Saturday, July 2, 2016

Why the women's camp is so important to me

Last week,  I attended an event for women developers sponsored by a software company.  The keynote speaker was male. This was an entire room full of very accomplished women invited to an event where a man got up and told the  audience how important diversity was - so they couldn't find a woman to speak in their whole 50,000 person company?

In my life, I have had plenty of experiences in judo where a women's team is coached entirely by men, a training camp with 80-100 elite women athletes is all taught by men.

Looks random but isn't - Today we were recording a podcast with an African- American woman , Qianna, who was Chief Operating Officer of a multi-million dollar tech company. She mentioned another interview where someone had suggested that after the election , it would be great if President Obama would go into venture capital funding. The host said,

 "He would make partner for sure."

Qianna commented ,

"That shows you the bar a black man must clear to make partner in a VC firm"

Are all of the partners in venture capital firms former presidents of the United States? I don't fucking think so.

( Subliminal advertising we do a podcast called More Than Ordinary - you can find it here or subscribe on iTunes)

Similarly, yes, I get invited to events to teach at clinics and camps that are predominantly but I won the world championships.

Does every man who teaches a class of all-women have a world or Olympic medal?

I don't fucking think so.

This post also makes clear why I'm so excited to be coaching at the women's camp this year.

I started judo 45 years ago - I was 12 - and women were seldom 'allowed' to compete.

When the Supreme Court ruled that companies could not pay women lower wages than men because "that is what women traditionally get paid" - I was 16 years old.

 When Title IX passed, I was 14. Title IX begins
" “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”"

A key point here is that for the first years I was in judo, allowing women to compete or participate was voluntary for everyone. Even after Title IX passed, since few judo programs operated at schools or universities, it was perfectly legal to tell women and girls they were not welcome - and plenty of programs did.

I was often told that I was not an appropriate representative for judo even though I won and I won and I won and I trained my ass off. Why was I not a proper representative? As it was told to me by very well-meaning older women,

  • We've just recently been allowed to be in tournaments. 
  • We don't want to upset the men.
  •  We don't want to feed into those stereotypes of being unfeminine. 
  • You need to dress more nicely when you come to tournaments. 
  • Don't swear. 
  • Have your judo gi folded properly. 
  • Act more respectful. 
  • Women need to wear a white stripe on their belts because we're not claiming to be equal to the men.
  • You don't want them to start thinking women judoka are feminists, now do you?

The first point, although it was true, is the one that made me angriest. Maybe it made me so angry BECAUSE it was true.  Women were 'allowed' to do judo and men had the ability to 'not allow them' to do judo. Many clubs did not allow women, either just saying it flat out, giving excuses like "We have no changing facilities" or by trying to beat the hell out of any women who trained with them until they gave up and left.

I do understand those women's perspective who were unsuccessfully trying to get me to behave. They had desperately wanted to do judo, done whatever was asked of them to gain access and now some little twit like me comes along and has the possibility of ruining it for them.

Thanks to those women, and others of my mother's generation, I have the luxury of the attitude of "I have a RIGHT to be here and I don't have to be nice to you people to prove that women should be allowed on the mat."

Thanks to the women of my generation (you're welcome) young women today don't need to give any thought to whether they need to fit some special standard for women just to be allowed on the mat.


The camp is July 22-24, 2016 in Littleton, CO.  The head instructor is Eiko Saito Shepherd, who has always been a hero of mine, but that's a post for another day.


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Anonymous said...

Gender inequality....nothing new, of course. Watch Pete Seeger perform "i'm gonna be an engineer"

Caleb The MarsAddict said...

Soo true, i do karate and even tho im male i see women that r not alowed to do karate.

- Caleb The MarsAddict