Sometimes in school I wished I was a boy. Art, writing and singing were encouraged in my all girls school but I was a sports-mad tomboy. At home I climbed trees and made obstacle courses with my older brother. My Dad showed me how to mix cement and fix presses.
My mother was a teacher in the boy’s school on the other side of the fence so I had access to both sides at different times of the day. From spending all day on the girl’s side and the evening on the boys, I realised just how much we were categorized. A huge sports field, basketball court and hall were given to the boys but we got tarmac (later a basketball court) and a stage for performances. From a young age I could not comprehend why we could not cross the fence and play in the sports field. Instead of playing tag, I longed to kick a football.
At home these boundaries were completely blurred and my tomboy activities were nurtured. My Dad brought me to Laois football matches and my love of sport developed. One of my favourite shops was a builder’s supplier where I was surrounded by men on both sides of the counter.
In the last year of primary school I joined my local basketball team. Finally I met some other sporty girls from my local mixed school. Sport was encouraged there and it was a relief to finally realise these divisions shouldn’t be in place between sexes.
When I moved to secondary school, it was also an all girls scene. This school was different though as sports were promoted, they were in fact compulsory in first year. It was there I found my love of science which I went on to study in college. They did not put women into categories and even catered for tomboys.
Growing up in an all girls environment definitely affected how I interacted with the opposite sex. They were like a different species to me and my friends. It changed my teenage life substantially but I now realise it wasn’t the single sex school that was the main problem.
The stereotypes that were set in my primary school frustrated me. I am glad that I questioned the physical barriers that influenced our behaviour so much. Having an older brother allowed me to experience activities that would be considered blue rather than pink. I had a very happy childhood but I’ll never forget coveting the green field on the other side of the fence.
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