Saturday, January 29, 2011


Let me start by saying that I am interested to hear comments on this one. My thoughts are more observations than a coherent thesis. It is like I have an itch that I can't quite scratch . . .

Evie loves Aikido. She loves to run. She loves to sword fight. She loves to wrestle. She has amazing body awareness and loves to use her body.

I have observed that girls, around the age of 9, often have a plummet in self-esteem. I haven't noticed this to the same degree with girls who do not go to school. Everyone one of the neighborhood girls around here has succumbed to it.

It is no longer the case that our society segregates play along gender lines as blatantly as it used to.

There are amazing resources in existence to foster "strong girls." Is calling attention to "strong" as bad as working to suppress that trait?

Nature vs. Nurture is still a debate. It is not an either/or question.

Our children are only one generation removed from the "Free Te Be You and Me" generation.

Our society starts to demand a separation of "work" and "play" around age 10.

Our society condemns fighting but is steeped in violence. "Control" is seen as the ultimate virtue.

I'm not sure where all this is going. It has been nagging at me that Evie has wanted to have sword fights and battles but they have been hard to come by. Is it because she is a girl? Is it because she is almost 11? Is it because kids aren't encouraged to run around on their own anymore? This period of growing up is the time for defining oneself, testing oneself, finding adventure, exploring limits, forging alliances, working on emotional life. Sometimes that takes battles. My fashion-loving, Barbie-owning, pink-wearing girl is ready with her sword.


Cap'n Franko said...

Aikido is good. I'm a guy but I love kendo and it's a very energetic, combative style of swordplay. My 16-year-old, Chloe, is thinking about starting kendo and iaido. We've recently passed down her extensive Barbie collection. FWIW.

Sunflower Hill Farm said...

Hmmmm....interesting. I was a girl who would have really gotten on with Evie. However, in high school, this "tomboy"ness was socialized right out of me. I became obsessed with looks and, gasp, being a pom pon girl (god help me). Now in my, ahem, 40s I have found those sides of me once again and I revel in them! The hard work of farming, karate, keeping up with my 4 sons. Don't really know what I'm trying to say but for me, it had everything to do with the socialization of school. It took me a long time to find myself again but I am.

Jessica said...

I was a "tomboy" right into my teen years and was lucky to avoid highschool unless it was that i wanted to be there (and that didnt last long).my middle daughter who I reffer to as Tigerlily has detested all female things since she was 4...apart from the long blonde hair she wears boys clothes, watches "boys" TV. plays with "boys" toys. It threw me of gaurd in the beginning before i came to a more peaceful way of life.But this is just who she is, she may grow out of it, she may not and it dosnt matter either way cause she is who she is.I dont think pushing for strong girls or quiet girls will help either way.They have their own personality.I have heard the Nature vs Nurture thing, and during a lecture i was watching by professor Stephen Stearns he mentioned that in fact you need a bit of both, not one or the other.Some things we are born to, others form from the society around us.I know Tiferlily would love to play swords with Evie, she has a few here willing to battle, battles her 2 sisters often.Its fun.

Andrea said...

Is there a fencing club near you? We have been involved in fencing for two years now, and those teenage girls who are there are fit, strong and darn feminine! I love watching the girls with their "swords". Just a thought.

ItMakesYouSmile said...

This is a lot to think about! I dislike, to a certain extent, the moniker of "strong girl". Though we can clearly see the differences between those who are and aren't (I guess I'm thinking more in a non-physical sense), I would hope that ALL kids can grow up strong. But I sort of feel a tiny shudder, same as when someone refers to a "woman doctor", or "female construction worker".

I think the threat to girls' self esteem is completely real and completely part of the mainstream culture and pretty (somewhat?) avoidable by choosing one's associates, at least some of the time. It's a slithery, insidious thing that you cannot let up on, I think, even when you're grown up.

The other thing is that swordplay is play, and therefore culturally unacceptable for both girls and boys after a certain age. I have found that a pretty small circle of friends who are not only accepting, but outright game for play at any age has helped to preserve and develop a sense of play, of self and of self esteem. I know that people will argue that one has to learn how to deal with all kinds of people, and I agree with that. But "dealing" with people, even friends, does not mean that you have to let them into your heart if they don't enrich your life in some way. That way can even be in the form of a challenge for you to help someone else to be a better friend. But especially in our culture, I think that girls and women are expected to continue relationships that are detrimental and this leads, well you know where it leads.

This is such a tough subject!

denise said...

Interesting. When I was growing up a lot of girls were like me...riding horses, playing in the creek and in the woods, camping without adults, running track, playing volleyball, in a drum corps. I never considered myself boyish - I wore pink, baked and read Nancy Drew as much as anybody else. ;) Too bad that has all changed.

denise said...

Oh, and I twirled knives and fire for years - well into adult hood, and had friends who performed with weapons who are women. THey had swordplay groups and performances and I used to sit in on those. It was a blast - not the same as just battles, but it was so fun to wield a huge sword in a creative way. ;) Wonder if there is still anything like that around.

Eluciq said...

interesting read. interesting to see comments. i consider myself more of a tomboy type that survived mainstream public school not caving into what everyone else thought i should be doing, but i believe my folks helped define who i am and support me in the interests that were important to me...just as you are doing for Evie. i think it really comes down to peoples support systems. i think it is easy to blame mainstream education...but i don't think that it is totally fair.

Evie is FIERCE, PASSIONATE & strong because of the trusting environment that you have helped create for her. Obviously just my personal belief.