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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Sexism in toddler sport class

48 replies

darleneoconnor · 20/05/2011 19:51

My feminist blood is boiling!

Took DD to a mini-kickers football class. I've taken her before. She enjoys it and doesn't seem to even notice that she's the only girl.

But today I was taken aback by what I can only describe as institutional sexism. It left me thinking is this why women shun jobs where they will be the lone female amongst a hoard of men? If this is how they are treated as toddlers then I can only imagine what it's like with adults.

Firstly DD was only ever referred to as 'you' whilst EVERYONE else was called by their name.

Secondly DD was the last to be given a ball to practice with.

Thirdly DD was the only participant to be given a ripped vest (which thus kept falling off) to wear when they were divided into teams.

Fourthly when they were playing tig none of the boys ever tried to tig her even when she was running next to them. They totally excluded her and this was observed but ignored by the coaches.

Fifthly they had to pretend they were on a pirate ship and one of the games was that when the coach shouted 'the captain's WIFE is coming' they had to stand and circle their hips and go 'woo-woo'. WTF is that about!!!???

Lastly when they were sitting one of the boys complained about her being there (it is a unisex class) because she was 'too slow' (not as far as I could see) he wasn't challenged by the coaches.

Then to top it all off when I told DP about it he said 'well why didn't you say anything at the end?'. AAAAAAAA!!!!!

OP posts:
vigglewiggle · 20/05/2011 20:00

That does sound dreadful Shock. Did you say something to the coaches?

blackcurrants · 20/05/2011 20:01

It looks to me like your DD was being set up to fail, or at least encouraged not to come back - and that's fucking horrible. Angry

Oddly, it's making me think again (and again, and again) about what my opinions are of same-sex education. it seems more and more true to me that all-female environments are good for girls (someone posted a while back about how brilliant and feminist their DD's brownies were, for eg) - or at least, preferable to being one of very few girls in a 'generally' male environment. Sorry, just pondering.

SardineQueen · 20/05/2011 20:07

blackcurrants I am thinking the same, that standing up for yourself in the face of sexism can wait.

darlene that is appalling. All of it taken together sounds really out of order and totally unfair on your poor old DD, but rotating groins at "the captain's wife" is in a different league altogether Shock

dittany · 20/05/2011 20:10

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

darleneoconnor · 20/05/2011 20:22

the city council

OP posts:
SardineQueen · 20/05/2011 20:24

If it's the council then complain complain complain. Councils have equality policies up to their ears.

If it was a private thing it would have made it more difficult.

Are you going to take her back though? Could you have a word beforehand?

SardineQueen · 20/05/2011 20:25

I'm just thinking that while obviously you can complain and the council ought to take it seriously, in practice that's not how things usually work out...

AyeRobot · 20/05/2011 20:30

That sounds like a bag of shite.

Sounds like it is unisex under duress. If the diversity officer hasn't been made redundant yet, it would be worth having a word.

Himalaya · 20/05/2011 21:06

Darlene - I would talk to the instructor. This may sound weasily but I wouldn't start of by saying 'sexism' or 'because she is a girl' as they will just get defensive. I would just go through the things you saw and ask that they not happen again.

Is it possible to talk to them on the phone or when your DD is not there?

IME the people teaching these things haven't had much training in the teaching side and are just muddling through on instinct. Often untrained people in a teaching role don't know how to address low-level isolation and negative feelings of the majority of kids against an outsider for any reason (race, disability, geekiness, shyness) and they feel bad about their inability to deal with it and end up seeing the 'sore thumb' as the cause of trouble and wishing they would go away.

If you go in an accusatory way, or go straight to their boss/the Council it will add to there feeling that your DD (and now you..) are the problem. They may take action but in a grudging way. They will feel negative about you and you about them and you may end up pulling your daughter out anyway.

I would try to get them to own the problem that the boys are leaving your DD out, and see that it is their job to address it (including by
them fully including her). Try to get them to notice what they are doing, and come up with a clear set of solutions - don't pick her last etc...

I know it is frustrating to take such a concilliatory approach when you are only asking for something you have every right to expect -- but it may get you mor progress.

Then of course if they don't take it on board and change their ways complain, take it up with the Council etc...

CogitoErgoSometimes · 21/05/2011 07:20

I think you're reading a little too much into it. The 'pirate' game sounds a lot like the 'bean' game we play at cubs. 'Runner bean' means you run around. 'Baked bean' means curling up in a ball. And 'French bean' means you put your hands on your hips, wiggle a finger and say 'Ooh la la' in a cod french accent.

TheSkiingGardener · 21/05/2011 07:26

Has this happened over a number of sessions? I would take notes over a few sessions and then have the discussion with them, so they can't just say it was an unfortunate coincidence and could have happened to anybody.

I would start of very reasonable, but if their response was useless I could see myself getting really quite angry!

Good luck

BelleDameSansMerci · 21/05/2011 07:39

Cogito not that I'm an expert on pirate captains' wives but I'm not sure that they're known for circling their hips and saying "woo woo". Sounds more like some sort of cat-calling, frankly...

The whole thing just stinks. I guess it depends if your DD wants to carry on. If she does, then I suppose the "softly softly" approach will work best. If not, I'd really go for it but have limited expectations of success.

Goblinchild · 21/05/2011 07:46

I changed the Bean game because I didn't like the stereotyping and my version caught on in all the schools I taught in. Once you point out the discrimination and explain it, and what changes you'd like to see, then the onus is on those who run the activity.
Ask them calmly and politely if they meant to give that impression and let them realise that it's not on.

DaisySteiner · 21/05/2011 07:52

The captain's wife thing is absolutely disgraceful. I would be absolutely hopping mad if my sons were taught to do that, even if it's 'just a game' (as they will no doubt say).

Missingfriendsandsad · 21/05/2011 08:00

I do know that boys are more sensitive about touching girls these days because of all the stuff they get about what is and isn't appropriate which might explain the tig thing. It is a shame that this is the case and it is worth challenging. Football classes are relentlessly boyish, but it needn't be like that - my university team beat the boys second team once or twice, so there is no reason to think that girls can't play.

SardineQueen · 21/05/2011 08:05

missingfriend these are toddlers. I am not aware of toddler boys being taught not to touch toddler girls while they are allowed to touch toddler boys. I believe that all children (at my nursery) are taught not to push/shove/hit etc, and not to show others their underpants or genitals, or even to pull their t-shirts up. But I would be very surprised if the boys were separately being instructed not to touch the girls.

CogitoErgoSometimes · 21/05/2011 08:16

BDSM I'm no expert on pirates but I know they don't go 'ha-harr' and wear flashy hats, hair-beads and ruffles..... more likely to board your ship carrying an AK 47, shoot you in the back of the head and lob you into the sea. All games involve unreal stereotypes.

meditrina · 21/05/2011 08:22

I've come at this from a different angle, as the mother of older sons and a daughter all of whim have done football (though not at a toddler club - this was primary age children).

There is a problem in football, and it does come from the "maleness" which surrounds the game at many levels. It can be really difficult to find a club with good coaches - I was exceptionally lucky in that ours had good quality coaches (in the footballing sense) but also in how they interacted with the children - kind, funny, friendly and encouraging. Girls were fully integrated in the younger classes, moving into girls only as FA regulation loomed. (DD won "most improved" award in her first term, and the winners of "best player" and "best attitude" were also girls).

The sad thing is that this club is not typical, and it damn well should be! There are huge problems with over-competitiveness, shouting, nothing being done to tackle appalling touch-line behaviour, narrow focus on best players and really dodgy language (not usually swearing though), and "anti-cissy" behaviour. I find this doubly sad for boys of lone parents, whose mothers put them in a sports club hoping that as well as playing footie, they will get an adult male in their life, because far too many are only good in the very narrow sense of the game. They can be useless as leaders for children in any more rounded sense.

It sounds as if these coaches are of the more inadequate mould - bad at any age and disastrous for younger. The question is, how to tackle it. I'd ignore the torn vest, but make sure the coaches used her name ("I noticed you didn't call her by name like the others, so I'd like to remind you she's called XX" - see how they react). I'd ignore the ripped vest completely and wait and see about the order of giving out balls - it'd be reasonable to complain about a pattern, but a one off might be premature.

It's possible a group of boys might also ignore a new boy. Again, mention this to the coach - "it must always be difficult with new children - I noticed YYY during tag: so I'd like you to do more to make sure she's included" Again, watch the reaction, and ask for specific suggestions of what to do. You might be able to bring up the pirate's wife as part of this, depending on how the conversation goes.

carminaburana · 21/05/2011 08:25

I'm really sorry your dd had this experience - please don't give up ( put this down to a badly run class ) both my dd's have played football since they were 5 (dd1 runs a girls football team ) and have (thankfully) had nothing but positive attitudes from boys/men - and have had lots of fun!

Keep going

WeirdAcronymNotKnown · 21/05/2011 08:28

That is horrible Angry

Are there any alternative classes? I'm guessing they'd be more expensive if they are commercial ones rather than council run.

Longtalljosie · 21/05/2011 08:35

That is appalling. The captain's wife thing especially. Don't be shy about complaining. I would write, setting out all of those points (because each individual thing might be explained away but the sum total makes it quite clear what's going on). If you call the council (and are prepared to be put on hold a lot) you can work out who to send the letter to, so it goes direct to the correct name and address.

DD was the only girl at a toddlers Socatots class the other week and couldn't have been made more welcome. I was very grateful her dad had already taught her to high-5 though, there was a lot of that going on Grin

Goblinchild · 21/05/2011 08:40

Wouldn't it make more sense to talk to the men running the activity and give them the chance to realise what they are doing? Or write to them?
Then you could go further if they don't apologise and change their approach.

BelleDameSansMerci · 21/05/2011 08:46

cogito the point I was making was that it didn't sound as if they were imitating the wife but were imitating the perceived reaction of a group of men to a woman in their midst. I appreciate that this is not directly teaching the boys that this is an appropriate reaction for a group of boys/men when there is a girl/woman on her own with them but it doesn't do much to dispel it either.

Disappointing about the pirates though Smile

SardineQueen · 21/05/2011 08:51

It is simply not right to have a game for toddlers where when an adult shouts "a woman is coming", the "pirates" all have to thrust their groins around and shout.

Sure, it's a stereotype that women are not safe with pirates, but is that really an appropriate stereotype for a game for toddlers?

Frankly it's one of the most bizarre things I've ever heard Confused

Himalaya · 21/05/2011 08:55

I agree with Goblinchild - try to tackle it directly and positivley with the instructors themselves rather than immediately escalating it to the Council - you will end up frustrated as it will be hard to get anyone to take on your problem, and at best the instructors will be sent on a course far removed from the situation, muttering 'it's PC gorn mad, no one ever mentioned this to me'

The instuctors probably have managers who fix their rotas etc... but don't hold them accountable for performance, or help them reflect and learn about their practice. Try to take it as a teachable momment!

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