Thursday, February 25, 2010

Boys And Girls

Assuming the snow stops falling at some point, TigerBlog and Little Miss TigerBlog will be heading to the annual Father-Daughter Dance at her school tomorrow night.

Princeton's women's basketball team hosts Columbia Saturday night, and another annual event, National Girls and Women in Sports Day, will be held at Jadwin Gym prior. If you are the parent of a little girl, then Saturday at Jadwin is an absolute must for both of you.

The first event will be TB and LMTB's fifth Father-Daughter Dance. The first four have featured little girls all dressed up, dancing to pop and hip-hop music while their fathers awkwardly either joined in or stood off to the side. In many ways, for the fathers, it was a throwback to going to dances when they were kids.

This was in contrast to Mother-Son Sports Night, at which mothers and sons would play simple games with little competitions. Despite being called "Sports Night," there was nothing overly athletic about it.

After each of the four, TigerBlog pointed out to school officials that he was appalled by the messages that were being sent. The school was telling the boys that they were to be athletes and the girls that they were not to be athletes. Worse, the girls were being told to express themselves through their clothes, their appearance and their bodies (in this case, through dancing).

By the way, we're talking K-5th grade here.

TigerBlog has seen first-hand the issues that growing boys and girls deal with, and they are radically different. Much of it has to do with thousands of years of the roles that males and females have played in various societies.

Even more, though, is what these kids are taught from Day 1. And, to be honest, parents play right into it in some ways, with the various toys that are bought for babies and toddlers to the points of emphasis in the early development of the likes and dislikes of children.

TigerBlog Jr., for instance, had a lacrosse stick, a football, a whiffle ball bat, a baseball glove and all the other stuff by the time he was two. Today? He can't wait for the start of lacrosse season, both for his team and for Princeton.

Little Miss TigerBlog, on the other hand, had mostly dolls and stuffed animals in her first two years. When it came time for relatives to buy birthday gifts, it was always something sports related for TBJ and something art-related for LMTB. TBJ had birthday parties at a Trenton Thunder game, a Major League Lacrosse game, that sort of thing. LMTB had birthdays at places like "Build-a-Bear."

Yes, she was signed up to play soccer like every other kids in kindergarten, but TBJ took to youth sports like a fish to water, whereas LMTB has been slower to get there.

Did TB influence that? He used to think that way. Now? He's not as sure.

TBJ is reaching the age where kids are starting to focus on what they do best and what they enjoy most, whether it's boys or girls and whether it's sports, music, art, video games or anything else. For TBJ, it's a mix of lacrosse, football, bassoon, saxophone, video games, skiing. Those six make up his favorite things to do; TigerBlog never did any of those six.

And LMTB has started to love playing sports, especially basketball. At the same time, she is still into art and stuffed animals and music.

In other words, maybe these two - and all kids - are going to reach what their interests are, despite the best efforts of their parents to try to get them to do one activity or be a certain way.

Now, getting there involves dodging the constant bombardment of messaging that comes from every direction, and that is apparently much harder.

Kids - boys and girls - can't turn on the TV or read a magazine or go to the web without being blasted by imagery.

What's it saying? Boys need to be tough, athletic, good-looking, insensitive, almost bullyish. Girls need to have the right hair, the right makeup, the right body, the right clothes, the right guy.

For kids, it's inescapable, at least from mass media. So it shouldn't be confirmed by the school, that boys are to have a "sport night" and girls are to have a "dance."

Finally, though, it appears that some progress has been made. This year's theme is the Winter Olympics, so hopefully it will be different than in years past.

And if not, there's always Saturday night at Jadwin. As TB said before, no little girl who could be there should miss it.

In the one hour of the sports fair, girls of any age - but particularly in the 7-13 range - will be exposed to better role models, better images, better definitions of self-worth, than they will in an entire year of mass media.

The event features several Princeton women's teams, who give basic pointers and offer general participation opportunities in their sports. For one hour, the girls (with some boys there) get to see women who are being judged by their ability, by their intelligence, by their competitiveness, by their desire to set high goals for themselves - and not by their bodies or their appearance.

On top of everything else, they'll have a great time while they're there.

So much of society is out to send them the wrong messages. National Girls and Women in Sports Day could be the single best thing that Princeton Athletics does, if for no other reason than that it is screaming out that there is another way and that this way is worth it for little girls everywhere.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

“Boys will be boys. And even that wouldn't matter if only we could prevent girls from being girls.” Anne Frank