Archive for the ‘ Girls ’ 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?


Kissing Girls at Age Four

One of my adorable little gymnasts, “Becca,” can’t keep her hands to herself. She also can’t keep her lips to herself.

All she wants to do is stand next to her friend “Lindsey.” When Lindsey isn’t expecting it, Becca leans in and gently kisses her cheek, whispering, “I love you.”

They are both four years old.

We have been working on the “keep your hands to yourself” thing. As Becca pointed out, “my lips aren’t my hands.” Now we have to work on the “respect your teammate’s personal space” thing.

So, Becca is four. She’s learning that it isn’t okay to kiss her friends. Truth be told, it really isn’t appropriate behavior for the middle of gymnastics class, but I still like to kiss my friends. I’d much rather see preschoolers kissing than see them fighting. I’d rather hear them saying “I love you” than calling each other “meanies.”

I suppose it’s a balance between letting kids be kids and teaching them how to behave appropriately in society. I know that by kindergarten, I had figured out I wasn’t allowed to kiss my friends at school. Away from school, however, many smooches were shared, along with showers and sleeping bags.

Aged three, my brother proudly declared that he loved both Natalie and Caleb. “We aren’t going to get married,” he said, “That’s too much. The three of us are just going to live together.” That, and kiss under the stairs at preschool.

By 4th grade, my classmates had suddenly taken an interest in the opposite sex. To combat the rampant “dating” going on during recess, the teachers banned hand-holding. My friend Meagan and I, always rebellions, proudly proclaimed, “We are just kids. We can skip across the playground hand in hand if we want!” And we did. That is, until later in they year when one of my classmates decided Ginger Spice was a lesbian (Really? Ginger Spice? Even young gaydar should have suspected Sporty or Scary). Meagan and I didn’t want to be lesbians. We stopped holding hands. Our protest was over.

My best friend and I bathed and cuddled together well through elementary school and perhaps into middle school. Then, one day, it changed. At one of our many sleepovers she announced, “I’m going to go take my shower now.” It was a fact, not an invitation.

I’ll admit that I kiss friends now. With a few, it’s a greeting. We’ve lived in Europe, we’re so cosmopolitan, we’re affectionate my nature, whatever. With others, it’s sexual in nature. We might be friends first, but sometimes we are also sexual adults who decide to act on that.

Excluding the final example, when did we learn that we shouldn’t kiss our friends? Do you remember? Who said what? How old were you? I only have a female perspective on this, so I’d love to hear from men as well.

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.

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.”

Princesses to the Rescue

I’m not a big fan of the Disney Princess line, but I’ve got to give them a little credit for this commercial.

At least the girls are saving the prince this time. At least girls are being active and having adventures, even if pink and purple are the only color options.

Girl House Art Project- Girls as Feminists

From the website: “The ten-month Girl House Art Project, developed and led by Kesa Kivel, was conducted at the YWCA Santa Monica/Westside in Santa Monica, California from September 2005 to June 2006. During the Girl House project, which was inspired by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro’s 1972 “Womanhouse” art installation, middle school girls learned about the gender wage gap, women’s history, self-defense, media literacy, and other related topics. Art was used throughout. The concluding piece was an art installation in which participating girls artistically described the effects of sexual harassment using a small on-site house on the YWCA property. The Girl House Art Project public exhibition was held in June 2006.”

In My Words: A recent example of feminist art in action and feminism reaching out to the next generation. I only wish my “Women in Western Culture” class had included this along with the extremely brief overview of “Womanhouse.” Check out the 16 minute documentary. It’s a little sentimental, but well worth a watch.