I’m one of those lucky Mamas who gets to walk her kids to school every morning and pick them up every afternoon. I know I am fortunate to have this gift, so I don’t ever take it for granted. The interesting part of being able to do this little task is that I get to watch the playground dynamics of our kids from Kindergarten up to Grade 5 (the “big kids!”).
Yesterday, as we entered our schoolyard I saw three boys playing basketball and one girl trying to play basketball. Why was she just trying? Good question.
No, it wasn’t because she was clumsy. No, it wasn’t because she wasn’t dressed to play. And no, it wasn’t because she wasn’t shouting for the ball. It was because the boys weren’t passing the ball to her. No matter how many times I heard her say “Pass the ball to me! I’m here! Pass it to me! I’M HERE!! Pass me the ball!!!”. The boys didn’t.
She finally gave up. She grabbed her backpack and walked away. Her shoulders slumped and her energy completely changed. She was defeated by three little boys on the playground that wouldn’t pass her the ball.
I wanted to run up to her and yell “DEMAND THE BALL, BABY GIRL! GET BACK OUT THERE AND DEMAND THAT FRIGGIN’ BALL!!!”. But, I’m not her Mama and it wasn’t my place.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the boys in our school are very sweet, caring boys. It was just a dynamic that I saw and I had the thought “Oh wow…it starts here, does it?!”. While we battle mansplaining and still, in 2016, battle for equal pay, I realized male/female inclusion, or exclusion if you will, starts on the playground. Our little girls are getting defeated in elementary school.
No, not every day. And yes, I realize what I saw was innocent play and the boys were probably buddies just trying to have fun. But, isn’t that where “the boys club” starts? I wonder how many more times that little girl will be out there trying to join in and will end up walking away. I wonder if and when she’ll just give up trying to join. Or, I wonder when the boys will actually look up to see her towering over them (she was taller than them all by a foot) and see the opportunity for success because of her skills.
As a woman who had a job in a predominantly male environment for years, I know what it’s like to try to break into the Boys Club, to be “one of the guys”, to fit in just so I could do my job. I know what it’s like to be on the sidelines while the fellas joke and have fun. I know what it’s like to yell for inclusion. And it’s possible. You just have to persevere.
And yeah…that sucks. I know it. We still have a long road to go when it comes to inclusion, but I think we can teach our girls to demand it at an early age. We can teach our girls to stand tall and not walk away in elementary school. We can teach our girls to be strong when they want something, to demand inclusion when they want to participate. If we can give our girls the strength to stand on the foundation of perseverance, maybe, just maybe we’ll progress on female inclusion into the boys club just a little quicker. Maybe we’ll disassemble the Boys Club.
As I watched this little girl walk away, backpack on, shoulders slumped, kicking rocks I thought, oh baby girl, do I have some advice for you:
Don’t ever walk away. Stand there. Brace yourself. DEMAND THE BALL, BABY GIRL.
Keep demanding the ball until one of those players pays attention. Demand the ball until one of those little boys looks up, sees the opportunity and throws you the ball. One of them will. They may do it begrudgingly at first, but keep demanding. Demand the ball.
There may be days when you don’t feel like playing and hey, that’s totally fine. YOU get to choose that. Just walk by, high five them and find your friends.
But, baby girl, on the days when you choose to play…don’t walk away again. DEMAND THE BALL. Then, go show ‘em what you’re made of!