She’s fierce

strong-girl.jpg

Last night Caden had his weekly Jr. Jazz basketball game and it’s always amusing to watch. Since the kids are only 7 & 8 years old, they don’t call them on anything except out of bounds. So essentially double dribbling and carrying are the mainstays of the game. In fact, Caden’s first game he got the ball, dribbled for about two seconds and then ran with the ball down the court to the basket to shoot. Yep, that’s my boy. Anyway, back to the game last night. The boys were a little thrown as the opposing team had a girl as one of their teammates.

“Oh my gosh, they have a girl!” exclaims one little boy and the rest of them start talking excitedly. “We’re so going to beat them!” “I’m glad we don’t have a girl on our team!”

Humph. From that point on I was secretly cheering her on the sidelines. I was hoping she would show those boys a thing or two that girls are definitely a force to be reckoned with, on or off the basketball court, and they deserve some respect. After she stole the ball a few times and almost made a couple of baskets, the boys were starting to get a taste of humble pie…sort of. At this age, humility is really something that is lost on them. Humiliation – well, that’s another beast all together.

Watching this little girl play alongside the boys made me think about myself growing up. In my neighborhood, there were only 1 or 2 other girls my age and roughly about 12 boys. And since I love sports and started playing them from a young age, I tended to play with the boys in the neighborhood and could very well describe my youth as “tomboyish”. I relished being able to get down and dirty with the boys, be scrappy playing soccer or building a fort in the backyard, and I really didn’t have time for dolls or tea time.

My grandpa was not always a big fan of my participation in sports and you could often hear him remark, “Girls don’t belong on a field, sweating and getty dirty. You should do nice ladylike things.” Needless to say, it only drove me to push harder to do the things that boys could do. One famous occurrence in my youthful feminism took place at my grandpa’s house one Saturday when he had some of the grandkids over to help do yardwork. The boys were out pulling pyracantha bushes (mean, nasty bushes with spikes all over) and I asked my grandpa if I could go out and help instead of being relegated to the inside cleaning – mopping, window washing, vacuuming. You know, girl stuff.

“Grandpa, can I go help Joel, Matt, and Ben pull out the bushes? I’m done vacuuming and I have gloves to use in the dirt.”

“Now, Angel-A, you don’t want to go outside with the boys. Haven’t I ever told you how three boys work? Three boys work like half a boy, two boys work like one boy, and one boy can often work like a man. You should stay inside and away from interfering with their work. It’s not pleasant work for a young lady like you.”

With all the 11 year old pride I could muster, this was my retort. “Well, three boys may not do a lot of work but have you heard about three girls? Three girls work like half a girl, two girls work like a girl, and one girl works like a woman. So I know what I’m doing.” And I marched outside and proceeded to scratch the heck out of my arms pulling the ornery pyracantha bushes out of the ground. But I did it with a smile on my face.

Although I would say that growing up I was a little feminist, that I crusaded the cause of feminism everywhere, I realized as I got older that often the “feminists” had lost all sense of “femininity” (I’ll pause while you practice saying that word) and I realized that there is a fine balance to be struck. For heavens sake, look at the women who call themselves “feminists” today; not entirely feminine in my mind (ahem, one particular presidential candidate included).

For me, I still consider it important to push the boundaries and accomplish things that people might say are more “male oriented”. Go women! But perhaps we can wear that frilly skirt from Anthropologie while breaking down barriers. 🙂

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6 comments

  1. baby221 · November 9, 2007

    Haha, score for young feminism! I remember in eighth grade I led my group of girl friends to playing touch football with the guys; they were glad to have extra teammates, and we were glad to have a reason to run around and stay warm! But it was so funny that it had never occurred to them to just go ask to play; before I got there, they’d just watch from the sidelines and mutter that they wished they could play too. So I finally went and asked, despite my friends’ furious whispers (“Don’t! Girls don’t play football! COME BACK HERE!!!!”)

    And, lo and behold, one of those girl friends went on to play varsity football in high school 🙂

    I’m curious, though — why do feminists have to be “feminine”? I certainly understand that part of the task of feminism is to make space in the world for femininity as valued (i.e., it’s okay to have maternal instincts, it’s okay to like pink, etc.), but another part of feminism is deconstructing feminine and the female gender role and freeing women from compulsory femininity. I personally identify as a feminist, but I don’t think that preferring to present as androgynous or even masculine means I have to give my card back!

  2. angelbrew · November 10, 2007

    Ha ha! I love that your friend went on to play varsity football. I would have loved to see a game like that.
    As to your other comment, I understand your point of view and I agree with you to some degree. I’m not saying that all feminists need to be more feminine, it’s just that from my perspective too many have tried to become more masculine and it’s almost like they are trying to identify with a male stereotype (which appears paradoxical to the term “feminist”). I’ve had guy friends comment that feminists are just trying to be “one of the guys” and it bugs me. We’re women, not men, but we’re trying to break down that gender barrier of He Does/She Does. However, I recognize that for some women giving up a sense of femininity does provide a power of sorts that fuels them on in their feminist approach. If that works for you, more power to you, I say.

  3. baby221 · November 10, 2007

    Oh yeah, I see what you mean now. That’s actually one of my mom’s main beefs with second-wave feminism too, actually, the insistence that women were just as good as men. The problem with that framework is that it still means that men are the standard against which we’re judged, which means that instead of subverting patriarchy we’re just playing into it by adopting hegemonic masculinities.

    I think third-wavers have done a lot, though, to unseat maleness as the normative standard and to make room for all gendered expressions as well aiding the deconstruction of essentialised sex/gender roles. Which is a good thing, so far as I’m concerned, for everyone — human beings just weren’t meant to stay in boxes 🙂

  4. matt · November 13, 2007

    Ah, the memories.

  5. April · November 14, 2007

    I love that…Grandpa was disappointed in me for quitting piano to play volleyball. My reply…Piano won’t get me a scholarship. But I think he was proud of me anyway. And by the way, I do remember how two girls work…:)

  6. Alan · November 14, 2007

    Pyracantha, a word I haven’t used in probably years and a plant I shall never plant. I am grateful for the lessons I learned from it and even more grateful that eventually my neices and nephews had to deal with it.

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