There is so much that could be covered in this post so what I talk about is by no means an exhaustive list of thoughts. My thoughts are being “more thought about” today, though, because of something that was said to me on Sunday. I was at the gym and training my triceps on the functional trainer and a member of staff approached me and said, “You do that better than most men; your form is perfect.”
Immediately I was super chuffed, despite a slight frustration at the back of my mind that I needed to confront. I was so delighted I tweeted about it! He continued to tell me I was doing awesomely and truly and honestly I will always be so happy he told me. It’s so great to feel confident about something like exercise and his words gave me a boost. Then, as I went from exercise to exercise I approached my slight feeling of dismay. And when I excitedly messaged my gym buddy, Tarryn, about what had happened, she replied with exactly what I was frustrated about: “Ugh how annoying they are expecting you to be worse than men.”
My philosophy has always been anything boys can do I can do better. This doesn’t mean I think I’ll beat those of the male kind in everything or that I’m disappointed when I don’t. It’s just the mindset I go by. It makes me work hard and I’m more likely to excel- in all areas but especially sport. I just never have and never will approach something assuming I’ll “lose” because I’m against a guy/it’s a stereotypically male sport/if I were a boy I’d be expected to be better. I won’t let my gender limit me and although I have experienced sexism I am lucky to have never felt held back by it. I have an older brother and although he is less competitive than me, we do have sibling competitiveness and this has been a brilliant thing for me. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. We often play badminton and he has currently got the most wins but I’ll be happy to remind him that I have beaten him the last three times we’ve played tennis! He might be a dude, but I am more than capable of being just like him! (And he’s all right so I wouldn’t mind being just like him.)
One of my memories from junior school is a PE lesson where we trained for cross country. We were just to run or walk as we wanted to around the route. I took up the challenge of running alongside the two fastest boys in my year. I remember being very tomato-coloured but keeping up happily all the same. I also remember being part of an after school club where we timed our 400m runs and I challenged my quick male friend to beat me and, well, *humbly blushes*, I won. What needs to be noted is that it shouldn’t be a generally accepted societal custom that “The man will win because… gender.” Surely it’s obvious that it simply isn’t a valid reason- there is no logic behind this. It’s ignorant and entirely dumb.
The point of this post isn’t to prove I am better than guys: my brother is better than me at badminton and my boyfriend is a faster runner than I am. I am of course not better than every guy I know at any said sport; I am of course not better than every girl I know at any said sport. All the same, I played badminton with my friend at the weekend and I would say she is a very similar level as my brother and likewise, I can run for longer than Aaron could. This idea that males are automatically better at sport than females “just because” exists for social reasons. Girls and women are expected to be less interested in sport (something I’ll probably cover another time) and less sporty than boys and men. This can’t exist biologically- it must be born from social expectations. From this comes the seemingly “natural” conclusion that boys win. Girls lose.
Maybe our best secret is that we never lose *smiles evily.*
Having said all of this I don’t believe this guy from the gym is sexist. I don’t know him, of course, but his comment wasn’t intended to be sexist. It was intended as a comment of approval, to motivate me and I am delighted at his comment. What he was commenting on was my form and how I’d understood how to get the most out of the exercise *major chuffed face.* But I am still a little uneasy about it. The foundation of part of his comment comes from a place where females aren’t expected to be strong, fit and good at sport (not that he was calling women weak, unfit and rubbish at sport). And this attitude needs to be changed globally. It does need to be considered that the exercise is, I think, stereotypically male but then that of course begs the question of why? Why do fewer women do these types of exercises? Maybe we could analyse the “most” part of the comment (I’m not expecting to be better at this exercise than most men OR WOMEN!) but it does give me a kick that on a stereotypically male exercise I “do it better than most men.”
Conclusion: This inherent expectation that males must be better because of this gender has to just vanish now. A male might be better than a female at a particular sport and that’ll be because of their skill and/or strength etc. Not because “females just suck at sport.” And if you still think it’s reason enough than I’ll give you a run for your money ;).
~ Kat ~