I always thought it was cool that my town has a girls' football game once a year in the fall. It's the junior and senior classes that get to hit the field and beat the crap out of each other and from what I hear, they do. Everybody gets a t-shirt with their football name (I'll get to that) on the back but certainly out of a class of 200 there's likely to be close to half that many girls and not everybody is going to play. When I looked it up to find out how many players regularly sat on the bench to replace the eleven men on the field I discovered that in American football each team has a 53 man roster. I guess there are some days you go through them like butter. I don't know a whole lot about football (I'm a baseball and soccer girl) but I know enough to watch the game. I know if you send girls out there to play without the competitive (I didn't say they aren't competitive) pressure of the boys what we think of as a touch football game turns into tackle and bounce. I wonder about protective gear and then decide I'm not going to worry about it; there is very little chance of Elizabeth actually participating. She just got the t-shirt and the name she chose is Hellish. It's a play on one of her names and it took some guts to submit because she's not like that until she's cornered or somebody has one of her friends backed into a corner and then god help you. So they all get t-shirts with entertaining and hopefully scary names on the back but only some of them hit the field.
Yesterday we got on the subject of gym and what she hated about it that day and she asked if I'd ever played capture the flag. I said yes, I played it once when I was nine or ten or maybe even eleven (although I doubt that) at Girl Scout camp one year and to this day that is the best game I've played and I've only ever done it once. We played at night with flashlights and since I liked to run through the forest or even scattered trees at night, that was truly wonderful. She looked at me skeptically and then said, wait, no, I mean touch football.
Nope, haven't done that. I don't see the ball coming at me until it hits me in the face. It's much better if I stick to balls I can kick around on the field.
Why do you ask?
We played touch football in gym today.
OK, why did you hate it?
It's boring and we're not really playing, we're just standing around like obstacles trying to get out of the way.
Because no one will pass us the ball.
So the girls get cut out of the game entirely?
Some girls get the ball but they have to yell and jump around a lot. I can catch and throw a ball, I just don't want to yell and jump around.
Did your dad teach you to catch and throw a ball (this is news to me since I don't catch and throw balls)?
No. They taught us in gym class.
Are you shitting me?
Yeah. They taught us in gym.
...OK so we've come far enough in this town that we teach the boys AND the girls to catch. So what's the problem, I'm thinking. We haven't taught them that they should catch the ball and throw it? I doubt it, at least not entirely. We've taught the boys to completely shut them out. In the huddles the boys, you know, huddled and apparently shut the girls out entirely.
Elizabeth, that's rampant sexism.
Yeah, I know and I'm really mad.
You should be. I'm really mad too.
...So where's the gym teacher in this? It's a teaching moment, why aren't you teaching? OK, you don't see a problem out there. My guess is half those boys didn't want to be playing any sort of football but god help you if you admit that, so you go in scared and unhappy as hell. I would also imagine half or more than half of those girls didn't want to be playing any sort of football but that may have been taught as well as just not wanting to catch and throw a ball. Me? I don't want to play football but if I have to play football I'd rather be an active participant than a floating, ducking, getting the hell out of the way obstacle.
When I coached youth soccer when Michael was small I did so because during the first season I hated what I saw. It's bad enough when parents yell at their kids from the sideline; it's worse when the coaches are doing it. These were seven year old kids who, for the most part had their hands in their pants on defense and couldn't remember which way to kick the ball down or up field. Fairly frequently they'd swarm the ball, ten or twelve of them kicking at the middle hitting shins, dirt, and sometimes the ball until somebody broke them up. These kids don't need to be yelled at and this was a time during youth soccer when we could coach from the field. That means you, the coach, can run up and down the field giving guidance and putting players back into place.
I freaking loved it. What I didn't love was playing in the coaches' league. I did not love that because there were enough of them in play not wanting me in play and doing their damned best to take me out. I took more body checks from men 160 and over than I can count. So, fuck you, I'm not leaving. It turned out I made a pretty good keeper so that got me off the field and into the net. I did just fine with that until I threw myself head first into the goal post but that was on me.
All this was just a little more than twenty years ago and we're still not teaching the girls to take the ball or the boys to pass it. Instead we still have cheerleaders and I don't care how traditional or how athletic this is, it is still about girls being less than, girls supporting those who are more than and it doesn't change the message we're sending to both genders.
So back to the Powder Puff game. Why the hell is it called Powder Puff? From everything I've heard in the last eleven years, powder puff is the last thing these girls are out on that field. This is where names like Hellish come into play. They all have shirts like that. The girl down the street is Kick Ass Cass which is also a play on her name and should she end up on the field she's likely to kick the shit out of half the team because she's that sort of fierce.
There are a lot of things wrong with the tradition but the name is what throws me. And the thing is, we are not conscious for the most part.
Now, about the photograph. Look at it. When I bought the bag from the kids selling at the stand outside our local market, the first thing I noticed was the name, Trails End. I went to a Girl Scout camp called Trails End for five years where I learned to ride and care for a horse. When I was nine I stayed in a rough cabin with cots but by the time I was eleven I was with the older girls in the tents on platform and I don't recall a single flushing toilet with the exception of the main hall. I don't recall showers but I do know I was in the lake every single day for the two weeks I was there. So that's how that went. I do remember brushing my teeth in a common area with a rough wood platform and running water. I probably did that for the first three days and then gave it up since nobody was likely to make me. Later I saw photographs of Boy Scout camps and they pretty much looked exactly the same.
Today Boy Scout camps still look like that. Boys get badges for 'roughing it', Girl Scouts get housing, flush toilets, and showers in the cabins. They are made to shower and brush their teeth and comb their hair properly. I don't know what they get badges for but I'm pretty sure the foresting, camping, and botany badges have vanished. This is what Y camps have come to as well but that's for both genders and there were never any badges anyway.
I was looking at the bag and the boy carrying firewood. I was thinking about the artwork on the Girl Scout cookie boxes. It is the fall of 2016 and I am appalled, incensed, and periodically feeling riotous. We have regressed.
Now the Millennials talk about micro-aggressions and what can be spoken about and what cannot. They tell writers they can only write about themselves, more or less because the writer isn't going to understand the perspective of someone other than themselves and this is offensive and some books should be banned and safe spaces and triggers for everyone. I read an article the other day about the Millenninals pushing the not Millennial Left so hard they've turned and run toward the Right. I can see this now; it explains why so many of my 'rational', 'intelligent' friends and acquaintances have turned toward the Republican candidate which I find unfathomable if only for his overt racism and complete disregard for civil rights. They have become disenfranchised because they have been made incredibly bad and wrong.
These kids, *mostly* did not carry firewood or camp in damp tents. Many of them have incredibly expensive educations and have not experienced physical discomfort and then learned to be comfortable out of necessity. I don't mean all of them and don't mean to slam them entirely because there's a lot to be said about this very large demographic, but when I read the words...'baby boomers, the worst generation ever' my jaw dropped. It's like blaming the last president for the current state of affairs when it's your job to fix it whatever it is. Every generation crucifies, vilifies somebody or somebodies at some point but to broad stroke condemn an entire generation which INCLUDED THE SIXTIES is, well childish. Grow the fuck up. Carry some firewood. Be uncomfortable. Look to yourselves for the answers, and try not to be so bloody militant and exclusive. I know you're angry; we're angry too and we have already been where you are today. The difference is we had to work out how to feed, nurture, and take care of your overall well-being. That takes a toll on people. When you make them bad and wrong until they feel like they can't step or breathe without causing offense, eventually they turn and run leaving you to work it out on your own.
And throw the football to the girl who chose to shave her legs and the girl who put down the razor without judgement of either and only an expectation that they'll maybe catch the ball if you throw it well enough. When they throw it back, try to be in the right place because when they're actively in play they're doing the same.
And let us not forget to forgive ourselves because until we do, we will not move forward.
(because the next thing you know, they'll be putting air conditioning in those cabins and maybe even heat because it gets a bit cool in August ;-)
It's still called the Powder Puff game. So much for all that NeoFeminism. Women turn and run to the proverbial right also when the Neos of the world have hammered on them one time too many. Somewhere there's a middle ground; I'm just waiting for the pendulum to swing back a little more toward the middle.
Be conscious, I suppose.