Archive for January 17th, 2010

January 17, 2010

Practically Marzipan: Girls, Geeks, Sports.

People who have been reading this blog for a while probably know that I write a fortnightly column of fluff in The New Indian Express titled Practically Marzipan, and have been doing so since early 2008. Most of these columns have not been put on the blog – this is partly because I’m lazy, and partly because the blog and the column are (I think) addressed to different audiences.* But a couple of people who do seem to want to read the columns have asked me to put them up anyway, and so from now on I’m going to try to be more regular.

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Recently a party I was attending descended into chaos when someone brought up the subject of sports. It started with a discussion of the merits and demerits of two particular major tennis stars that nearly led to bloodshed. Luckily, the subject was changed to football, and while things remained tense, the fear of actual physical violence was considerably lessened. The people doing most of the arguing, however, were young women. There were men at the party, but most of them were too busy looking surprised to join in.

I was brought up in a household full of sports-loving women. My mother is the local expert on cricket, and my aunt knows far more about tennis than anyone I’ve ever met. Yet when I went to school I was informed that sports was something that girls knew nothing about. It took a while to convince the people who said this that I did know what I was talking about. After that, however, things got really strange. Now that I had been established as a girl who liked sports, I was constantly told that I was unusual, and special, and superior to the majority of girlkind. With a family like my own, I had no reason to believe that this was true. But I did; everyone wants to think s/he’s special.

I know a lot of women to whom this experience will be familiar. We all grew up with some interests that were not “conventionally” female, and were told by everyone around us that this made us unique. Cars, quizzing, comic books; all of these raised us in some way above other girls. We were placed in a position where it was convenient to think of other girls with mild contempt, for traditionally “girly” activities with scorn. We could, while being female ourselves, make blanket pronouncements about women that (somehow) were not meant to apply to us. It was a weird position to take, but none of us ever really examined it or noticed its inconsistencies.

Adulthood (and a few years in an all-girls college) taught me that no one runs entirely to stereotype, and that “female” activities (as if no man ever engaged in any of these) could be as engaging, and absorbing as those typically considered to be dominated by men. I like sports (though the women at the party put me to shame with their technical knowledge). I like romance novels. I wear a lot of pink. I quiz. I cheerfully admit to being technologically challenged. And I am surrounded by people who, being individuals rather than stereotypes, have eclectic sets of likes and dislikes of their own.

And so I have been known to bite off the heads of people who dare to compliment me now by telling me how unusual I am, or male geeks who whine about a lack of female geeks in their lives. Just last week I mentioned my own geekiness on twitter and a few minutes later received a message asking if I was single from someone who knew nothing else about me. Of course I’m glad if anyone approves of my tastes in things, but surely it’s possible to compliment me without an implied insult to the rest of my gender?
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An edited version appeared here yesterday

*In that if you’re reading this blog you’re probably already into a lot of the stuff that I am into, and I tend to assume you’re familiar with what I’m talking about.