Notable Quotable:

Notable Quotable:

Remember, folks: whenever a woman says "die for me because you are a man," just look her in the eye and say "my body, my choice."
TCM

Monday, December 24, 2012

Grrrl Power, The Early Years

Grrrl Power is easy to spot once one knows what to look for.  It's everywhere; we're surrounded by it whether we see it or not.  Women's Power is a bit harder to define in modern terms, because it has become quite rare.  Even those of use who have it or strive for it, don't usually know quite what it is.  Over the next few weeks I'm going to take a shot at defining and illustrating both.

Grrrl Power can be loosely defined as any power, advantage, or increase in status that a female gains, without earning it, and/or by taking it away from boys.  It is not always pure evil.  All girls and women have some Grrl Power, just as all boys and men have some of the male equivalent.  One doesn't have to be a thief to make the most of an easy opportunity that happens to be lying around unused.  In it's modern incarnation though, Grrrl Power has evolved from ordinary opportunism, to parasitism and predation.  That is the Grrl Power I'm discussing here.


Grrrl Power starts out innocently enough, as little more than the dawning of understanding that girls and boys are different.  Very young individual girls who are spoiled by their parents are no better or worse than very young individual spoiled boys.  The difference usually develops when children join with other children, outside of the family, in a social environment.  The difference is in how "spoiled" behavior is rewarded or punished.  Grrrl Power is the advantage that a preschool girl gains when she learns that her teacher can be flattered.  Boys learn this too, and "charming" boys also have an advantage, but only over other boys, rarely over girls and never over "charming" girls.  If a male "teacher's pet" is in conflict with a female "teacher's pet," the girl will win.  Every time.  She is always perceived as the victim, even if the boy is so sweet that his offense can be presumed accidental.  She will be comforted and he will, in the best of circumstances, be admonished to be more gentle with the girls.  More often he will be blamed and reprimanded.  Most little boys who upset little girls are shamed and/or otherwise punished.  Boys learn early that every interaction with girls is fraught with danger.  In past generations this wasn't so much of a problem because boys and girls were encouraged to play separately, and usually did so.  Boys could say "No Girls Allowed," and girls could say, "No Boys Allowed."  We now call that discrimination and exclusion, and it's no longer permitted.  Inclusion is a nice ideal, and it can work if both boys and girls are willing to accept their differences.  However, here's where it becomes a problem.

Boys must respect and accommodate girls whose aptitudes are different from their own, but girls are never required to acknowledge boys' differing aptitudes.  A double standard.  There is no other way to describe it.

Girls are allowed to make their own rules of play, and boys are not.  If a boy wants to play house with the girls, he may do so, but he is expected to play according to the girls' rules.  Imagine the uproar that would ensue in a daycare facility if a boy and girl were playing house, and the boy said, "Are you ever going to hang up that phone and start dinner?"  or (heh heh) "Go make me a sammich."  Let's see...Time Out, Lecture, Note to Parents, "Discussion" with parents, Close Monitoring for future offenses....

On the other hand, if a girl wants to play tag with the boys, this same standard doesn't apply; not only will she be allowed to play with them, she will be allowed to make the rules by default.  She will not be required to play by any of the "boys' rules" that make her feel inadequate.  And she won't even need to be pushy or assertive about it, as the teachers will make it happen on her behalf.  Once she realizes that as one of the slowest runners she'll be tagged "it" more often, she will never be required to suck it up and "lose" gracefully, or to leave the game when it's no longer fun for her.  All she has to do is complain to the teacher that "it's not faaaair," and the boys will be expected to curtail their fun in order to accommodate her feelings.  Run slower.  Give her a head start.  No tag backs.  The girl gets to "win" through the application of arbitrary rules, and she gets to feel good about herself.  Those arbitrary rules are always nothing more than a means of handicapping the better competitors, most of whom are boys.

Additionally, when something unpleasant happens anyway, girls automatically get more sympathy and support.  When a boy trips and falls, he might hear, "You OK, Buddy?" but he will almost always hear, "You need to learn to slow down and be more careful."  When a girl trips and falls, she might hear, "Careful Honey!  Those rocks can be dangerous!"  She will almost always hear, "Oh you poor thing!" and be overwhelmed with hugs and sympathy, and escorted off the playground with a great deal of fuss.

Even at this age, children of both sexes generally prefer it this way.  Most boys would be embarrassed by a flutter of cooing and clucking.  For boys, falling down and getting back up is usually a bit of a badge of honor.  It enables them to say, "It's no big deal; I'm strong."  The teachers expect it and the other children respect it.  Little girls however, even in the age of feminism, don't get much attention for sucking it up.  Not from teachers or from other girls anyway.  And at the pre-school age, respect from boys is rarely expressed as effusively as respect from teachers and other girls, and it doesn't take girls long to develop a taste for vocal positive attention.

By kindergarten, most boys are already in the habit of considering the likely consequences of their words and actions.  Plenty of boys go on to indulge their "inappropriate"* impulses anyway, but when they do, they know there will be a price to pay.  Most girls are oblivious to consequences, in part due to their brains' slower development of the ability to process logic, and in part because they have relatively little experience of consequences.  For the most part, nobody is teaching them that anything they do is wrong.

*"Inappropriate"  -  a relative term, far too often assigned arbitrarily, not logically.


4 comments:

  1. I have seen many of those things. But, being aware of them, I work very hard NOT to do those same shitty things to the kids in my care.

    And make no mistake... it's shitty to do those things to GIRLS, too.. does them a grave disservice.

    When one of 'my' girls cries loudly, I do the same thing I do with the boys. Make sure nothing is broken, remind her to tie her shoes and go back to watching everyone play.

    I know you're not lumping all of us together, we teachers/munchkin wranglers.

    But there are those among us who actively seek to keep those stupid things from happening on our watch. :)

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    1. And thank God for teachers like you, swimming against the tide.
      It DOES a disservice to girls; the occasional "boost" can inspire a child to excel, but being continuously carried encourages a child to not bother learning to walk. If I had a child of either sex in need of day care, I would want them in your classroom. You don't just supervise children, you raise them. It needs to be done, every waking minute, even when the parents can't or won't.

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  2. One of the traits I admire in my daughter in law is her daughters are expected to "cowboy up" just like her sons.

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  3. It extends all through life. I saw it in college where girls were given slack for grades in Math and Science classes because there were so few girls in those classes (long ago) so they would be "encouraged" to continue. But that was just the "dumbing down" of the courses for the rest of us.

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