A male friend of my recently challenged a women at work who called him a ‘boy’ when addressing him & rightly so. At the time, I challenged the knee jerk reaction with ‘this seems so bad to you & yet it happens to women all the time when they’re called girls & no one bats an eyelid’. To which another guy replied ‘Oh we’ve started something now’. Now I’m noticing all the time someone refers to one of us as a ‘girl’ & it’s crazy how unnoticed this goes by my male counterparts. I just showed one of the posts on this site (superhero one) to the guy who was called ‘boy’ & he was like ‘true’. I then drew his attention to something someone at work said earlier, an older man who to be honest I’ve had bad vibes from before. He waved goodbye to some colleagues by saying ‘have a good evening girls’. I told my friend about it & said if that had been him, it wouldn’t have been the same, thus drawing attention to my point – we get this all the time. He remained silent. Doesn’t make it right, but it’s good to show someone their privilege.
Today I was standing in line at COop and happened to be right next to the papers and magazines when one children’s magazine caught my eye. It said on the front “Stickers for boys”. My heart sank as I opened it up and found loads of GREAT stickers of dinosaurs, tools, traffic cones and cars. I can’t stand that children are prescribed their interests, abilities and careers in this way. I am a construction worker and would love a spanner sticker but it has taken me some years to know this.
Someone I know told me that a young male friend of hers claimed that, “if a lot of keys can unlock a lock, it means that that lock is a rubbish one but if a key is able to unlock many locks, it is a master key.” By this analogy, he meant a lock to be a woman’s vagina and a key being a man’s penis. As if a woman’s body and what she chooses to do with it is something to be condemned but a man’s body and what he chooses to do with it is a sign of ultimate power? Just, no.
I’m 13 and I’ve just finished reading the (amazing) Everyday Sexism book and when I told my mother that I’m going to be a feminist activist when I’m older, she replied “don’t try to change anything you can’t”. I’m going to prove her wrong. (While writing this by the way, i’m watching BBC news and they have just done a story on a Rabbi sending letters to Jewish women telling them how to dress. An example from the letter is “A blouse that is big enough so that the chest area cannot be distinguished should be worn.” Another “Skirts shall be 4inches or more below the knee”. I shouted at the TV “You’re not even a woman mate!”
This is long, but hang with me. Today I opened Facebook to find a post from a prominent YOUTH hockey camp here in Milwaukee. It was a video of a bunch of women in bikinis and men playing hockey. I was bummed, disappointed and really annoyed. It’s an old video portraying the antiquated version of a girls place in sports. The bikini clad introduction – all bubbles and boobs. I actually debated not saying anything – but I’m not good at that. I did decide to message them privately vs. posting directly on their page. I felt they should have the opportunity to respond, apologize and take it down. It’s a small family run company and I’m not out to smear anyone. I just want folks to be more conscious of their actions – especially those folks that are working with youth. The response I got was woefully full of cliches. It’s all fun and games, it’s just a simple post that means nothing, parents should monitor what their kids see, etc. I’m going to post my initial message, the response and my reply here. I especially like the part of their response that puts girls as an afterthought to “lesser skilled kids”. UGH. This stinks….. Here is the exchange: Me: Rather than comment publicly I’ve decided to message you regarding your latest post. I was pretty surprised to pull up Facebook this morning and see ladies in bikinis coming from an organization with a mission to support youth hockey – presumably for both boys AND girls. I’m so thankful my daughter didn’t see this from you. Rather than taking us backwards we need organizations like yours to play a role in moving us forward. How about posting women kicking ass playing hockey rather than bikini models promoting men playing hockey. Girls already get far too many images in media that portray them as a secondary act, getting their value through an unattainable body image rather than strength, power, and smarts. And remember, this message not only gets absorbed by girls but boys as well. Please don’t be that guy, that organization, that youth camp that fosters an antiquated view of a girls place in sports. Them: Thanks for the note. I appreciate you reaching out. Please know this post in no way was to promote girls and bikinis, but to celebrate Pro Beach Hockey a great time when we had roller hockey on tv. There are a lot of fans who miss it and many young kids who grew up watching it. I understand your point and appreciate it. There is so much visual and social stimulation in our world, I have a 12 and 15 year old, I get it. One of our jobs as parents is to be aware of what our kids are watching and making sure to keep things in check. They are exposed to far too much at far too young an age…this was a simple post, it was the introduction to each tv show, nothing more. I have been teaching hockey for a living for nearly 25 years, certainly anyone who knows me or asks around would attest to the fact that I always put kids first…I don’t devalue lesser skilled kids, or girls, or anyone. Just a simple post to pay homage to a fun time in our life. Thanks again for the note. Me: I’m sorry, but I’m still not sure you get the point actually. It’s not about girls in bikinis – its the association of girls in bikinis in this promo. Back in the day – the show you miss so much – portrayed an image of what a girls role in sports can look like. By posting it you continue to support that portrayal. By explaining it as harmless is the issue. Its not harmless. All these things add up. As a business person and hockey enthusiast (and parent) I’d hope you’d take some effort in promoting positive roles for all athletes in everything you do. While it’s important for parents to attempt to monitor what kids are exposed to, it’s more important for business and community leaders like yourself to think through what you say, do, post, promote. Them: Thanks for sharing your point of view. Some great food for thought. I appreciate it and will certainly try to be even more conscious of future posts! Needless to say I canceled my daughters camp reservation – the response was classic: “Bummer that she will miss out on training with us” Yeah, because I’m an unreasonable mom-bitch that should give my daughter your awesome training and ignore your misogyny. No concern or accountability for losing a customer.
This is minor but when even the bbc, who are a publicly funded TV channel in the UK constantly calls female athletes at the olympics girls, it shows how some men automatically belittle women. They don’t even realise how insulting calling full grown women ‘girl’ is. I’ve challenged men in various jobs in the past when they have used ‘girl’ to refer to me or ‘girls’ for teams I have worked in that are mainly female. In one job I had if you listened to the senior staff, who just happened to be all men, our team must have been called ‘the girls’ the amount it was used, also the male member in our team of 4 was clearly not part of the team, so we did well constantly operating with just 75% of the required staffing levels at all times. What really annoyed me was when a younger woman who was part of the team tried calling us all ‘girls’, she got reminded even the junior member of the team was technically an adult at 18 years old, after that she didn’t use ‘girls’ within my earshot. I am glad to say in my experience the use of ‘girl/girls’ in the workplace seems to mainly be by men 40 plus, or if a younger male does use it my quick rebuke stays with them. Sadly though many women even those older than me are afraid to pull men up on this or have given up trying to get men younger than themselves to treat them with a basic level of respect.