The words hung in the air, drifting just out of my reach. If I could have, I’d have snatched them out of the air into my fist and stuffed them deep into my pockets to hide the implication.
“She is really good. She plays like a boy.”
Two women standing before me, paused with a quick glance, then continued their conversation without drawing attention to the golf ball of a comment which I had just smashed into the water hazard with a noticeable and awkward “Ker-Plop”.
Thankfully, these two were kind enough, forgiving enough, to just let the comment go and not think worse of me for it. Lucky for me, one of them was my wife. She’s used to this.
Realizing what I had said and how it indicated something about myself I didn’t want to be true, I tried to inquire, apologize, and explain all in one sorry monologue.
“Is that sexist? It is, isn’t it? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”
Their interrupted conversation shifted back to me with a quick dismissive, “That’s okay…it is (sexist), but it’s okay, I know what you mean.”
Which would have been well enough on its own, but then I had to go and take the explanation further.
“I just said that because she has played with boys. I mean she has been on boy teams. Not just played, but was good on their teams too.”
Oh, yikes, I just don’t know when…to…..stop…..talking…..
I had even, just the day before, read in Reader’s Digest (because I’m 80…wait, is that age-ist?) about Kathrine Switzer. In 1967, she became the first woman to officially overcome the Boston Marathon.
By overcome, I mean running 26 miles while fighting off prejudices, nasty comments, and actual physical assault for “invading a man’s event”.
I’m a proud father of four girls, three of which are old enough and play sports.
I’m a teacher, who is trained and well-practiced in being fair and unbiased when it comes to gender equity.
I’m husband to a woman who has overcome many obstacles in her life, and has continuously proven she can when others said she shouldn’t or couldn’t. Before becoming stay-at-home mom and wife, she was an accountant (a predominantly-male profession) in a predominantly-male firm downtown. She knows a thing or two about gender bias.
I grew up around many men who were the “head of the house” and spoke to their wives in such way. It didn’t catch my attention as wrong in any way, specifically because the women I grew up around seemed okay with it. Part of an old-school Appalachian culture.
For instance, growing up, I noticed the women always worked to prepare meals only to sit aside while all the men and children ate first. They would get whatever was left over and it was usually cold by then too. It never bothered me because, honestly, it never seemed to bother them.
Well into my early adulthood, I failed to see what the big deal was with gender equity.
When I was in college, Title IX was a major issue and colleges across the nation were cutting men’s sports and scholarships in order to ensure there were equal numbers of scholarships going to male and female athletes.
I remember thinking that wasn’t fair. I thought it wasn’t fair that men had to lose athletic scholarships just so women would feel equivalent.
It was wasn’t until years later that I understood the importance of equal opportunity for all people, regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic status, citizenship, etc. Women’s studies and Multi-Cultural coursework was the beginning point of a changed viewpoint for me.
As time has gone on, my eyes have been opened further by national and world events, as well as experiences personally and experiences of those who are important in my life.
It’s crazy to me just how recently (even ongoing still) women, among other groups, have been held back, suppressed by a system designed for the success of white males. If you don’t believe that to be true you are either a white male or blind to history and political reform.
I’m aware of many cultures and sub-cultures both here within the U.S., and also globally, that oppress women. Many do so out of “religious” belief or even just generational practice.
For those who bring Bible verses to justify men being over women…you’re wrong. A common, out of context “biblical truth”. The truth is that Man is to love his wife just as Jesus loved the church (his people)…well, Jesus served his people. He didn’t demand that they serve him.
I say all of this out of guilt. I have a need to confess publicly, to apologize loudly and noticeably for something I said for which I’m ashamed.
If I could have pocketed those words as they escaped into the air, I would have done so and hidden the subliminal sexist nature of my comment.
But I make no excuse, it was a sexist comment. I knew it the second the words left my lips.
That kid I spoke of: she is a phenomenal athlete. Not “FOR A GIRL”…but just a phenomenal athlete.
To the women (one of which was Amber) who endured my awkward and lazy attempt explaining myself: I’m truly sorry and vow to be more careful not just with my words, but with my thoughts.
This proved something else also. It is very easy to say something when it comes from an ingrained subconscious place…but equally important to recognize the place it should go… away.Share this to: