Archive for the ‘ Boys ’ Category

Men and Girls

While trying to find my gymnasts’ scores, I came across this goody on the website of a Florida gym.

Since this gym is hosting the state championships, it makes sense for them to also host the meet results. However, if you will note, the first headline says “Men’s State” and the second says “Girl’s State.” Inconsistent, huh?

To confirm the official names, I went to the USA Gymnastics website. State championships are held for the “Men’s Junior Olympic Program” and the “Women’s Junior Olympic Program.” Technically, both programs are for gymnasts eighteen years of age and under, so “boys” and “girls” could have been used. However, per the governing body, the correct terminology is “men” and “women.” The website writer probably made an unknowing mistake, but these mistakes are what reinforce that gymnastics is a “girls” sport.

End feminist ranting.

On a related note, I will share this quote from a class I taught a while back. Always nice to finish with a laugh.

Me (to Beginner 1 class): Okay, girlies, follow me to beam.
6 year old student: Don’t call us girlies. Women get called girls their whole lives and that isn’t right! (pumps fist in air) You shouldn’t do that.
Me: I’m sorry. How about I call you beautiful young ladies? Is that better?
6 year old student: Yes, I think so.
Other kid: Well, it doesn’t matter. Our coach will be dead by the time we are grown up anyways.
Me: I sure hope I won’t be dead. How old do you think I am anyways?
Yet another kid: 32?

Watch It: XXY

Tonight, I had the pleasure of viewing the Argentinian film XXY as part of the Florida State University’s Gay and Lesbian film festival.

Directed by Lucía Puenzo and based on the short story “Cinismo” by Sergio Bizzio (anyone know where I can find this?), this film explores the sexual awakening and life changing decisions of a intersex teenager, Alex, and her parents.

The trailer doesn’t do it justice, but I will share anyways.

The Spanish language trailer is a little more telling, for those who can understand it.

Given that the film is entitled XXY, I pulled out an old textbook, Transformations: Women, Gender, and Psychology, to check the facts. From page 138: “XXY, or Kleinfelter’s syndrome […] causes men to have a less masculine physique and appearance (small penis and testicles, enlarged breasts, little body hair, and a high-pitched voice).” However, those with Kleinfelter’s syndrome are men. In contrast, Alex presents as a woman, taking hormones to prevent masculinization, and posses both male and female genitalia.

Medical inaccuracies aside, XXY is a touching and challenging coming-of-age story. It managed to avoid sensationalism and exploitation, instead presenting a heart-felt human drama. It raises questions, and challenges our ideas of love, romance, identity, sexuality, and all the related definitions. I’ll admit it, this movie left me in tears.

I don’t want to say too much, because I think this is a film that everyone should watch.  Given that I saw this movie alone, I would like to decompress and debrief. How about this, dear readers: Add it to your Netflix cue, watch it, and then get back to me. There are many issues raised, and I’d love to start a conversation.

Suspension for Long Locks

As shared in this article, four- year-old Taylor Pugh has been suspended from his pre-kindergarten in Balch Springs, Texas because he has longer hair.

It’s actually a sweet story. Little kid decides he wants to grow his hair out and donate it to make a wig for someone with cancer. Makes dad agree to also grow his hair out.

Like most sweet stories, it has a sweet ending. Four-year-old Taylor gets expelled from school. Eventually, the school decides that’s too harsh for a tot, and gives him in-school suspension instead. For the last month, Taylor has been sitting in a classroom alone, working through the Pre-K curriculum.

Frankly, this is ridiculous. As cited in the article, “According to the district dress code, boys’ hair must be kept out of the eyes and cannot extend below the bottom of earlobes or over the collar of a dress shirt. Hairstyles “designed to attract attention to the individual or to disrupt the orderly conduct of the classroom or campus (are) not permitted.” First of all, plenty of professional men have longer hair, my father included. Furthermore, regardless of his hairstyle of choice, a kid deserves the change to be in a classroom and play with his peers. Forced gender roles in the classroom, a patriarchal agenda, conservative norms, blah-de-blah, but even more importantly, we’re talking about a preschooler!

Props to you, Coach!

The other day, as I walked across the gym from coaching uneven bars to the vault area, I heard the following exchange:

6-year-old boy: “Why does that have to be my nickname?”

Coach: “If you act like a boy, I’ll give you a manly nickname. Otherwise, you get a girly nickname. So you have to be tough, and strong, and not complain if you wanted to be nicknamed “Superman” or “Muscleman” or “Tiger.” If you’re weak, and scared, and whine a lot, you’ll keep being called “Princess” or “Fairy.”

First of all, really!? Way to reinforce stereotypical gender roles. Props to you, Coach! Teach ’em young.

Second, as a women’s gymnastics coach, I take offense. My girls are not weak, they are incredibly brave, and they don’t whine anymore than any kid would when required to do things that are painful and difficult.

On the “weak” note, I have an idea. First, we line the boys and girls team up from oldest to youngest, facing each other, as if at a square dance. Then we pair each kid with the opposite-sexed kid facing them and send then off on a leg lift, press handstand, and rope climb contest. My girls will kick the boys’ asses.

On the topic of “girls are scared,” I don’t think my students are any more scared than they should be. Gymnastics is a risky sport. Most of my kids who have been at the competitive level for more than a few years have broken some bone or have some sort of injury that requires constant attention (tendinitis, Osgood-Schlatter’s “disease,” or lower back pain). Like all athletes, my gymnasts sometimes encounter mental blocks they must overcome. For the the most part, however, they their coaches’ judgment. When I tell a kid she is ready to do her back-handspring, back-tuck on the high beam or flip from the high bar to the low part without a mat, they apprehensively proceed. Fear is good. Fear informs us of limits. Fear keeps us from doing stupid things. The coach above should realize the difference between natural and helpful fear and pointlessly being a scaredy-cat.

Finally, kids (both boys and girls) whine when they have to do something they don’t want. If I was eight, and my coach told me to do a hundred sit-ups, you bet I’d whine. But then, I’d do it, because I’d know it was good for me. As my gymnasts get older and more advanced in the sport, they cease to complain because they internalize that challenges and occasional discomfort are inherent in the path they’ve chosen.  It shouldn’t be surprising that a six-year-old boy would say, “Ugh, Coach, I don’t want to do my push-ups!” or “This hurts. Why do we have to do it’?” That doesn’t mean you need to rename him  “Fairy Princess.”