I go to a co-ed school. Mostly, it’s pretty good at being welcoming to all genders — we aren’t separated for any academic classes, and you aren’t particularly encouraged/discouraged into anything because of your gender. This is with the obvious exception of sport.
For some reason I’ve always directed my general frustration with school at sport. I’ve never been good at team sports, so I spent most of my primary school days being told to practice shooting in the corner as the A team was coached. It’s definitely better now, but there’s still a massive gap between boys’ and girls’ sport.We do play hockey, tennis, and water polo mixed, which is great. But continuing down the list: girls do netball, dance, fitness, and rounders. Boys do football, fives, cricket, and occasionally softball. I quite honestly cannot fathom the reasons for this…?
I often see the ‘males have a biological advantage over females’ argument put forward. I don’t actually know the science of that, but top male athletes do perform better than female athletes. Still: I would like to know the strength required to play fives. Obviously women could never be physically capable of patting a ball against a wall. It couldn’t possibly be because fives is a sport almost exclusively invented and played by public schoolboys. Of course not. -_-
It’s not just girls wanted to play ‘male’ sports. I know a lot of boys who’ve expressed interest in playing netball or rounders. (Although there are probably also many who would only play it as a joke, so that’s not the best argument.) I detest the idea that girls must do fitness but boys are…I don’t know, already fit. Encouraging gender stereotypes doesn’t help anyone, and it certainly doesn’t teach values of equality to your pupils.
And all this discussion discounts the existence of non-binary pupils. Let’s just remember that non-binary genders aren’t even recognised under UK law, fabulous! Which apparently doesn’t result in ‘any specific detriment’. Apart from the obvious detriment of being forced to choose a gender that doesn’t represent you, and effectively being told that your identity isn’t as worthy as someone else’s. Not being able to access the right healthcare. Not being able to choose the correct title. Not being able to apply for jobs, courses, use public services because they require presentation of ID that only has two gender options. (I found some of these in this article, where you can also find many other quotes about the Ministry of Justice’s statement and living as a non-binary person in Britain.) It also means that there’s very little awareness of non-binary identities, and schools probably aren’t going to start doing things to support pupils who don’t identify as either male or female.
Sports, like many others things, is just very linked to the gender binary, since the divisions are based on sex and physiological advantage. Maybe with the exception of roller derby, which I really recommend you check out because it altogether seems pretty cool. I don’t know how we’d solve that. I probably wouldn’t want all my sports lessons mixed. I know that I’d be uncomfortable around many boys, because they have harassed me and I really just don’t like them as people. (I guess I deal with them in class, though?) A lot of young people — and above, too — are embarrassed of their bodies. They don’t want to be around the ‘opposite’ gender, and it’s difficult to just force that to happen, you know? Maybe it’s better when you’re in a sports team with fellow players who respect you, but I’m unlikely to ever be in a position. But then again: mixed teams are going well, so maybe we should just take the lessons together and be done with it.
It’s difficult. I know that I’m pointing out everything that’s wrong and not providing very good solutions. In general the state of Britain and current UK politics is pretty depressing right now. Still: to be honest, teaching fives to girls and netball to boys wouldn’t be that difficult. Neither would legally recognising non-binary genders. *coughs* But though I don’t know if there’s a perfect solution to gender and sport, I hope that it’s something we continue to explore and improve.