Once when I was demonstrating a karate kata to a group of young students, a girl of about six said to me “You looked like a man when you did that.” I suppose in a way it was a compliment, but it really bothered me that this little girl’s view of someone being strong and powerful was ‘manly’. In her world, women aren’t supposed to be hard or loud, they aren’t supposed to fight.
I am a woman, and I’m even kind of girly, but that doesn’t mean I can only be sugar and spice. I wear dresses…then I change into a gi and I practice fighting. I wear makeup…then I take it off and I sweat like a pig. I paint my toenails…then I tape my toes because I keep breaking them in training. I cook dinner for my family…then we go to the dojo and I feed them knuckle sandwiches.
I’ve always tried to raise my daughter without any preconceived notions of what it means to be female, I even gave her a gender-neutral name. The attitude that women should be soft and compliant is what allows us to be victimized. We should not listen to a society that says it is wrong for us to stand up for ourselves. Too many women buy into the notion that they will not be liked or accepted if they are too strong, physically or otherwise.
I do not look like a man when I do martial arts any more than my husband looks like a woman when he sews my patches on my gi for me. The fact that he is good at sewing, and I am not, doesn’t make him any less manly, or me any less womanly. Those kind of gender distinctions are pointless, harmful, and out of date. No matter what I’m doing, I always look like a woman; hopefully a strong, confident, powerful, aggressive woman. I don’t want any more little girls thinking that those qualities can, or should, only be possessed by men.