Monday, April 04, 2011

Everyday Gender

I recently revealed that I was coaching my sons' soccer team this season and discussed all of the trepidation that I feel about that, largely because I have so little experience with soccer. Still, I forged on ahead figuring that I would fake it until I make it. So far so good, but my internal dialogue has been going strong as I have introduced myself to parents and to the Director/Head Coach of the league.

It hadn't occurred to me that the Head Coach might not have known that I was a woman. All of our interaction had taken place through e-mail. When I showed up on Thursday night to pick up the uniforms for our team, he had this strange, bemused expression on his face. It took me all of three seconds to realize that he probably didn't know the rule that Terri-with-an-i = female version of a unisex name, and that Terry-with-a-y = male version of a unisex name. I pretended as if I didn't realize that he was surprised and picked up the uniforms, trading a little banter back and forth about hoping this wouldn't be a total disaster, and left.

Because my life is so isolated in many ways, I hardly ever think about the interplay of gender on a daily basis. My family life and work life keep me busy, and I don't really perceive any huge gender discrepancies. I work and live within a very comfortable, defined bubble that suits me well. I blog and comment with men and women all the time and don't ever feel ignored because of my gender....though that may be because I don't frequent blogs with audiences that would automatically disregard me because of my gender.

Picking up the uniforms in a crowd of uber-masculine, jock-type men and being the only woman there instantly brings gender self-consciousness to the forefront of my mind. It isn't because anything overt occurs. No one ever says or does anything to make it happen; it's simply thrown in stark of these things is not like the others. It's jarring to be the not like the others person in the room.

My general attitude about women stepping into roles that are traditionally masculine, or trying to make headway in groups that naturally exclude women from leadership in usually unspoken ways, is to simply move forward. Pretend as if you are unaware of the underlying mindset and just do what you came to do.

A sort of "it's easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission" motto.....though am I really ever going to beg forgiveness for being female? Uh...that's a big NO....not ever.

Saturday was game day. My team slowly straggled in while the opposing team was fully present and practicing 30 minutes before the game. I had wanted the same thing to happen for us...but we apparently have punctuality-challenged parents on our team.

The other team's coach introduced himself, wished us luck and the game started. They scored 4 times in the first ten minutes as I evaluated my players and figured out who was good at what, having kids switch positions, subbing them in and out, trying to find the right combination of players to fight the team who was killing us.

By the second quarter we figured it out. We managed to score a point, causing me to jump and shout "WooHoo!" in a very obnoxious way. We never scored again but we also completely shut down the other team. They never made another point against us and we were all over them as I shouted and gave instructions from the sidelines.

It was probably hilarious entertainment for anyone who knew that I was relatively clueless about what I was doing.

The Head Coach came up to me afterwards laughing and telling me that I cracked him up but that we did well. The other team had been together for the last 2 seasons and they were tough competition. I wondered if he would have told a male newbie that he "cracked him up". Still, I'll take my slightly condescending praise where I can get it.

The only problem with becoming self-conscious about gender, or any difference, is that it hovers in your mind, always present as you make decisions. Now, I am wanting to do well because I don't want our team to perform awfully and have it blamed on my gender. I don't want the parents to lose confidence in me and automatically assume that I won't do as well as a male coach. I'm investing too much psycho-drama into a kids soccer league.

I wonder if men ever think about gender differences in this kind of way. Do they walk into a room of women at work and wonder how they are being perceived? Do they feel as if they have to prove something to the other gender about unspoken assumptions?

I don't know. Do they?

I know there are a lot of male readers/commenters out there occasionally. Let's hear what you have to say. Do you ever have these inner gender dialogues going on in your head?

1 comment:

james said...

Not so much with interior dialog. Deer in headlights, yes.