This week, the lovely Ms. Emily, the other half to our Playful Yogi team, drew a picture of a little girl as a superhero to represent this week’s theme: “I am strong,” and it was all too intentional. To be fair we planned this doodle weeks ago, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen an increase in posts on social media about instances in which adults, knowingly or not, imposed gender normatives on children, sigh… One of the posts was about an experiment in which researchers, “dressed a little boy up like a little girl, and a little girl like a little boy,” and asked grown-ups to play with the kiddos for some time.
The study was designed to show that whether intentionally or not, our predispositions tend towards traditional gender roles like: girls playing with dolls, or boys playing with trucks, but what the researchers did by “dressing up” the children was to assign certain items of clothing as only appropriate for little girls or only appropriate for little boys, and really that’s just a little silly, isn’t it? This long standing practice of traditional gender roles teaches us that if we are born one way then we are only allowed to like the things that we were, “born to like,” or act in a way that is “appropriate” for the way we look. Here’s the thing though, that’s nuts!
We tend to think of strength as the muscle tone in our physical bodies, and how much weight we can lift, and that’s certainly a big part of it! But, we’re more than muscle and bone, we’re a whole person, with thoughts and feelings and if we’re honest those things take strength, too. For instance, have you ever heard the phrase, “strong of character?” A strong character is one in which even though the easy thing to do is to stay silent when someone is being picked on in front of us, or when someone we know says something with which we don’t agree, we choose to do the right thing and stand-up in favor of the person being treated poorly.
It takes a lot of effort to have a strong character, to act on the thing that isn’t easy, and if effort is how we measure strength then shouldn’t we consider those of us with strong characters the strongest amongst us, even if they don’t have a traditionally strong physique, body? What’s more, a strong character is 100-percent without assigned gender norms; anyone can have a strong character, it is a learned skill that lives beyond boy vs girl, and all it really takes is confidence and critical thinking skills. Yoga can help us with both!
Certainly we can build strong bodies through our asana, postural, practice, and let me be clear both boys and girls can be very physically strong, but we can build confidence, too. When we twist our bodies, or activate our core through poses like high plank (see this week’s yogi stix,) we build strength in our energetic middle, the space in our energy bodies in which confidence resides. We can even wear the color yellow, or meditate on the sun. Further, we can build critical thinking skills by opening up our minds to the idea that anything can be possible. Do this by closing your eyes and imagining floating through outer space, or wearing the color purple. And, above all else, no matter what anyone tells you, there are no such things as boy things or girls things, there are just things.