Friday, July 11, 2008

Sexism is alive and well and living in California

G had her second fencing class last night. She was feeling uncomfortable beforehand because it had been all boys the previous week, but I gave her a pep talk (and mentioned that one way or the other, she was going to finish the session because I've already paid for it) and she sucked it up and went.

At this week's class, the instructors split off the 14-and-under kids from the older teenagers and adults, so it was G and nine boys who mostly looked to be in the 11-13 range. Luckily, because of her height, only a couple of them had any real size advantage over her, and she was taller than a few, which I think helped her confidence. The instructor who was leading the group told them all to pair up right away, and of course no one wanted to catch girl cooties (oh, just wait a few years, kids), so she ended up with a leftover boy who hadn't gotten another partner.

I'll be honest here and say that I was about to wet my pants with anxiety at this point. They were supposed to take turns practicing their advances and retreats, with one of them being the attacker and the other one being the defender, and G was the attacker first. She gets intimidated pretty easily, and I was afraid that she was going to be so overwhelmed that she wouldn't be able to make the first move, but I underestimated her. With a look on her face that suggested she was competing for Olympic gold, she steeled herself and plunged into it ... and did a fantastic job. "Proud" doesn't even begin to describe how I felt.

So as I was sitting there all thrilled, the man next to me leaned over and asked, "Which one is yours?" Now, I had met this guy at the last session and disliked him on sight. He's a burly, thick-necked man with an aggressive mustache who waves his BlackBerry around as if it's an extension of his tool -- Look at me! I am important and must be available at all times! -- and signals instructions to his son from the sidelines in classic obnoxious-sports-dad style. Twenty bucks says that he was asking me this question so he could determine whether my kid was likely to outshine his kid, and then feel superior about his assessment.

"Mine is the girl," I said, and do you know what he did? He smirked. He smirked at me and turned back to watch without saying a word.

Let me tell you, if thoughts could kill, he would have been a smoking hole in the floor of the fencing school's balcony. I wanted to say "Hey, jackass, my girl has more balls than your son just for walking through the door. It's nothing to him to be here with all these boys, but it's a huge deal for her, and she's out there doing it anyway. Give her three weeks and she'll stick him to the wall like a butterfly!" Obviously I couldn't, so I just seethed quietly and hoped his BlackBerry would explode in his pocket.

The class moved on, and after a while they came to a break and all the boys went off to horse around in a corner, leaving G on her own. She took the opportunity to stand in front of the mirror with her foil extended and practice her lunges (and quite well too, I might add), at which point Mr. Smirky commented, "Well, it looks like she's getting into it."

"Yes," I said, "it does."

"Does she have brothers?" he asked.

"She's an only child," I said, frost forming on every word, and he made some feeble comment about how she could "keep them in line" if she did. That's right, Mr. Smirky. And you too, if you don't look out.

Anyway, this did not spoil my evening or my total pride in G, who actually had a great time and asked to stay behind so she could practice attacking the wall target a few more times. I know she still wishes she weren't the only girl (I pointed out to her that there are other girls in the fencing club, just not in this particular class) but I think she'll be all right. I hope the boys manage to get over themselves and include her a bit more, though, because it pains me to see her hanging back at a distance while they're all clumped together. Barring that, I hope she turns into such a good fencer that they're all scared of her. As Machiavelli once said, it's better to be feared than loved, if one must choose.


Shelley said...

You go, G.

And Vanessa ...deep breaths.

You have a very special girl there. :)

MomToAp said...

I am soo proud of G and You.. You for not killing the pig.. and G for being strong enough and confident enough to walk in there and do what she wants to do despite the fact that she is the only girl..
Thats something at our Karate school that makes me really proud.. there are SOOO many girls.. and they are respected and revered just as much as the boys.... Shame it cant be like that for everythig..

Space Mom said...

Behind the fensing mask, can they tell if it's a boy or girl?

Besides, she could probably kick Mr. Smirky's butt! :)

writermeeg said...

oh, i could feel all parts of this one. grrrr, i ick that guy. and, wow, i'm beaming with pride at G. hugs.