Tag Archives: replies i came up with far too late

What I Should Have Said – feminist values? *UPDATE*

19 Feb

During staff training week at camp, the woodshop staff at Timberlake (the boy’s camp) met with the woodshop staff at Indian Brook (the girl’s camp) to discuss potential co-ed activities throughout the summer. Once there the Indian Brook staff explained to us the difference in their approach to power tools. At Timberlake, you see, we don’t use them. The campers make everything they make by hand. At Indian Brook though, well, I don’t remember the exact words, but the message was thus:

“We think it’s important, in this world where women and girls are often viewed as soft, as weak, as unable to do “men’s work,” we think it’s important to teach the girls to use power tools. To show them that they can, that they’re strong. That’s why we use power tools at Indian Brook.”

Sounds reasonable, right? I thought so at the time. At least I went along with it. Here’s what I should have said:

“While what you’re saying sounds true, the problem with it is that it only makes sense if you’re aware of a certain stereotype as pertaining to the female gender and power tools. If you don’t know that stereotype, if you’re unaware of it, what you’re doing doesn’t make sense. So in order for your policy to be understood you are teaching an awareness of the stereotype. Despite your intentions to do the opposite, you’re supporting and perpetuating the stereotype of women and girls as weak and unable to use power tools (calling this “men’s work” perpetuates another stereotype).

In so doing you’re also going against the values of Farm and Wilderness which are for doing things by hand, and not using excess power and electricity when it’s not necessary. Getting back to the earth and to work (love made visible) with the body as much as possible. You’ve supplemented that foundational value with an agenda of your own.”

If I had said that (and I should have) it probably would have changed nothing (though it’s likely I wouldn’t have been on friendly terms with some of them anymore), but I would have stood up for what I believed, and that’s the most important thing.

I’ve remembered the flip side to this which is that a boy camper can spend a week measuring and sawing by hand the eleven pieces of wood needed for a chair, and then spend another day sanding them all down, by hand, and then find out that if he were a girl at Indian Brook he could have done all this with a power saw and sander in one afternoon.
Why? Because girls are capable of that? So is this boy… So why is that fair? Because the boy is getting to experience the joy of doing something the old fashioned way? The girls are missing out? That’s not often a very satisfying answer to a 12 year old.


I want them to see me naked

6 Jun

“I swim naked at the waterfront in part because I want them to see me naked, I want these boys to look at me and see a healthy, attractive female body and see that I’m not ashamed and that it’s just a body.” and with that proclamation, Anna earned profound respect and perhaps a fair amount of awe.
I’m paraphrasing of course, since she said this during staff week (before the campers arrive) in my last summer on staff (2003?) at Timberlake, so I’m sure I don’t remember the exact wording. I remember the message (if not the words) of what she said because it made me so thankful that she was there and that she had said it. (As you know if you’re a regular reader, I feel somewhat strongly about Fifth Freedom.)

But it occurs to me today that her statement is a sign that Fifth Freedom is just not “working” the way it used to when I was a 9 and 10 year old camper. If she had said, instead, “I swim naked at the waterfront because they don’t see me when I do.” that would have made perfect sense. In other words, being naked at the TL waterfront (or anywhere else at TL) shouldn’t be noticeable. It should be something that you could notice (like the fact that your heart is beating) if you paid attention to it, but not something that really warrents too much attention (like the fact that your heart is beating).

Since it was more noticeable when someone had a suit on when I was there, the message of “bodies are healthy, normal, and something to be proud of (or at least not ashamed of)” was much stronger and easier to understand, even to a 9 year-old boy shocked at the site of a sea of bodies.