Sunday, 11 December 2011
My first feminism
Nope. He was giving her a different ball. A smaller ball. A foam ball.
Now, the preceding paragraph may have hinted at the fact that PE was not my favourite thing in the world. I was active enough - this was before puberty hit and made the idea of any movement in front of anyone while not wearing clothes the size of a rotund peasant's burlap sack unspeakably humiliating - but still, organised games with a class full of hellions was not my idea of a fun way to spend a hot summer's afternoon.
But my nascent feminist consciousness sure as shit wasn't letting that one past.
"Why are you giving her a different ball, Beardy Mr Smith?" I asked.
"This one is for the girls."
Yup. He didn't even try to pretend. There may have been some faintly logical reasons he could have trotted out - "You, personally, could not hit the proverbial cow's bum with a banjo, so a lighter ball might give you a slightly better chance of wheezing to first base before it's retrieved, giving you less excuse to get 'out' as quickly as possible and spend the rest of this class making daisy chains in the shade" would at least have been accurate. But no: he went the Yorkie bar route. THIS BALL IS NOT FOR GIRLS.
In later years, sexism would get dressed up in all kinds of guises. Unequal treatment would be justified by custom ("girls never use that ball"), by religion ("God says girls aren't allowed to use that ball") or by science ("girls just can't use that ball"). But the basic message behind it remained the same.
People never seem to tire of ascribing any kind of gendered behaviour, from lactation to embroidery, to Females' Lower Muscle-to-Fat Ratio. While this is pretty ridiculous when referring to grown adults - ignoring as it does that human beings exist on a continuum, there being far more variation within 'male' and 'female' than between the two; defining gender by genitalia; denying the role of conscious thought; and failing to acknowledge that it's impossible to do anything useful with this information anyway given that there will always be exceptions to your hard and fast rules - but, for fuck's sake, when you're talking about prepubescent children? It's just laughable.
If you were wondering, I organised all the girls in the class to protest this insulting division of PE equipment, and won a settlement where everyone was allowed to choose which ball they would like to use.
I was bowled out before I reached second base.