Sexism Hits Home

It's easy to ignore cries of sexism when it doesn't happen to someone you know. But when it does, the reality of it takes on a whole new perspective.

When I was a kid, I noticed that most moms brought the babies to church and most dads brought their scriptures. Men usually spoke up in Sunday School, and women seemed pretty quiet. I'm not sure why the women didn't bring their scriptures very often, but I thought it was weird. Everybody should understand the gospel, I thought.

I'm glad to see that that dynamic is changing. I thought the stereotype of women not needing to learn anything was slaughtered fairly expertly in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast, where Belle's penchant for reading was frowned upon by the townsfolk, male and female alike, but where it ultimately became obvious that Belle was the one who had the right worldview.

A couple weeks back, the LDS ward that we were supposed to be competing against in Young Men's basketball did not field a team. There were enough of us in our ward to have a pick-up game. I invited my 11-year old daughter to play. It didn't take long before the teen-aged young men began taking her skills seriously.

Her PE teacher at school is another story.

It's okay to think that females in general are not as skilled as males in general at some activities. Just like it's okay to think females are better than males in some areas. But to apply the stereotype in every case is less than counterproductive.

I will try to approximate the conversation my daughter had with her PE teacher the other day.

"Teacher, can I play basketball with the boys?"

"What would you want to do that for?"

"Cuz it would be fun."

"But you aren't as good as them, and you might get hurt anyway. It's not a good idea for girls to play sports with boys."

It's (sometimes, and in this case) a good thing my daughter is persistent. The male teacher finally relented with an exclamation of something like "Whatever. Don't get hurt!" Later on when my daughter competed just finely with the boys, her teacher was mum. I think he'll let her play ball with the boys next time, though.

She still has to deal with the frequent "You got hit out by a girl!" during dodge ball, though.

Young men and young women can do anything they set their mind to do. The fact that encouraging them to be sexually promiscuous does not belong in this category is the subject of a completely different post. But if an activity is virtuous, praiseworthy, or of good report, we should encourage everyone, male or female, to seek after such things.


  1. Sounds like your daughter is in a lot better shape than I am. :) I'm curious to know where you draw the co-ed line. Co-ed tennis? Basketball? Football? What about co-ed wrestling? Co-ed dorms? locker rooms?

    Is "separate but equal" always a bad thing in sports?

  2. I have mixed emotions about mixed sports teams. My 13-year-old son's soccer team is mixed. Some of the best players are girls. It is a joy to watch the team work the game strategy together. On average among this particular age group for this sport, I do not see any great advantage to being either male or female.

    But I am concerned about some of the attitudes that this type of interaction seems to engender among both the boys and the girls. Other parents have expressed similar concerns. Some less than positive attitudes and behavior patterns result that may cause problems down the road.

    I'm not saying that this type of mixed athletics should be eliminated, but I think we also need to recognize that there is value in having single-sex athletic pursuits as well. Certain positive aspects of cultural and psychological development can occur only in single-sex group interaction.

  3. RU: What less-than-positive attitudes do you think the interaction engenders? Having grown up in a small town where mixed athletics was fairly common (by necessity), I couldn't figure out what you meant.

  4. I'm speaking only anecdotally, from my own experience. But it seems that it's very easy for these kids to develop a certain level of casual disregard or lack of respect for members of the opposite sex.

    Other parents have sensed this too. It seems to manifest itself in the way these kids interact with members of the opposite sex within their own families, including their parents.

    You can pooh-pooh this as meaningless, but I believe it is real. The way we interact in our families impacts our entire culture. The way the sexes regard each other impacts our entire culture.

    I'm not calling for returning to the old model of sexism. I'm not even saying that there should be no mixed sports. I'm simply saying that we shouldn't be blind to the impacts of these things.

  5. Bradley,

    Good question. Wrestling is probably the best example in the sporting realm because it creates the closest of contact between the competitors. I don't think I would want to wrestle a female opponent, and in cases like this (and football) I think it would be better to keep the leagues separated by sex, even though there are some females that wrestle in Utah high schools, and they are pretty good. For sports such as tennis, baseball, and basketball, where there is (or should be) very little contact, I have no problem with mixing the sports. Co-ed dorms--no. Co-ed locker rooms--no. This would have devastating long-term effects on sexuality.

    However, I agree in general with Scott (Reach Upward) that constant mixture of males and females in these areas can cause a familiarity that may breed more contempt than respect between the sexes.

  6. I lived in co-ed dorms. The guys were like my brothers.


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