17 December 1996
Croquet World Online
by Anne Simms in California, USA
Men as a group are taught from an early age to value aggression for its own sake, and the male identity is much more wrapped up in winning and losing than the female identity.
I applaud Richard for raising this issue, although some of his notions I think are a bit off; and I do agree with much of what Gail Curry says.
I absolutely agree that the highly competitive, linear focus at the top levels of croquet is something most women (and probably a fair number of men, too) have difficulty relating to. Men as a group are taught from an early age to value aggression for its own sake, and the male identity is much more wrapped up in winning and losing than the female identity. Thus, men are much more likely to see the point of single-minded devotion to a game. Women are acculturated, by and large, to develop skills in collaboration and cooperation and do not naturally experience the same kind of pleasure "in the hunt" as do men.
Women do, however, take pleasure in other aspects of the sport which tend to be dismissed by men as irrelevant. I think the first step in engaging them in the sport is letting women enjoy the game on their own terms, without scoffing, and trying to understand their frame of reference . One doesn't pursue something and work hard to get good at it if there is no perceived payoff. For most men this may be the opportunity to compete, best other men and win their recognition. I don't believe most women start from this place; rather, the pleasure in overt competition is something learned after other things engage them in the sport - especially the "thinking" aspect of the game, the process of learning, the opportunity to be outdoors, the opportunity for fellowship and expanding the social network, etc.
I absolutely agree with Gail that as long as men expect women not to be any good or act disdainful when they do not go about the process of learning the sport as a man would, then we won't develop strong women players. I suspect that historically the " top" women players have had strong/supportive mentors (male or female) that helped them navigate the sexual politics that exist in the game just as they do in the rest of the world.
This is an issue no one has mentioned yet, but I think it is a powerful influence for both male and female. Croquet is fraught with erotic symbolism (the mallet swinging between the legs leading to penetration of the hoop, etc., etc.). Because men and women play together, individual sexual issues are even more likely to get activated (consciously and unconsiciously ).
They were concerned my husband would feel they had some sexual motive or that his "territory" was being intruded upon.
When I was president of the Denver Croquet Club, I raised the whole question of developing women players, and the board had a number of discussions on these issues. One of the things most of the men agreed on (that they had not been consciously aware of prior to the discussion) was that they would feel awkward about calling me for a pickup game (despite the fact we were near the same ability, competed against each other frequently, and had friendly relationships.) They were concerned that my husband would feel they had some sexual motive or that his " territory" was being intruded upon. One man said, " You belong to Michael".
I don't think this concern is isolated to this one group of people in Colorado. I suspect some men may fear their spouses' reaction if they include a woman in their circle of croquet " buddies" or they may worry about not seeming macho enough to their male peers, etc., etc. How are women supposed to learn and develop if they are informally excluded from the group?
"Why should women choose to work at croquet if they are not particularly wanted, not encouraged and therefore don't have much fun?"
It takes work and dedication to reach the top in anything and anyone has to prioritize. However, i think the demands on women's time are still more multidimensional than on men's. Women still bear the lion's share of responsibility for maintaining the family unit, emotionally and practically. Most now also work full time outside the home and are running to keep up with the new skills demanded in the information age just like anyone else. Why should women choose to work at croquet if they are not particularly wanted, not encouraged and therefore don't have much fun?
They seem to be conditioned early on that they can't/shouldn't play together. Women tend not to oppose this idea, because they will usually choose perceived harmony in the relationship over sport. This is unfair to men as well as to women, I feel, and quite unnecessary.
5. THE ISSUE IS LOCAL.
I think for anything to change, individuals and clubs need to address Gail's questions: