When I was in elementary school, all the kids in my grade had to do what was called “The President’s Challenge”. It included multiple exercises, such as running, sit ups, pushups, pull ups, ect. The girls and boys would be split into two sections, and then we would do the exercises in our separate groups.
One thing I remember very clearly, was that the girls were always given the option of doing “girl pushups” instead of traditional ones. At the time, this didn’t phase me. I was much too young to wonder about the sexism behind the name.
If you are not aware, this image shows what a girl pushup looks like:
Doing a pushup on your knees definitely takes away some of the pain while preforming this task. Naming it a “girl” pushup basically insinuates that girls need the help, or that girls could not complete regular pushups.
I had all women teachers, not one male teacher at my elementary school. In fact, that only male that worked there was the janitor; but I still was taught that men were stronger.
My female gym teacher would not give the “girl pushup” option to the boys, and if a boy could not do as many pushups as one of the girls, we would all laugh. That’s just how we were raised. It was funny if a girl was stronger than a boy; because it didn’t mean the girl was strong, it just meant that the boy was weak.
One blog, Unapologetically Female had an article written by a woman named Tracey, talking about this very issue. She wrote, “Designating exercise guidelines by gender rather than by ability promoted the message that ALL girls are weaker than ALL boys. ALL the time. Any exceptions to that rule were just that — exceptional.” If this image is promoted at such a young age, it can really alter both the boys and the girls perceptions of themselves and the world. It screams the idea that women are physically inferior and it blows my mind that in a school of all female authority, this was allowed.
On another blog, an article was posted, titled, “Real Pushups vs. Girly Pushups”. The author, Maggy, was advocating for women to learn how to do real pushups, instead of settling for what men have been saying is our own take on one. She wrote, “There’s no reason that women can’t do just as many push-ups as men if they are properly trained.”
So maybe, if women were taught as they were growing up that they could be just as strong and as powerful as they wanted to be, more females would have this strength. Pushups are not an easy task for either gender, but when given the option at such a young age to back out of the difficult assessment, these girls will never learn how to be strong like boys will. From the age of six, I was taught that I was weaker than boys, and that was ok. I was taught that if I didn’t want to try for a real pushup, that was ok. Contradictory to that, from the age of six, the boys in my class were taught that they were capable of doing a real pushup, and that they had to try until they could complete the task.
I did not believe in feminism until I was in high school. I thought, “Yeah, boys are physically stronger, they’re better at math, they’re taller, they’re the head of the house.” I did not care. It was the life I had been taught since I was a little kid.
It was not until I got to high school, got to really know some boys, and started to realize that in no way could this entire gender be superior to another.
There are going to be girls that are stronger than boys and there are going to be boys that are stronger than girls. That is just genetics and how hard the person is willing to train. So maybe instead of teaching girls that they don’t have the capability to be as strong as a guy, (by calling the weaker pushup a girl pushup) teach the idea that everyone has different strengths, and we all have the power inside of us to accomplish something if we work for it.