October 13, 2008

En Garde

I'm a fencer. Foil, to be exact. And at my fencing academy we have a sign that says "In Ferro Veritas" - "In the Sword is Truth," explaining below that this means that fencing does not discriminate on the basis of age, sex, religion, sexual orientation/gender identity, race, any of it. My coach makes a point of reminding us of this, again and again - "It doesn't matter if you're short or tall, if you're a guy or a girl. Just be faster and smarter." Other sports put women in a special category - there's "soccer" and "girls' soccer," "lacross" and "girls' lacross," often with different rules. Fencers all have the same name, the same rules, and you only really separate out by gender at the highest levels - at the lower tournaments that I compete in, I'm as likely to fence a boy as a girl, and it doesn't make much of a difference.

When I first started, I was on an amazing team that was split right down the middle as far as gender goes. We had some incredible women, and some incredible men, and everyone respected everyone.

Then, all our incredible women left or graduated.

Today, when I went to fencing, two classes were going on, a little kids' class and mine. I was the only girl in my class of 6. In the little kids' class, there was one lonely girl fencing in a sea of 20 or so hyper little boys.

"We'll have the one girl lead stretches. Make a circle around her." Coach said. So they made their circle, and someone asked why the girl was leading. "Because that's how it should be," Coach said.

"Damn straight," I said, taking the joke, and started to lead stretches.

More slightly sexist mutterings. "Know what'd be even scarier? If you were Hillary Clinton," one boy said.

Um, what?

So I stabbed him extra-hard when we were bouting.

I love fencing. I feel like, in terms of gender equality, martial arts are generally a lot cooler than traditional sports. But it bothers me that my team of strong, respectful girls and guys has dwindled to a handful of girls and many idiotic teenage boys, and it bothers me even more that there are so few young girls getting involved. I watched the Summer Olympics and was amazed by the talent of the incredible women's US saber team and all the other fantastic fencers - where are the fantastic ladies like that in my area?


Unknown said...

If it makes you feel any better, love, of the 15 - 17 n00b fencers at UMW, only four or five are boys. So, apparently they all ran away to UMW.

Spiffy said...

XD As long as they're somewhere, I guess!