Tuesday, February 28, 2006
See Jane Copy Dick

A recently released book and Today Show story got my non-essentialist and non-violent panties in a bunch. See Jane Hit is a book which explores the elevated levels of aggression in school-age girls and discusses the unintended consequences of " girls’ getting physical and becoming more assertive." The author was featured on the Today Show along with a teenage girl who had showcased violent and aggressive behavior and was drawn to sports like ice hockey.

My problem with the book (and the segment) is that it does not analyze and criticize the societal problems which could arguably be "causing" the violent tendencies. Instead, the author seems to blame the increasing involvement in sports and increasing social acceptance of more aggressive female behavior. While there is some discussion of pop culture, the bulk of the case studies revolve around girls who play "aggressive" and "male" sports or who are taught to be assertive. Therefore, little Jane is more likely to strike out against the boys in her class because she learned aggression on the soccer field OR she learned to be assertive from her parents. I just don't buy it. AND WORSE, I think it continues to perpetuate stereotypical gender related behavior. These "aggressive" girls are performing their gender in ways that seem harmful and foreign. There is no discussion as to the rising violence among young and adolescent males. There is no discussion of all the times that female children have to protect themselves from agressive males. There is no discussion of video games (like Grand Theft Auto and others) that teach the children that violence against women is okay.

I am not willing to argue that all essentialist research is bad. I think "girl" and "woman" as a category can be very socially and politically empowering. I think that there needs to be research about young girls. But perhaps the research should center around the fact that once girls reach Junior High age and develop body parts that are noticeably different from boys, their participation in sports decreases. Maybe studies should look at the increase of bullying in many schools and analyze the (sometimes violent) response that often happens. And I know that research/books/etc exists out there. But I think studies like this one are damaging. Even more damaging because they are just sensational enough to be newsworthy. My discomfort stems from the idea that if we really have a problem with young girls becoming more violent because of their involvement in sports or their increased assertiveness, the obvious solution is that they stop playing sports and resort back to 1950's female performances. NOT VIABLE OPTIONS! Instead, we need to question the societal structure that exists that sends the message that any violence (from boys or girls) is okay.

I do not think that violence is an answer for conflict. I will not urge my child/children (should I have them) to strike out against bullies. I will not allow them to play video games or own toys which teach them that violent behavior is "fun" or "trivial." However, I would urge my daughter or son to be assertive, proud and unapologetic about themselves.


Blogger quakerdave said...

This book, which has previously been brought to my attention, strikes me as a not-so-subtle salvo in the latest wave of anti-feminist backlash. My, the wingnuts have been feelin' their oats lately! The last round was the "feminization of boys." (Yup, watch "Gunners Palace." Regular bunch of poofters we have running around in Iraq right now.)

It's been my experience that the girls in my classroom who play organized sports tend to be stronger academically, more self-confident, and much less likely to engage in typically knuckle-headed negative teen behavior. If I had a daughter, I'd want her to be like some of the girls I teach right now, in those ways.

Maybe conservatives should look at their OWN behavior (war-mongering, arrogant posturing, etc.) as something negative, for the sake of ALL of our children, instead of looking for boogey-women that don't exist...

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