Was link-surfing today and came across this: The Lizard Brain
. Now, it's a little gender-absolutist for my preference (could do with "most" in front "women" a little more often), but I've certainly seen all the behaviors mentioned in various of my martial arts classes, and out of them. And it got me to thinking.
My dad taught me to box, when I was so small that he had to get down on his knees for there to be any point to it. This wasn't part of a big training scheme or anything; my dad was a state Golden Gloves champ in his youth, he liked boxing, and it was something fun we could do together. I learned how to throw a good punch before I was in kindergarten.
But reading that article, I realized I also learned some other things:Girls can compete with boys in physical activities.
When you're three, your dad is pretty much the model for how you view male humanity. My dad had no problem with strapping on the boxing gloves, getting down on the floor, and duking it out with me. Therefore, duking it out with a guy (literally or metaphorically) is normal and okay, even expected.I can be hit in fun.
(Point #2 of the linked article.) Boxing gloves are padded, and my dad was always careful not to hit hard enough to do any damage. But he wasn't an inanimate punching bag, and I got popped in the face plenty of times. And the world didn't end; it didn't even wobble. I've encountered women (and a few men) in my various martial arts classes who'd never previously been hit, and they've told me it's a big hurdle for them to get over; from a self-defense aspect, it stops them cold because it's so unfamiliar. Whereas my immediate response is that supposedly-male one of "Wow, a new game!"
Makes it a lot easier to learn stuff. And it means that should I get hit for not-fun, I know it's not the end of the world; I can move past it and do what needs to be done.I can hit, too.
My dad taught me to box for real; I won't claim the four-year-old learned all the nuances, but I got the basics of everything from making a proper fist to footwork to follow-through. More importantly, my dad got popped in the face plenty of times, too. And he didn't break, the world didn't end, and not only was I not chastised, I was praised for getting through his guard. So obviously girls can hit, and girls may
hit.A tiny little girl can rock a big man back with the right hit.
My dad eventually stopped boxing with me, when I got to the point where I was strong enough and skilled enough to do damage but hadn't yet developed the control not to. Pity, but again, this wasn't deliberate fight training, this was just something fun for us to do together. There's all kinds of implications to that: I can defend myself. I am good at this physical combat thing. I can knock back my dad
(the epitome of male humanity in my small mind), therefore I can hold my own against any boy. I do this, I'm a girl, therefore girls can totally play this game with the boys.
It's not insignificant that I learned all of this before the age of five, smack in those "formative years". It wasn't just boxing, of course; my dad also taught me hunting and fishing and sports and other "boy stuff"; by the time I encountered any social messages that some things weren't for girls, I had a solid grounding of "I do those things, and I'm a girl, so obviously that message is wrong."
I don't think any of that was something my dad meant to teach me; in later years, his was one of the voices asking why I didn't do more "girl stuff" (a message I knew was wrong, thanks in large part to him, and so could ignore). He just included me in things he liked to do. But it was something I learned from him all the same, and boxing was one of the ways I learned it.
Huh. Thanks, Dad.