Gender Equality in PE

Reflection

The most important, and overlooked, part of teaching is reflecting.  It is a step that requires time, a growth mindset, and the ability to look at an event with clarity and objectiveness.  This week was the first week of #slowchatpe.  I decided to come out of the box swinging and discuss the object of gender equality in Physical Education.  My heart was in the right place but my execution was lacking.  The questions did not elicit the passionate responses I was hoping for. In some cases the questions had the opposite effect of what I had intended.  It was the first time that I ever thought that I had made a huge mistake.   The professional learning community I was striving to impress and fit in with did not seem enthralled with my angle on things.  I wondered whether I lost the respect of some of these people.  Did they think I was some kind of Neanderthal who thinks that men are superior to women?  It bothered me so much that I went back and changed one of my questions after I posted it because the reaction I received made me feel so down.

I have to accept responsibility for the fact that I tackled a hard subject and did not put enough thought into the questions I was going to pose.  They made sense to me but fell flat when people did not read my blog and understand where I was coming from.  If we approach every opportunity as a learning one, than I need to learn from this. I have come up with a system where I write the questions and then have someone else read them and give me feedback before I post them.  Another change that needs to be made is that the questions should be written a couple days prior to the post.  This way I could reword the questions after I have some fresh perspective and feedback from my peers.  I apologize to any professionals who feel that I didn’t approach this with the reverence and respect the subject deserved.  I will fail forward just like I expect my students to!

This week was not all negatives though.  @mrlebrun had a great point this week:

Ross LeBrun @MrLeBrun

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A5: Don’t know this is an education Q. We can model gender equality all we want. Society needs to have some major shifts. #slowchatpe

Cassie Brooks shared one of her best practices with this tweet:

Cassie Brooks @Brooks01CL

@SchleiderJustin A2 Have coed w many girls more athletic. Like 2 offer choice of competition level not single-gender games #slowchatPE

Cassie is right. It is not about gender but physical literacy.  It is about our students learning skills that they will use throughout their lives.  It is not about the game but how the games refine their skills.  It is not about how fast you are. It is about how you can improve your physical skills to maintain wellness.

I felt this week was a success;  however, it was not the home-run that I was hoping for.  My purpose was to show that gender should never be a factor in what or how we teach.  Gender doesn’t make any difference.  What matters is the mindset of the student, the content presented to them, and the teacher removing any gender bias from their pedagogy.

Original Post

I like to discuss the things that resonate with me.  Twice in the past weeks there have been discussions about gender equality in schools.  The first discussion revolved around whether girls and boys should have equal rules in school.  (#totallyrossome)  I took the literal approach and stated that boys and girls have to go different bathrooms.  That right there shows that there are different rules for boys and girls.  As asinine as that statement appears on the surface students do know the difference between girls and boys as early as kindergarten.  I am not arguing if it is taught to them through societal values and norms or whether they naturally sense things are different between the sexes.  Bathrooms are the earliest knowledge taught to the students about gender differences.

The part of the conversation that made me question gender equality was when someone asked was it different for a boy verse girl fight than and a boy verse boy fight?  Immediately the answer was apparent to me.  In my opinion a typical boy verses a typical girl would be a physical mismatch in favor of the boy.  That statement opened a heated discussion with @SJBates as well as @mmecushmore. They challenged my assumption was wrong.

My counter to that argument was that every record in the Olympics is owned by men.  Before you attack me I go and research the dumb things that I say after they come out of my mouth. (I realize that is not the best approach but either way I am still learning.)  I was wrong. I found out that, “The equestrian events are the only Olympic sport where men and women compete against each other on equal terms. At the 2004 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, women captured the gold, silver and bronze awards in the individual event category, a four-day contest involving cross country, dressage and show jumping that until 1952 was only open to military men.” http://goo.gl/nJ4w9l

This was only one Olympic event though and the physical output was done more by the horse than by the rider.  In every other event men are objectively faster or stronger.  My mind was still set that men were physically superior to women.  The next moment I came across a statement that put a crack in my gender philosophical foundation.   Eileen McDonagh, author of Playing With the Big Boys, dropped this mind bomb, “These things, to some degree, are self-fulfilling prophecies,” she says. It does hurt women to exclude them. Just the process of discrimination stigmatizes women as inferior.” This immediately brought about thoughts of Roger Bannister’s historic dismantling of the thoughts that no human could break the sub four minute mile record.  As soon as he broke the record it became commonplace among athletes.  No woman has ever broke the 4 minute mile.  Is psychology playing a part in this?

Our heated discussion took a wild turn when I was told females were not in professional sports solely due to gender.  This blew my mind! If a woman could throw a hundred mile per hour fastball she would be a starter on the Yankees.  Whenever I search for answers I attempt to find experts and ask them questions.  In this scenario my expert was Dr. Amanda Stanec. (@movelivelearn)  She definitely thinks that female hockey goalies could compete at the same level as men.  My brain was being challenged and wouldn’t let this issue rest. Could I be wrong? Are males only superior due to societal norms?

The final thought that sent me over the edge was when I saw this photo on twitter. On the list of dos and don’ts are some great ideas. Physical education teachers should not “girl pushups” or segregate teams based on girls against boys.  I am all about having girls demonstrate skills that may have been thought of as male dominated. (pushups, pull-ups, throwing a football etc.)  What really got me thinking was when the list included saying ladies and gentleman or calling the defensive position of first base a first basemen under the don’t column.  It reminded me of the George Carlin standup when he asked where does it end? Do we call manhole covers people hole covers, or David Letterman David Letterperson?  Does the gender gap that I see exist because of what adults present as norms to females?  Why is it ok for girls to be on boys teams but not vice versa if we are really worried about gender equality? These are questions that are really starting to bother me.

I have a daughter that is two years old.  I want her to feel that she is being raised in a house of yes. A house where the only obstacles to doing what you want are safety and planning. She shouldn’t feel that gender would hold her back from anything.  What worries me is that I may be unconsciously stifling her ability to choose based on my thinking and actions.  Will telling her go be the first basemen make her think that only boys can play first base? If she is called lady will that make her feel inferior to my son?

This week I would like to engage in an open and honest dialogue about gender equality.  The questions below that will be posted daily on #slowchatPE.  #slowchatPE is a new hashtag where moderators will present a subject a week that pertains to physical education.  Each day a new question will be posted and people from all over the world can interact and discuss best practices for students.

Q1. What phrases should we stay away from in school or PE class that create consciously or unconsciously gender inequality?

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Q2. Is segregation of gender in physical education classes furthering the gender stereotypes?

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Q3. Why do you think there has not been a female that has broken the 4 minute mile?

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Q4.  Are there any areas where females are physically superior to men? Does that send the wrong message to males?

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Q5. How far left do we have to go in education for gender equality?

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6 thoughts on “Gender Equality in PE

  1. Jennifer Hogan (@Jennifer_Hogan)

    I hope there are some female PE teachers who will weigh in on your chat this week. I will try to tune in, even though I’m not nor have ever been a PE teacher. I am a former coach, college athlete, and mom to two athletic daughters. I believe in equal rights for girls and women, and I think that some of the suggestions on the list are not necessary, IMO. Looking forward to seeing the responses. Thanks for this topic!
    Jennifer

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  2. Stasie Veinotte

    Female, mom, wife and PE teacher here. I agree that there is a difference between men and women, thank you Lord, I know as a PE teacher I want my students to be the best they can be regardless of their fitness level or gende.! But you are correct we are strong in, different areas, we have babies you don’t:)

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  3. nendlich777

    Physiologically men and women are different. Neither men nor women can control the hormones their bodies produce and the resulting effects of those hormones. When it comes down to individual skill level, that is more related to hard-work and practice in many “Sports”. As educators we must provide equal opportunities for ALL students to be successful regardless of race, gender, or ability! Maybe we should ask the Spark people if we can even say “woMEN” anymore or is that a no no!

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  4. Sarah

    PE Teacher, Coach, and Former Collegiate Athlete here.. I think that society continues to hold gender biases and that it keeps cycling through the different generations. I mean, it starts from birth. Pink for girls, Blue for boys. Dolls for girls, Trucks for boys. Thinking about the many students that I teach, I think that many differences begin with what is important to them and what they value (want to get out of class)… Meaning the majority of the guys want to run as fast as they can or score as many points as they can, win… the Girls tend to act more so focusing on their skill(will be happy with a good pass, or making a good defensive move), interactions with friends/teammates, and their personal enjoyment during the activity. I find that their enjoyment is often effected by the conflicting values. I have taught at the high school level where we separated the classes by gender for 3 of the 5 days a week. I actually really enjoyed teaching it and I found that the girls got a lot more out of the class and enjoyed it as well. It was good “girl bonding” as a class, as it also was “guy bonding” for the boys class.

    Not completely sure how to pose this questions but, I’ll try… Are our expectations really different for boys and girls or are our expectations actually different depending on the students individual needs?

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