When I first saw the Always “Like a Girl” campaign a few months ago (see ad below), I was impressed. They really captured an idea that’s been very important to me in my life. I remember the often used insult among the boys, saying that so-and-so ran, threw, kicked, swung, etc, “like a girl.” From my experience, no one said it to girls as an insult, it was mainly said to other boys (though I realize this also happens). But the fact that it was said as an insult suggested that girls aren’t physically capable and that being “feminine” meant not being good at sports. So as girls started to go through puberty and started wanting the attention of the boys, many started to act in a way that they were socialized into believing was feminine, shunning sports and presenting themselves in a way that was more dainty and helpless. It wasn’t all girls, but many were clearly conflicted.
In my last blog post, How to Run a Female-Friendly Martial Arts School, I offered advice to martial arts instructors on retaining women who are truly attracted to the martial arts with the goal of alleviating some of the frustrations losing female students they see as having long-term promise. There is something to be said about the woman’s role in all this though, particularly when training in a martial arts school or style that is dominated by men. There are some inherent awkwardnesses for both men and women that can occur, but the woman can do a number of things to help make the training atmosphere better themselves and the men they train with. Here are a few ways how.
A little over a week ago, a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu school owner wrote a blog post openly discussing his frustrations that women don’t seem to stick with their training. This sentiment is not uncommon in the martial arts world, which is largely dominated by men. There was some backlash from the female martial arts blogger community at some of the comments that he made, and questions were raised as to whether he really was doing right by the women who come through his doors. I’m not looking to further that discussion, because the only women who can make any such claims either way are those who train at his dojo, and frankly, I believe the instructor who wrote the post genuinely wants to do his best to develop female students. Rather than writing a “he said-she said” style response post, I’d like to offer my own insights from my experience of being a female martial arts instructor who has been in the industry for 20 years. (more…)