We were all enjoying the last remnants of sunlight, watching a mixed sex group of 12-year-olds play soccer.
One fierce and fearless girl was playing for the visiting team. Her ponytail danced in the wind as she did a stop and go, completely fooling her opponent. She’d get tripped, fall to the ground, and immediately jump up and fly after the ball.
Her performance was delighting many on the sidelines, but not all.
“Girls shouldn’t be allowed to play soccer with the boys,” solemnly proclaimed one dad. “They could get hurt.”
Yes, they could. But so could the boys.
Several of the women on the sidelines tried to engage him—in a very friendly and non-threatening way—in a conversation about letting girls have the opportunity to play with the boys.
He wasn’t buying any of it.
A teachable moment about benevolent sexism (a chivalrous attitude toward women that feels favorable but is actually sexist because it casts women as weak creatures in need of protection) didn’t happen.
Everyone sees, thinks, feels, and acts from their own unique perspective. Variety makes life interesting. However, sometimes we get stuck in the rightness of our opinions and beliefs and fail to notice how the world around us is changing.
If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death. ~Daniel Quinn, The Story of B
This dad had once seen a girl injured during a co-ed soccer game. Now he believed girls’ participation should be limited because they, in his opinion, aren’t up to the physical challenge.
Peter Elbow, a professor who writes extensively about doubt and belief, observes how our beliefs can blind us. “The flaws in our own thinking usually come from our assumptions—our ways of thinking that we accept without noticing. But it’s hard to doubt what we can’t see because we unconsciously take it for granted.”
Out of concern, this dad had created a boundary that limited opportunity.
That evening, he wasn’t ready to be curious and explore his assumptions. Dr. Elbow suggests that “our best hope for finding invisible flaws in what we can’t see in our own thinking is to enter into different ideas or points of view—ideas that carry different assumptions. Only after we’ve managed to inhabit a different way of thinking will our currently invisible assumptions become visible to us.”
Here’s hoping that someday this dad will be open “to inhabit a different way of thinking” so he can gain a better understanding of how certain notions unfairly hold women back.
Image credit: Pixabay