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Why I Won’t Let My Daughter Quit Taekwondo: Gender Stereotypes

Dear Daughter,

Ever since I can remember, I always dreamed of having a daughter. Sure I loved fluffy dresses, pretty bows and the color pink but there was much more; I wanted to have a daughter so she can change the world.

Boys too, can change the world, but they have already been doing this for thousands of years. Some boys change the world for the better, many of them change it for the worse. To them, this world looks very different than it does for a girl–and I knew at a young age, that we need more girls, not merely boys, to make this world a better place.

Luckily your grandparents never treated me differently than your uncle because mommy is a girl and he is a boy. Unfortunately, I later learned that in many families in our culture and across the world, boys and girls are treated differently simply due to their gender, and that this creates a series of psychological, emotional and social problems for generations to come. One day you will see this and I’m certain we will spend hours discussing these issues, so I won’t go into too much detail today.

All I can tell you now is, don’t rush into learning about the complexity of gender- just enjoy who you are today, not as a “girl” but as YOU. Enjoy it as long as you can because soon the world will force you to think about who you are “as a girl.” The world will begin to categorize you, stereotype you and pigeonhole you.

But don’t worry because I will be here to guide you through it when that one day comes. It may seem complicated and daunting at times but I learned a thing or two about being a girl and woman in today’s world. Mommy will always be here for you. We got this and it will be worth the journey, I promise.

Ever since you were little, I knew you should be in some kind of physical activity because of your abundant energy. We tried dance, ballet and gymnastics but none were without concerns. Then I realized martial arts may be the best way to teach you the skills that I find most valuable especially for young girls.

Your first encounter with Taekwondo wasn’t very smooth. Just like ballet and dance, there were too many parents watching and too many kids in one room. You were shy, scared and wanted to go home. But I knew deep down inside this is one activity that can show you what I want to show you about the world. So I continued to take you.

Soon I began to notice a change in you. Your voice got louder, kicks got harder and body language became more confident. You are still a chatter box with girls near you and wave at me to leave because for some reason, you get shy when I sit there and watch you along with other parents.

Even now dancing and singing comes more naturally to you than martial arts. But I won’t let you quit because I see that Taekwondo is making you more confident, more strong and more disciplined not “for a girl,” but for YOU.

After over a year, you are now starting to appreciate your own strength and abilities. You walk into the studio uncertain and walk out full of confidence and power. I see other boys watching you admiringly as you do your roundhouse kicks and front flips just like them, sometimes better than them. I can sense your delicate power.

And this brings me great joy, because you are already changing the world.

You may not grow as tall as the boy next to you but you now know that you can do anything that a boy does. You can punch just as hard, kick just as high, run just as fast if not faster than the boys in your class. You compete and spar with other boys, not just with other girls. You wear the same uniform that a boy does, not a pink sparkly version. Your belt testing looks the same as other boys; the movements, the thickness of the boards, the form, the voice, the gihap (chant), everything is the same.

One step closer to her goal  One step closer to her goal

I used to think the only reason girls should learn martial arts is for self-defense. I now realize this isn’t the case.

More girls should learn martial arts 1) to be physically active and confident from a young age and 2) because it teaches you that you are no different than the boy next to you.

A girl doesn’t learn martial arts simply to protect herself from violence, which unfortunately is a part of any girl’s life, but more importantly to find her non-gendered potential, to rise above stereotypes and boundaries.

In Taekwondo, you’re not a girl. You’re not good for a girl.

You are YOU- and your gender makes no difference to your commitment, dedication and accomplishment.

THAT is what I want to teach you before anything else, before shopping, fashion and makeup. One day we will have fun with all this too- you know how much I love cute outfits and hairstyles- but first, you must learn this.

You can do anything, I mean ANYTHING, that a boy does. You too, can change the world. No, you MUST change the world, because there is still a shortage of girls who do this.

At age 9, your interests for fashion, makeup and mermaids are growing by the day. You are still a sassy girly girl, and that’s okay…I wouldn’t want you to be anything less. You love Taylor Swift, Disney shows and mermaid hair tutorials. But thanks to martial arts, you are now a girl who can be pretty, girly, sensitive, expressive AND strong, active, disciplined and confident. You don’t have to choose either feminine or masculine.

In fact, there is no such a thing. You can be all and more. 

You are now smart enough to know you are no different than other boys. You won’t just excel in girl sports or girl activities, you will excel in a more encompassing co-ed activity. You will continue to learn alongside boys, compete with boys, play with boys and one day date boys.

You will never stop being a girl and woman, there is so much beauty and fun in this– but you will never let a boy convince you that you are only good “for a girl,” or that you are less than he is in any shape or form. You won’t be convinced because you now know better from firsthand experience.

Rise above it baby girl, fly higher.

Don’t let the world tell you who you are because it doesn’t know any better. Enjoy your pretty hair, makeup, fashion and boyfriends. All these are wonderful facets of womanhood that makes being a girl so fun and fabulous. But most importantly, enjoy BEING YOU, because you are much more than your gender.

Don’t ever forget that.

Rise above it baby girl, go change the world. Show the world that a girl can be girly AND a badass, ALL AND MORE.

Love,

Mom

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