Last night my son had a rare weeknight basketball game. It was a makeup game so not the usual gym time that the boys inhabit. When we first arrived there was a girls’ team practicing on the court. They had a female coach and they were about as good as you’d expect 7 year old girls to be at basketball. They were also full of spirit and working their tails off at whatever their coach instructed them to do. In other words, these girls were nothing but full of promise.
We arrived first and we stood on the sidelines and watched their full-court practice. I assumed they’d get off when it was time for the game to begin. Elementary gym time is at a premium and you don’t waste a minute of what you’re given.
As other kids arrived, they began moving out onto the court, dribbling and taking shots at whatever basket the girls weren’t currently standing under. My son did not do this. I’m not sure he wanted to, but I am sure if he had tried I would not have allowed it. We were early and this was clearly still time for this other team to be on the court. We would not get in the way.
As the minutes ticked by and more boys arrived, these girls and their female coach got pushed to half-court and then eventually out of the gym. At one point, I overheard the coach tell the girls she had the gym for another hour, so clearly there was some scheduling miscommunication. You know what I never saw? I never saw one single person talk to this coach and try to clear things up. Not one fan. Not one kid. Not one (male) coach.
No one walked over to explain the situation. No one ASKED her if they could take over her court time. They just moved in like an amorphous male blob and squeezed her out. Perhaps there was a conversation I didn’t see. Perhaps the male coaches were a little embarrassed about squeezing her out and just wanted the whole thing to end and maybe they, and the referee who arrived figured she’d get the hint when two fully uniformed teams formed layup lines on one half of the court. (It should be said that they did try to limit themselves to half-court while she was there.) Perhaps she even knew all along about the game and only appeared confused and distracted by what was going on when she really had always planned to make her practice shorter and take up less space. Maybe that’s what really happened.
But I’m afraid that’s not the case. I’m afraid those girls learned the lesson I was taught in school: the boys get gym time first and we are to make ourselves small enough to fit into whatever is left over because we are not as important as they.
I love my sons. They have a sister that they think hung the moon so it’s clear they don’t have a boy bias yet. I love my son’s coaches. They both have daughters and I am sure they think their girls are just as important as their boys. The coaches are good guys who are teaching my son incredible lessons about sports and life. I just didn’t like the one they may have inadvertently passed on last night against those girls in that gym.
The latest viral sensation is a father’s letter to his daughter from the makeup aisle in the Target. It’s admirable and beautiful and says all the things you want men to think about women. I am sure he is an excellent dad who means all those things for his daughter, and I swear I’m not being mean when I say this next thing. I hope he treats his wife and mother and sisters and female colleagues in a way that reflects all those wonderful things he said about how his daughter should feel. Because, no matter how much we love our own girls, in the end it won’t make much difference if we don’t love all the girls the same.
Girls are important. Girls are powerful. Girls are smart and valuable. Even if they’re not your daughter, please treat them as if they are. They deserve nothing less.
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