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Monday, March 3, 2008

Taekwondo for Girl Power


Does it strike anyone else as odd that girls and women are most commonly attacked by both strangers and significant others - but least likely to be taught self-defense?

The more I think about it, it's not just odd, it's absurd.

I think my daughter is most empowered if she is learning how to protect and defend her own body versus jumping up and down cheering for the athletic excellence of the boys playing football.

I've got Ainsley taking a Taekwondo class and I can't say enough about the benefits.

It's completely gender neutral, a sport where girls are as likely to excel as boys and instructors are both men and women.

It's focused on discipline and respect, which I find useful as a parent who struggles to get my kids to obey.

It's centered around personal excellence. In other words, you aren't necessarily competing with other athletes as much as you are trying to push your own self to the next belt level.

It is confidence building in that she's learning something new and achieving levels of excellence.

I think she'll carry her physical body in a more assertive way. Studies have shown that girls tend to try to disappear or shrink as they get older, feeling less worthy of taking up physical space. I hope Karate will make her feel entitled to all the space she wants.

Also I hope it will make her feel her body is a source of action and strength instead of a just an ornament meant to look pretty for male approval.

They are encouraged to use their voices and their bodies to defend their own persons. Like any parent my worst fear revolves around someone feeling they have a right to physically over-power my daughter and attack her. I hope that Taekwondo will improve her chances of escape and survival should that happen.

I recently started taking a kick-boxing class and I think it's the first time I've been given carte blanc to be physically aggressive. It feels good. It feels powerful. It feels a forbidden to me. I want Ainsley to know the feeling of aggression, which I assume is familiar to boys and men, and be okay with it.

At the very least I hope it will instill an identity as confident and strong person, as opposed to a physically weak victim.

Also, it's very reasonably priced at only $15 a month for 8 classes.

10 comments:

Rebecca said...

Good for you!

Anna said...

Can i make a respectful request:

Those of us who do cheerleading are not "less feminist" or "less empowered/female" by what we choose to do.

Please amend your post to be more respectful and considerate to us - if Ainsley ever decided to do cheerleading would you support her?

Tracee said...

Anna, I don't mean to offend cheerleaders. I've written about cheerleading as a sport before and I realize it's a sport in and of itself that's highly athletic and competitive.

But, I also admit that I am uncomfortable with it as the most empowering sport for girls.

I did let her take a very short vacation Bible school cheerleading class.

But I intentionally avoid cheerleading camps and cheerleading gyms in general.

One reason I hesitate to be rah rah for cheerleading is that its main purpose is to cheer for someone else's athletic prowess. I would prefer my daughter be focused on her OWN athletic ability and her own sport.

Now, you have to remember I live in Texas so cheerleading here is probably much more intense than in other places.

For instance, my husband's company recently sponsored a college Bowl game where they held a banquet. At the banquet they brought in very scantily clad high school cheerleaders as "the entertainment" - literally. Those college boys posed - as if they were Hugh Hefner - with those high school girls for photos. My husband came home and said, "Ainsley is never going to be a cheerleader."

It's just not girl-empowering to be an ornament to a football player. That's how cheerleaders are treated and perceived here in small town East Texas.

This may not hold true in other places. Cheerleading has also been sited as sexualizing and objectifying with negative self image consequences by the American Psychiatric Association's report on Sexualization of Girls.

Cheerleading is so exteme in Texas it's a source of mother- competetiveness and is very appearance oriented. By which I mean, a girls value is grounded in what she looks like. Which leads to in increased mean girl behavior based on appearances. This is also why I avoid dance classes here.

So, in answer to your question - I will stear Ainsley in another direction hoping she doesn't want to be a cheerleader. I hope exposing her to more less-appearance-oriented sports like soccer and karate will give her better body image and self esteem and make her less focused on appearance as her source of value.

This, is in large part due to the local girl-culture of cheerleading and the sexualized and appearance-focus and ornamental function cheerleaders appear to have here. I realize this may not be true in other cultures and if we move I'm willing to reconsider the local tone.

Still, Anna, I don't wish to demean or be disrespectful to cheerleaders.

anna said...

When you say you are against dance because of mean girl culture - does this include ballet?

Tracee said...

Ballet is lovely.

Liza's Eyeview said...

Oh I highly agree! My son has been taking Taekwondo for 3 years .. my daughter initially didn't want to. She's more into ballet and jazz. We kept on encouraging her .. and last night she said she's almost willing to try. A little more encouragement i guess. I think I'll tell her about this post and will show her your daughter's photo.

I can't say enough good things about Taekwondo. One reminder is to find a good dojang and great instructors - they make a huge difference.

Yes, Taekwondo empowers! Good for you daughter for taking it. More power to yah! :)

Liza's Eyeview said...

Oh I forgot to mention that my son's "master" in Taekwondo is female. She's one of the best!

Papa Bradstein said...

You may have already found her, but Black Belt Mama's blog is a great source of information, support, and fun stories about a woman practicing martial arts along with her daughters.

Tracee said...

Thanks for the tip Papa, I'll be sure and check her out and add her to my blog roll.

Sarah said...

This is such a great post! It's great that your daughter is finding her inner strength. The cheerleading debate is interesting. I was on the dance team for one semester in college, and it did seem like the football players looked at us as "theirs." Some really bad things happened that year, and my eyes were opened to that culture.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Taekwondo for Girl Power


Does it strike anyone else as odd that girls and women are most commonly attacked by both strangers and significant others - but least likely to be taught self-defense?

The more I think about it, it's not just odd, it's absurd.

I think my daughter is most empowered if she is learning how to protect and defend her own body versus jumping up and down cheering for the athletic excellence of the boys playing football.

I've got Ainsley taking a Taekwondo class and I can't say enough about the benefits.

It's completely gender neutral, a sport where girls are as likely to excel as boys and instructors are both men and women.

It's focused on discipline and respect, which I find useful as a parent who struggles to get my kids to obey.

It's centered around personal excellence. In other words, you aren't necessarily competing with other athletes as much as you are trying to push your own self to the next belt level.

It is confidence building in that she's learning something new and achieving levels of excellence.

I think she'll carry her physical body in a more assertive way. Studies have shown that girls tend to try to disappear or shrink as they get older, feeling less worthy of taking up physical space. I hope Karate will make her feel entitled to all the space she wants.

Also I hope it will make her feel her body is a source of action and strength instead of a just an ornament meant to look pretty for male approval.

They are encouraged to use their voices and their bodies to defend their own persons. Like any parent my worst fear revolves around someone feeling they have a right to physically over-power my daughter and attack her. I hope that Taekwondo will improve her chances of escape and survival should that happen.

I recently started taking a kick-boxing class and I think it's the first time I've been given carte blanc to be physically aggressive. It feels good. It feels powerful. It feels a forbidden to me. I want Ainsley to know the feeling of aggression, which I assume is familiar to boys and men, and be okay with it.

At the very least I hope it will instill an identity as confident and strong person, as opposed to a physically weak victim.

Also, it's very reasonably priced at only $15 a month for 8 classes.

10 comments:

Rebecca said...

Good for you!

Anna said...

Can i make a respectful request:

Those of us who do cheerleading are not "less feminist" or "less empowered/female" by what we choose to do.

Please amend your post to be more respectful and considerate to us - if Ainsley ever decided to do cheerleading would you support her?

Tracee said...

Anna, I don't mean to offend cheerleaders. I've written about cheerleading as a sport before and I realize it's a sport in and of itself that's highly athletic and competitive.

But, I also admit that I am uncomfortable with it as the most empowering sport for girls.

I did let her take a very short vacation Bible school cheerleading class.

But I intentionally avoid cheerleading camps and cheerleading gyms in general.

One reason I hesitate to be rah rah for cheerleading is that its main purpose is to cheer for someone else's athletic prowess. I would prefer my daughter be focused on her OWN athletic ability and her own sport.

Now, you have to remember I live in Texas so cheerleading here is probably much more intense than in other places.

For instance, my husband's company recently sponsored a college Bowl game where they held a banquet. At the banquet they brought in very scantily clad high school cheerleaders as "the entertainment" - literally. Those college boys posed - as if they were Hugh Hefner - with those high school girls for photos. My husband came home and said, "Ainsley is never going to be a cheerleader."

It's just not girl-empowering to be an ornament to a football player. That's how cheerleaders are treated and perceived here in small town East Texas.

This may not hold true in other places. Cheerleading has also been sited as sexualizing and objectifying with negative self image consequences by the American Psychiatric Association's report on Sexualization of Girls.

Cheerleading is so exteme in Texas it's a source of mother- competetiveness and is very appearance oriented. By which I mean, a girls value is grounded in what she looks like. Which leads to in increased mean girl behavior based on appearances. This is also why I avoid dance classes here.

So, in answer to your question - I will stear Ainsley in another direction hoping she doesn't want to be a cheerleader. I hope exposing her to more less-appearance-oriented sports like soccer and karate will give her better body image and self esteem and make her less focused on appearance as her source of value.

This, is in large part due to the local girl-culture of cheerleading and the sexualized and appearance-focus and ornamental function cheerleaders appear to have here. I realize this may not be true in other cultures and if we move I'm willing to reconsider the local tone.

Still, Anna, I don't wish to demean or be disrespectful to cheerleaders.

anna said...

When you say you are against dance because of mean girl culture - does this include ballet?

Tracee said...

Ballet is lovely.

Liza's Eyeview said...

Oh I highly agree! My son has been taking Taekwondo for 3 years .. my daughter initially didn't want to. She's more into ballet and jazz. We kept on encouraging her .. and last night she said she's almost willing to try. A little more encouragement i guess. I think I'll tell her about this post and will show her your daughter's photo.

I can't say enough good things about Taekwondo. One reminder is to find a good dojang and great instructors - they make a huge difference.

Yes, Taekwondo empowers! Good for you daughter for taking it. More power to yah! :)

Liza's Eyeview said...

Oh I forgot to mention that my son's "master" in Taekwondo is female. She's one of the best!

Papa Bradstein said...

You may have already found her, but Black Belt Mama's blog is a great source of information, support, and fun stories about a woman practicing martial arts along with her daughters.

Tracee said...

Thanks for the tip Papa, I'll be sure and check her out and add her to my blog roll.

Sarah said...

This is such a great post! It's great that your daughter is finding her inner strength. The cheerleading debate is interesting. I was on the dance team for one semester in college, and it did seem like the football players looked at us as "theirs." Some really bad things happened that year, and my eyes were opened to that culture.