Last week my seven-year-old daughter casually mentioned that she wanted to play football at recess time, but ‘the boys’ told her she couldn’t. Huh? Not that shocking necessarily. Disappointing definitely. A game in session, someone wanting to join in an established group… we all know how the newcomer dynamics go, but then came the bombshell; it was kindly suggested to her by her male peers that she could be a cheerleader ‘over there’… AND she embraced the idea and cheered away.
This has rocked me for several reasons:
- In 2013, in an urban Canadian setting, young men suggest with ease a girl’s place is on the sidelines – cheering nonetheless.
- My daughter’s non-resistance to ‘taking her place’ on the sideline – cheering.
Am I living under a rock that this shocks me? By no means did I think that women have achieved equality, but I certainly thought that we had made progress in and beyond the schoolyard. Clearly this message has been modeled by someone somewhere that there are things boys can do that girls can’t, and things girls can do that boys can’t.
Granted she is only seven, but we have really tried to model the ‘you can do anything’ you want to do if you put your best foot forward. We have consciously tried to convey that there are no goals off limits because my daughter and her sister are girls, or her brother is a boy. I refuse to identify colours, roles, games, and choices with gender – if my son decides he wants a pink balloon so be it – if my daughter wants a superhero t-shirt – giver. Mom can change light bulbs, Dad can cook supper, and all that jazz.
Yet it was simply suggested to her that she’d be better off cheering and off she went and did so.
Naturally we talked about this. I stated firmly that if she wants to play football at recess that she was allowed to play football. If she wants to cheer that is fine too, but don’t back down from what you want when told you can’t because you’re a girl.
It has been a long time since I had a bee this bothersome in my bonnet and I may just be over reacting a teeny tiny bit…but ‘nobody puts baby in the corner’. I followed up with my daughter’s teacher. She too was surprised and agreed to talk to the class about equality and boys and girls having equal opportunities. I was relieved to know we are on the same page.
I am a stay-at-home mom with a side dish of entrepreneur. I am a doer, a go-getter, an adventurer – sometimes I rock the boat. Not because I am a woman, but because I am. This experience has opened my eyes to the fact that the example being set and our at home messaging will not be enough. The playground, once again, has brought me back to a reality I have not known for years – a reality I naively thought was disbanded.
So mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles, friends…everybody – if you are in agreement take a moment to visit the subject. Let’s give all kids the opportunity to make the choice to engage in activities they are interested in regardless of gender. If you are not in agreement so be it, but fair warning I am actively campaigning to dispel your view.