January 16, 2005

Drives me crazy

"How come there are so few girls here?" Blonde Niece asked me.

We were sitting inside the ski lodge, eating lunch at a table full of teenage boys, some of them related to us. She's thirteen, taking snowboarding lessons for the first time, and she reported that she's the only girl in her group. We looked around the lodge and counted. The ratio of males to females was about 6 to 1. Not even close to being equal.

I don't understand why this gender inequity on the ski slopes still exists. I know that for my parents' generation, traditional gender roles dictated that on Sundays, men got to play on the ski slopes while the wives stayed home with the children to cook the Sunday dinner. But that was the 1950s and this is 2005, and almost every person in the lodge was younger than I am. Most of them were teenagers.

We discussed the physical differences between men and women. Women are more flexible and have a lower center of gravity, all of which should work in their favor when skiing. Women have more fat on their bodies, which makes them more insulated from the cold. Looking at the biological factors alone, the slopes should be dominated by women. But clearly, they aren't -- at least in this rural area where the skiers and boarders come from conservative small towns.

I asked Blonde Niece how come her male friends snow board and her female friends don't. She said that the boys think it's cool and macho and makes them look tough. The girls don't want to get bruises and get sweaty and have their hair look bad. And of course parents encourage boys to ski or board, willingly buying them lift tickets, but girls don't get that encouragement.

How frustrating that in the year 2005 junior high kids are still socialized to fit into these gendered stereotypes. Boys are supposed to be tough and be good at outdoor physical activities. Girls are supposed to look pretty. This kind of thing drives me crazy.


Anonymous said...

Hey, you have a blog! I suppose that seems rather dense of me not to notice until now. I needed to stumble across your name on a comment at another blog. I probably should have put two and two together when you posted under an actual blog handle. Of course, I rather self-centeredly assumed you created the name just to post LiO.

And you devote much more time to yours than I do--of course, you always did write way more than i did, didn't you.

can't wait to read more about skiing and the battles of the northeast.


(posting anonymously in case you want to remain anonymous--otherwise, you are on my refer list and anyone with half an ounce of determination could ferret you out)

Anonymous said...

I think the worst part is the way that sexism gets internalized. So girls choose not to skii or whatever and people just say, oh, well, they don't want to, it's their choice.

jo(e) said...

Anon: Yes, that's the frustrating part. Sexist attitudes and behaviors get internalized before these kids even get to high school.

S: I only started this blog a few weeks ago. I created a blog handle last fall when I got into a political argument on your blog, but at some point, it occurred to me that I ought to have my own blog instead of monopolizing other people's blogs. Besides, I don't really like to argue. I'd rather tell stories and let readers come to their own conclusions.

Laura said...

Ugh, I just had this same observation/argument with my male colleagues at work (talking about technology and the lack of women involved). It just kills me.

Dr.K said...

I heard that the president of Harvard, no less, is in major trouble for making comments to the effect that women aren't as good in science and engineering as men are, and that someone finally needs to step up and say something. I heard this on the local news last night. Well, whoever he is, I feel safe in predicting that he won't be president of Harvard very much longer. What hurts about this is that the reputation of Harvard has been used to spread such stuff, and someone out there might just believe it as a result. When will it end? What this tells me about the voices speaking out of higher education is not that academia has regressed, or that the occasional throwback still crops up (we can always expect that), but that colleges university administrators are chosen these days from the ranks of the corporate-style beaurocrats and money-changers, and so what else do we really expect?

jo(e) said...

Yeah, Bitch has a post and a link about the Harvard Pres over on her blog. It's appalling. And I DON'T feel confident that the man is out of a job. That's the sad part.

CamilaJW said...

I am a female, and a female that has a total math brain, and find the arts much more challenging, but I don't understand why everyone is so up in arms about what the Harvard president said. I believe all he said was that we should look into the possibility of there being innate differences. We act as if we are trying to hide something when we get so upset about someone studying the possibility that there is something besides socialization that causes the genders to appear to prefer different activities.
For example, men are generally stronger than women, therefore they do not get as tired when doing somethign like skiing. What is so wrong with differences that we have to blacklist anyone who even wants to see if they exist?

jo(e) said...

The reason people get upset when a Harvard President makes sexist remarks is because he is in a position of power. A college president can very much influence hiring practices at a university. Scientists study gender differences all the time; no one is saying these scientific studies shouldn't be done. But Summers didn't quote a whole lot of reputable scientific studies; he gave as an example some anecdote about his own kids. What bothers me is that he wanted to dismiss the role discrimination is playing. Women scientists have come out repeatedly talking about the obstacles they had to face in a male-dominated field, yet Summers wants to ignore the possibility that sexism plays a role and look instead for some “innate differences” that prove that women just can't hack the math and science.

Men are generally stronger than women? In some ways yes, in some ways no. Men in general have more upper body strength and are better at sports like football. Women in general have more endurance and a higher percentage of body fat, which means they can handle cold better. Women have better records than men for things like swimming the English channel.

That was my point about recreational skiing, like the kind I do on weekends. It's not a matter of strength. Rarely does a person go into the lodge because they are tired - gravity takes you down the hill and you get to rest on the chairlift. People go into warm up, because they are cold. So based on physical differences, women are more suited for skiing then men. That's why I think socialization plays a role.

viagra online said...

I feel safe in predicting that he won't be president of Harvard very much longer. What hurts about this is that the reputation of Harvard has been used to spread such stuff, and someone out there might just believe it as a result.