Sexism is out there.
In fact, I bet it’s deep somewhere inside each and every American today. Even the most feminist of feminists.
You scoff, I know. Sure, some people are sexist, you say. But not everyone. Not feminists.
Let me convince you.
I have always thought of myself as a feminist. I think women and men should have equal opportunities in everything.
And I live it. I put together all our new furniture and hang all our pictures and change our light bulbs. I mow the lawn and rake the leaves and shovel the snow. I trim the hedges and chop firewood and put up Christmas lights in snow storms. My husband changes diapers and cooks, puts the kids to bed, and does the dishes and the laundry. He bathes the kids and dresses them and sings to them.
So when I signed my 5-year-old up for kindergarten soccer and saw that open square next to “head coach,” I should have checked it immediately. Because I have always, always, always wanted to coach my kids’ soccer teams. Since long before I had kids.
But, I didn’t.
I sat and stared at it. I left the form incomplete for days. I kept coming back to it and making excuses as to why I shouldn’t check that box. I’m so busy. Coaches’ kids never listen as well, and I want my son to play well. Who would watch the little one while I was coaching?
I didn’t check the box.
But the real reason I didn’t check that box? Because I’m a girl. And girls can’t coach boys soccer. Even kindergarten soccer.
I did, however, check the assistant coach box. Because girls can assist boys. Sometimes.
I am sexist.
Now, of course, that doesn’t mean everyone is. Let me convince you.
No one volunteered to be head coach for the team. When the recreation office emailed to find out if the volunteer for assistant coach was willing to upgrade to head coach, they emailed my husband. Both our emails are associated with the account, but my name was at the end of the registration form. They assumed.
I agreed anyway.
At the first practice, I wore soccer shorts, shin guards, and cleats.
The first little boy to come to the field looked at me cross-eyed and asked, “YOU’RE the coach?” And then looked at his mother with confusion written on his face. His mother tried to shoosh him with a look, but then tuned to me and explained, “He was expecting a man.”
The second player’s mother tentatively asked me, “So…have you played soccer before?”
The third player’s mother asked my husband if he’d be coaching as well.
The fourth player’s father asked if I had experience coaching.
At the end of the practice, one mother said, “You actually did well. You got some great energy out of them.” It was the actually that got me. Because I have played soccer before. I started playing when I was 7 (My mother wouldn’t let me start when I was 5 even though I begged and begged because she thought it was ridiculous to pay for 5-year-olds to play sports.)I was Most Versatile. How can you deny my awesomeness?
I played every season (I grew up in California where there were three seasons a year), every year, through high school.
I played for my high school varsity team, lettering in soccer.
I played on an intramural league in college.
In San Diego, I played on a recreational co-ed team with my then husband (who was a Marine.)
After moving to Long Island, N.Y., I refereed for a youth league for two years.
Upon moving to Michigan, I played on a UM intramural team with grad students.
And I coached an under 8 girls team. The next year, they had enough coaches and told me they gave preference to parents who wanted to coach, so I was out. The year after that, I was pregnant and life as I knew it ended for awhile…
But I’ve been playing on a women’s team for two years now and I assistant coached for my son’s team for two seasons.
I have a friend, a male friend, who is coaching a kindergarten boys team. Same city, same area, same league. He played a little soccer growing up. He was asked no such questions at his first practice, even though he’d recently pulled a muscle in his back and couldn’t even run with the kids.
Because girls don’t coach boys soccer. Even kindergarten soccer.
If I ever get Alzheimer’s, I hope that is the first thought to go. And maybe by then, everyone else will have forgotten, too.
This post was written by Penney Blakely. Contact Penney at firstname.lastname@example.org
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