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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Playing With The Boys



Girl Guiding UK has been in the news recently after publishing the results of a survey revealing - amongst other things - that girls feel pressured to be sexy. This probably doesn't come as a great surprise.

Regular readers may remember that I help out with the Brownies in my village. The new term has just started up again, and a few of our girls have gone up into Guides - leaving us with a small pack and prompting the oft-recurring discussion about how many girls we never see because they go into Cubs/Beavers/Scouts instead. Parents can't necessarily afford to send their girls to both groups.

These two things came together in my mind - and it struck me that if you're running around climbing trees and getting muddy with the boys, you probably aren't worrying too much about whether they think you're sexy.

I do think there's space for a girls-only movement like the Guides, but I also think there are benefits to girls and boys spending more time together running around and having fun. Some girls seem to reach adulthood without ever having had male friends who weren't boyfriends - and at that stage, it's almost too late to break down the "mystery," leaving a raft of women who think men belong to a different species. I'm guessing this doesn't happen to girls who take part in Scouts - and speaking personally, I certainly benefitted from other hobbies which put me in regular contact with boys, at the age where we weren't expected to be friends in school. Maybe if Scouts and Guides had historically spent more time on joint events and activities, we could have had these benefits while also preserving some time for boys to be boys, and girls to be girls.

Did you have friends of the opposite sex, as a child / teenager? Do you think it helped to demystify them?

22 comments:

Tabor said...

Yes, I had friends and it did make me more comfortable about the male gender. It still held sexy mystery, but I also had brothers and that really helps take the mystic down a notch or two. Our culture (U.S.) continually tells girls they can be smart, but they also have to have great figures and be sexy and have long flowing hair and NOT be virgins...etc. It is most scary.

Rachel said...

No, although I did have acquaintances who were boys. I didn't find boys mysterious, though. In some ways I found them pleasanter to deal with than girls.

Perhaps I had it easy, though. I was not particularly susceptible to peer pressure, and we didn't have a television!

Hannah said...

This was a great post! I think you are spot on about how it really is important for girls to be spending time with boys just having fun and not paying attention to the differences they have =). I had many male friends when I was younger. My parents had me involved in a program called Sea Cadets and I had a lot of fun. I was a great program because it allowed me to develop leadership skills and I was in charge of boys and girls. It really gave me an added confidence boost later in life.

lakeviewer said...

You are so right!

JadeLD said...

I absolutely think that girls need a 'girls only' space like Guiding. So many other things are so integrated now and there's so much emphasis on mixing everyone up in so many other societies and organisations I think it's a great benefit that guiding has stayed girls only.

I'm also a Brownie Leader and a DC up here (so probably biased) and it's great to see the girls having their own space and being able to be themselves.

All of our Brownies are at mixed schools so I think it's good to grow up in both environments. Girls at girls only schools may also benefit from mixed scouting.

Kelly Bryson said...

I definately think the relaxed friendships with the guys in high school prepared me for being able to be the real me when I met my husband. So thanks, guy friends!

Red-haired hiker said...

I had male acquaintances through high school through tennis and the air cadets. I went to an all-girls school, and I think it was really important to meet boys socially to avoid getting sucked into the peer pressure of "ZOMG Everyone must think I'm sexy!!ELEVENTY!!".

As an adult, I have far more male friends than I do female, which might explain why I never really connected with most of the girls at school: I seem to have an inbuilt preference for guys-as-friends, and all my female friends have far more male friends than female.

travellersyarn said...

Thanks for helping out with Brownies - my girls love it, and I think that it is a valuable experience for them. Of course, they go to a co-ed school, so have plenty of exposure to boys.

Emma said...

Chick loves Brownies but would prefer to be with the local Beaver group climbing tress and making fires in the wild. Unfortunately our local Beaver group is very religious and for this reason I won't let her join as it would be hypocritical! I hope she sticks with it through Guides etc as I'm aware it's just our local group that are a little strange!!!

Fly Girl said...

What an intriguing point, Rachel. I actually have a daughter who's a Guide and will be traveling to London with her troop next year. I had to drag her through once she hit puberty, she's not interested in spending time with girls she doesn't always get along with. But I think there is value in girl focused groups, especially as puberty hits and self esteem becomes shaky. I also think there's great value in girls and boys being active together. I've always had guy friends eventhough I'm a girly girl. My daughter's the same way but she's more tomboyish.

Stephanie V said...

I agree that girls need the experience of playing/learning with boys. But they also need a time when they can learn things that may be new to them - as girls - in a 'safe' environment, without boys. As a former Brownie guider myself, I found that they had had enough time with the boys during their day in school and were ready for some girl time. At two hours a week it wasn't going to be a big influence.

For myself, I had two brothers. Boys were no mystery. My BFF until I was 16 was also the boy next door. He was my rock - and I was his.

ScoMan said...

We had one girl in our scout group when I was in scouts, which I think is because there was no guides group in my town.

Which is weird considering I was in a very rural country town.

Oh well. This is making me think too much.

A Cuban In London said...

I've always been surrounded by women, whether at home or at school and found it to be a very eye-opening experience. I think that the more mix there is, the bigger the understanding.

I laughed at your comment on my post. Go figure why that person highlighted the Red Light District! :-)

Greetings from London.

bellsknits.com said...

I didn't and I wish I had. I went to a co-ed school but everything we did socially, amongst ourselves, was geared towards getting boys to notice us.

That said, I competed against boys in English class who weren't remotely appealing to me as crush material and I found that invigorating.

Jess @ Frugal with a Flourish said...

Yes - I did have some really good guy friends growing up. I was a very goofy looking kid and sometimes the guys were nicer than the girls! :) In someways it helped to demystify them and in other ways (by the time I was a teen) I was more interested in how to "not always be the friend"! But I certainly wasn't worried about being "sexy" at a young age either.

Dedene said...

That's a very interesting subject. As a teenager, I had a few male friends, and more as an adult.
I agree with you.
Good for you for volunteering.

carma said...

My childhood was incredibly boring. But I was thinking the other day that if I land an interview for the job I've been recommended, I can get to dress non-sexy. Looking forward to that!!

Jen said...

If the girls spent more time with boys in real life, they'd know that they don't have to emulate the media's distorted image of what's sexy.

The Blonde Duck said...

I always hung out with boys until I met my husband. I'd have one or two girl friends, but I've always found I generally prefer the company of men. I don't relate well with a lot of women b/c I don't like shopping, don't want to get my nails done and like massive amounts of meat. The only girls that seem to relate to me are either under 8 or over 80. :)

Eat. Live. Laugh. and sometimes shop! said...

You are so right. And yes - I had lots of boy friends. I also had an older brother, which I think helps as well.

Great post. And thanks for visiting!

Velva said...

I was a tomboy growing-up and did not find men them so mysterious as I grew older. I think it is important for women to grow and maintain their confidence through their formative years. Scouting is a wonderful way to develop as a woman and person.

liliannattel said...

I did have a friend who lived around the corner up until about age 7. Then some distant and unpleasant cigar smoking relative called him my boyfriend and it was the end of the friendship as far as I was concerned.

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