When Boys Don’t Let Girls Play

There’s been much said over the last few months about how women haven’t gained much in certain work places and even in those where they have, it’s not much. Also much has been made about men not sharing power. Along with that wondering how so many men are so incapable of considering what women say or even getting women have a different view on things. For me, I get it, it’s one of those things that thanks to my own life experience, I got long ago.

Back when I was growing up I spent a lot of my summers playing baseball with a few friends and sometimes some other neighborhood boys (being athletic being one of the things that gave me some way to appear to be the boy everyone thought I was). On a few occasions I expressed my wish that there were some girls to play with us. This was met with responses of that girls don’t play baseball, girls don’t like baseball and so on. This when several of the boys had played Little League baseball on teams with girls. When everyone knew girls play in Little League. There was no way anyone could honestly claim there aren’t girls who like and play baseball. Yet they did.

Then there was one particular incident when I was 11 that taught me more than I comprehended in the moment. It was just another day, friends and a couple other neighborhood boys. While we were just standing around in between games I mentioned how I wished there were some girls to come play with us. To which one of the neighborhood boys responded with why would I want that and there’s no way he’d ever let girls play with us. That he didn’t care if a girl asked to play, he wouldn’t let her join in.

Hearing all that, in the moment, felt like I was having a dagger driven into my heart. I was only getting to play because who the boys thought I was, because of how they saw me. And there was not a thing I could say. Even bringing up that refusing to let girls join in is pretty mean. I knew better, even then, to bring it up. I already knew that some boys get really unpleasant if you call them on certain things or try to question them. And this boy was one of those boys. So I just stood there quiet, trying to not let it show how I felt.

Then there was the other part to it. I did most of the pitching back then as I was the best pitcher out of the group. And sure enough a few minutes after having a dagger driven into my heart I’m tossed the ball so I could pitch. I could think then that being a good pitcher would have put things right. But then it dawned on me later, how could it if I was never allowed to join in in the first place? It wouldn’t matter how good I was, since I wouldn’t be allowed to show it. So what good then would the skill and whatever talent for it I have ever do? What good does skill and talent do when you don’t even get a chance because of who you are or what you are or how you look?

I also knew there was nothing I could do about any of it. There would’ve been nothing a girl who wanted to join in could’ve done. Go to the boy’s mom? That wouldn’t do anything. Go to her own mom? She might get some comforting but that’s it, and it wouldn’t fix anything. A boy could refuse to let a girl join in for no reason other than she’s a girl, and that’s just how it was. No one would correct him. And no one would act on her behalf. She might even get told that boys just don’t want to play with girls and why not do something with some girls.

While in my case it was just a hypothetical, I knew it really happened. That girls were refused a chance to join in by boys, not just with baseball but all sorts of things. I’ve heard stories over the years from girls and women of things they didn’t get to do because some boy or boys wouldn’t let them join just because they were girls. And never did a boy get a talking to about how wrong that is. Almost never did someone come to stand up for the girl. And even if they did, it never lead to them feeling welcome among the boys. It just taught them boys can reject them for being girls and that there aren’t very many people in the world who will listen to never mind help out a girl being rejected just because she’s a girl.

Now go forward to adulthood and what becomes of those boys and what the mindset they grew up in fosters in them as adults. A boy who thought girls aren’t into model rockets and wouldn’t let one join in building them, isn’t going to be a man who thinks a woman can run an R&D department. A boy who thought girls aren’t into scary movies or action movies, isn’t going to be a man who hires a woman to direct or do work as a cinematographer. Even if it started as something specific, over time it’ll just grow to something general. And anyways, if they could turn girls away, what’s so different about turning women away? That’s what men do, it’s part of what they get to do. Without ever needing to think of what it is they’re doing.

There’s much been made over the years of girls and women not having certain opportunities. Yet not much is made of what causes it. That men refuse to give women chances, because it’s always been a validated prerogative to not allow girls/women to join in with things just because they’re a girl or a woman. At every step of the way, it’s validated. From early childhood through adulthood. And as boys become men they find themselves in settings where no one even thinks this is how they are.

Also it’s where women being held to different standards just to get a chance comes from. A man can do A, B and C and that’s enough, a woman does A, B and C just as well as the man and is told it’s not enough. Just because it’s a way to deny her a chance, because there actually isn’t a standard. It’s just ad-hoc bar to cross, because she’s a woman. Because no girl could’ve ever proved herself, now no woman could prove herself. So women scrape looking for those who’d give them a chance those very few who do. Because there aren’t many. After all if there were many, women would have more chances.

Now as attention goes towards, among other things, how few women get to work as directors, it’s worth considering why. That it’s sexism is a given. But it’s worth remembering where it comes from. And that this isn’t something that lends itself to easy remedy. Nor quick remedy. The only quick remedy would be to topple how things are done. And given that every day that goes by when women aren’t even considered, regardless the job, is a day and potential not just wasted, but denied, it may just have to be how it goes. Because in the end, the men who as boys wouldn’t let girls join in, aren’t all of a sudden going to reverse course. And to change the culture, means to change it, not wait around for their comfort.

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