad things that happened while I was in high school and a girl showed interest in football. I was fine with it, others were not, and some stupid shit happened. And I can remember a few other stories from other schools and other stupid shit. This isn’t so much a ‘girls shoudln’t play football because it will cause a ruckus’ but instead just a realization that certain fights right now are not worth it. Let more of us coaches who don’t buy into the machismo attitude and overtly male stereotypes of football become more involved and let the changes happen more naturally.

        And yeah, feel free to say I wussed out because I didn’t tell the stories but knowing I was even involved as an observer makes me feel ashamed.

        And yeah, there are no pads for girls because there is not enough girls playing to make it profitable for Riddel to make football pads for girls, so the can’t play, thus the market for it never growing, blah blah, vicious cycle, world without end, amen.

        On the flip side of this. I would never prevent one of my girls from playing football. Nor would I prevent any girl from joining the team I coach for, and yes I feel at some point the girls will be right in there with the guys. Just not right now.

        And for some reason I doubt there will ever be a female offensive lineman.

        1. “Just not right now.”

          Then when? If not our generation of coaches, when will it happen?

          Change happens when people take a stand to do what is right. And the time to do what is right is always now.

        2. I didn’t drag you into this, Coyote. I didn’t even name you in the example.

          Personally, I don’t think the reasons you gave for why you think girls shouldn’t play football don’t hold water.

          When I look at the girls at the age the kids are now playing football, the girls are *at least* as sturdy, if not moreso, than the majority of the boys. On average. I’m not talking about high school football specifically; I’m talking about developmental leagues. A ten-year-old girl usually more than matches a ten-year-old boy for strength, speed, sturdiness, and whatever else.

          I also think it’s a RIDICULOUS assumption that the reason it’s tough to find girl-specific pads is because girls aren’t interested in football. Football is not presented as a viable option for girls, and when you have to launch a fight at ten years old to be able to play, chances are good you’ll just choose some other option. I’m saying the option needs to be viable and available, right now.

        3. “And for some reason I doubt there will ever be a female offensive lineman.”

          Ummm… http://www.usatoday.com/sports/preps/football/2007-08-15-mangold_N.htm

          Now, I don’t know how well she played, and I don’t know what happened to her after that story rolled, but she weighed 315, benched 265 and squatted 525. We would have used her on our high school team. Hell, back in high school, our biggest O-linemen were in the 250 range, and benched around that.

          That’s the first hit, for the record when googling “female offensive linemen football”.

          :) I’m like a dog with a bone on this topic.

          1. Also-too, there’s this: http://www.fearlessfootballwomen.com/

            So it’s pretty clear that there IS football equipment for girls and women. And it appears it’s the same equipment boys and men use. And there are girls who want to play football. And I’m pretty sure some of them are offensive linemen (incidentally, saying ‘offensive linewomen’ is retarded).

            Damn. Now I want to move to Manitoba so I can join a women’s football team. (No, I have no desire to start up a women’s football team. Because I haven’t the time to do it.)

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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