A Girl Scout hockey clinic gives me a chance to exercise my influence on the women of tomorrow.
By Hannah Wallace
"Since Title IX, women’s participation in sports has increased 800 percent. That’s not a typo. It worked."–C.J. Cregg, The West Wing
I was in the Brownies for about five minutes in elementary school. I have good memories of my sisters being Girl Scouts, going on camping trips and selling cookies and the like, but I don’t think I joined the Brownies of my own volition.
For one thing, I didn’t want to wear a skirt to school. But my biggest problem was that while boys my age did sporty, outdoorsy things as Cub Scouts, we Brownies were stuck in the Abel cafeteria making doorstops and ironing rainbow designs onto pillowcases. (Seriously.) After a month or two of that, I turned in my sash for good and soon thereafter joined the boys’ soccer team that practiced at the corner of Tallevast and 15th St., where the driving range is now.
In my rant-y melodramatic moments, I hold that brief experience as a prime example of the horrors of gender socialization. So when Mrs. Harrible recently began recruiting Ms. Conduct players to talk to a group of Girl Scouts about hockey, I celebrated the idea that the next generation’s young women hadn’t inherited that mental (and, y’know, societal) roadblock between femininity and sports.
We spent a Saturday afternoon facing down 200 Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, Seniors, Honey Bees, Pharisees and Juniper Berries (I may have made some of those up) from the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida on the ice at Brandon Ice Sports Forum. I hope someday to overcome my own inertia and organize this same sort of intro-to-hockey thing with Sarasota’s Girls Inc. (who, bless them, list “sports” among the things they encourage in young women).
The scouts got a lesson in hockey rules, equipment and sportsmanship, then came to the ice for a demonstration of basic hockey posture, stride and agility (ie, Hannah getting up to speed and then weaving in and out of fawn-legged five-year-olds in ice skates).
But what I suddenly noticed, as I spent the open skate trying to overcome my own horrible skating style to use the proper stride we’d just demonstrated, was that all these girls—all of them, who were there specifically to earn a merit badge by learning about hockey—were wearing figure skates. One of my teammates guessed that the rink simply didn’t have enough hockey skates; another admitted that rental protocol assumes that girls want figure skates and boys want hockey skates. (Wrong both ways because, from what I hear, male figure skating actually, y’know, exists.)
I don’t actually have a problem with teaching girls to sew or cook or be crafty—God knows, I’d be happy with lessons in all of the above—and if that’s what the girl in the pink jumpsuit really wants to do, more power to her: Cross-stitch it up, sister.
But stereotypes like these are self-perpetuating: Girls don’t like sports because the consensus is that girls don’t like sports, and everyone acts accordingly. When it’s divided into “things that girls do” and “things that boys do,” so many kids, before they even realize what’s going on, are funneled into a particular category because they have to go out of their way to take the other route and, say, ask for hockey skates instead of taking what’s given to them. And who wants to stage a social protest at five years old? Being a kid is hard enough.
And for that matter, so is figure skating. At least give them the option of a sport that allows padding, geez.