On Saturday I found a new and different test, for girls, which if I were a young psychologist eager to do something more interesting that repeat that test. I'd taken the kids to crossfit at the NUS track, and was desperate to get my first run of the week in. It's been a very stressful 2 weeks to say the least. So I went a little early. One of the fathers was playing basketball with his daughter. They were having a good old father-daughter sporting bonding time together. And what happened? Well, a bunch of the boys who were running around the track cottoned on to the fact that there was a good time to be had. So off they went and joined the game.
I continued my loop, and next thing I see is that the little girl is sitting sulking on the bench while the boys have taken over the game.
I went up to her and urged her to go and reclaim her game with her dad. She was too cross to, so I left it. But I didn't leave thinking about it.
What are the implications? It doesn't stop here on the basketball court with a friendly bounce around does it? Is there some way of looking at how little girls play and what they do when boys take - over and then their success / failure later in the (still) male dominated business world. I suspect there may be.
A lot has been said about "dysfunctional communication" that occurs between men and women, although I'm not so sure that it's always a gender thing. I've been at the receiving end of some of that behaviour from fellow women as well (school PA/PTA's are a wonderful thing aren't they? Never mind the playground). I'm not the only one who thinks this way, as can be seen in this huffington post article.
And then there is Rebecca Solnit. This must be one of the best articles I've read this year so far. She goes into "mansplaining". I don't know many intelligent well spoken, well read, successful in their field women who will not cringe in recognition when they read this. They will cringe for the men (or sometimes women, because god knows there are some awful arrogant "know it all" women out there as well) and they will cringe for themselves. Because the truth is we really, truly, after all these years, all these gains, all this damn expensive education STILL don't know what is an appropriate response. So if you're like me, you just suck it up in silence while in your mind this neon sign saying "wanker, wanker, wanker" is blinking on and off in technicolour.
What ever the answer is though, it DEFINITELY isn't sulking. Oh my god, girls, what ever you do, don't sulk. I grew up in a household with a sulky mother. God that is an awful thing. You know what? No one feels sorry for you when you sulk. No one respects you if you sulk. No one actually cares if you sulk. They just leave you to sulk. If there is ever an inappropriate response it is sulking. Crying is little better. Non-sulking silence doesn't really help anyone. All that is passive aggressive behavior and completely inappropriate, not just at work but in life as well.
What works? Humour always works with men. It's the lowest common denominator thing, and few women do humour or do it well without it being sarcastic. The women I know who do, are brilliant. They're the strong ones. They're the ones I want to have a video recorder around as I see them traverse through life, fun guns blazing, getting things done without being walked all over. Quiet steely assertiveness that doesn't humiliate can also work. Finding allies is another possibility.
How do we get from the basketball court to where we need to be in life as a woman?
Perhaps this is where dads come in. But dads are men. I just don't know if they see it unless you rub their noses into it. But who is going to do that? Well I will now. So if you're a mum, let dad read this. I would have liked dad to call a time out on the game and say, "this is my girl's game, " and ask her who she'd like in her team. Or, when the boys come and want to join, defer to their daughter as to whether it's ok or not. It means being a tough dad, and saying to your girl "listen, sulking never made anything better, how are you and I going to make this a situation where everyone wins?" It means doing lots of sport with your girls. Even if they are a bit slower and less dexterous (initially) than the boys. It means believing in your girl and her strength, and coaching her in her weaknesses.
So, any aspiring psychologists out there, get over to a basketball court and please do some research on what works!