Tuesday, August 17, 2010

GASP! A GIRL playing SOCCER? (UGH... Homophobia and Sports...)


Click on the picture to see the surprising array of items for sale...

I'm almost done with the soccer postings... Here's my last one...

I just had to take these pictures in a store that sells sports-related gifts. An entire wall is devoted to SOCCER and GIRLS' LOVE OF THE SPORT.

What is blog-worthy about this? Seems pretty obvious, no?

Not to anyone living in Russia... I brought the director of our elementary school into this shop when she was visiting us last month and she was STUNNED.

You see, even in the girls' Western-style "enlightened" school... girls just DO NOT play soccer.

The P.E. teacher is a wonderful woman who was even on the national team back in her day, winning many titles! Who better to coach our girls? She would LOVE to!

But we don't have enough girls to form a team! (The BOYS get to have a team, and they even got to play a game in the Olympic stadium!) I rallied and rallied, trying to convince other parents to let their girls sign up. No can do... While some parents do think a girls' team would be great, there just aren't enough. (I noticed that most of those supportive parents work in Western companies and have significant interaction with foreigners... Many of them have also lived for a period overseas...)

You see, in Russia, only LESB-ANS* play soccer. This is a "fact" according to almost everyone I asked. ARGH.

It's really too bad... There are girls in the elementary school who would love to play, but their parents just won't let them...

Maybe it's the way people raise an eyebrow when boys do ballet in America? But do people even do that anymore? Maybe it depends on where you are in America? It's no big deal at all for boys to wear tights (even when eight or nine!) under their clothing or to dance in Moscow... So what's the big deal about girls and soccer?

Katya has so many t-shirts featuring soccer, all covered in sparkly sequins... And headbands, bracelets, etc... No one gives her any trouble for it, though... Pretty much anything our family does that's odd (letting the kids pick out their own outfits and do their hair--however they turn out, my wearing flats, my using a backpack, the girls wearing short-sleeved shirts all year long, the decidedly casual style of the girls' clothing, my ever-present travel mug) is simply chalked up to our being "American" and let slide...

I'm repeatedly amazed by the intensity of homophobia in Moscow... In popular culture, the color light blue, or "goluboi," also is a derogatory term for a gay man. As a result, I've ended up removing blue playing pieces from board games I use in class—so that no boy is stuck having to use them (no one EVER wants them, any way), thus subjected to any kind of teasing. It's ridiculous! Others shrug it off when it happens, but I can SEE how much it hurts some kids and I just won't allow it in my presence...

Now I really understand how when I was hired, the Director of the school told me that one of his main hopes for my teaching wouldn't be simply to share native-speaker English—it would be to share an American belief of TOLERANCE.

Here's raising a glass in the hopes of more open-mindedness in the future... (The other parents at our school would NEVER believe that anyone would even make—or buy—or use—this set above...!)

*Just a note about how I wrote the word without the "i." I only did this to reduce the number of hits from people looking for "adult" content. I'm SICK of getting readers like that, readers who sometimes leave a trail that brings other such readers. Having monitored for a few years what key words bring new readers to my site, I've learned to avoid anything that could attract people looking for *ornography. I've also learned what words in general to avoid with a blog that has "American Girls" in the title! I certainly meant no offense.


Tina in CT said...

Hopefully the Russians will wake up and see the light. It's a shame that your girls can't play on a school team. Russians have a lot of superstitious ideas (such as becoming sterile from sitting on cement).

This store looks like a good source for future gifts for the girls. Do I see a soccer scrapbook in the picture? Unfortunately the pages I've done exactly fit the album I'm using.

Anonymous said...

I have a blogger account but I won't use it because I have chosen not to be "out" in the blog world.

This statement of yours :

"You see, in Russia, only LESB*ANS (I'm writing the word that way so that freaks don't find my blog when googling the word)"

Is honestly hurtful. I understand your talking about homophobia and promoting tolerance - but this sentence seems to show a lack of tolerance.

Not everyone googling the term lesbian is a freak - yes some people will be looking for inappropriate things (and well yes I question there character) but just as often it is a child questioning their identity, or a lonely teenager who doesn't know how to find other GLBT members, or even an elderly woman who has denied her sexual identity for her entire life.

That sentence could have been worded in a million other ways.

like: (I'll exclude the word because it might not be the content some are looking for based on this word)

But honestly I just read it and thought "ouch".

ah the struggles of being GLBT in the ever so conservative christian adoption community - maybe someday people will be more excepting.

MoscowMom said...

Anonymous: Yes, I could have worded it differently. I certainly didn't intend it how you interpreted it, though! By "freaks," I meant the disgusting p*rn searchers who occasionally land on my and other blogs, really angering us. I once found my blog linked to another one that *really* freaked me out, and I've avoided any of those key words every since. That's all I was I thinking about. Truly.

As for adopting in the gay community, I think children are lucky to have parents that love them. Period. Good luck!

Tracy said...

I always love reading your blog for a glimpse into the Russian view of things. It's so interesting that kids don't do sports much unless they intend to be world-class (makes sense, if access to sports is limited, etc...but I never thought about it before). And the whole soccer thing...I never would have guessed! Thanks for writing about these things. I love getting tidbits about what it is like being American in Russia. I would love to find a blog from a Russian who lives in the US - how absurd they must find some things too!

Rozmin said...

Oh, I knew right away what you were getting at. My (Russian) boyfriend and I live right next to a soccer field. The city teams, adults and children alike, play there during the year and often we watch from our balcony. One day, while we were watching a team of kids who were about 6 years old, I said, "Hey! I just realized, there aren't ever any girls playing!" He was like, "Why would there be GIRLS playing FOOTBALL?"

He's not generally sexist, but his brother, oh MY GOODNESS. He was just here for a weekend and I just about killed him several times. I mean, I have seen (and sort of expect) that from the BFs parents, who are in their late 60s, but from his brother it was a little shocking. He's only like 32, went to school in the States and lived there for like 10 years total. (It would also be really nice to hear some kind words about the country that was good enough for a free education and a comfortable life, but THAT'S another story!)

Do you have a lot of problems with sexist attitudes over there, or does the American-ness work as a sort of immunity?

v said...

That is very interesting to hear about the color blue, where I am at (I think I told you before), the blue is a more "neutral" gender color, thus our "items" are done in blue. This is to promote sales, so people wouldn't think PINK, and go GIRLS! Of course last year a customer asked me to suggest colors for girls fabric, and I suggested green (as in grass green), brown, and this lilac blue. He looked at me like I am crazy, he said it is for girls! I was thinking, what you think I am then! I have a green Tshirt I just absolutely love.

Anonymous said...

Hi Moscow mom, I think your blog is wonderful.
Well, regarding the soccer topic there is something that is important to consider.Soccer or football in Europe has been a 'man' sport for a very long time. It is only in the last couple of decades ( 1990s mostly) where girls started getting more involved in it. Even in England where there is a professional league, there are many people who think that it is a joke and that girls football is not competitive because the girls are weak! Of course this idea is changing slowly. It is the same in my country, Italy.

The difference between the U.S and Europe in soccer is that soccer gained momentum in your country during the 1990s, there is no long history, culture and extreme passion attached to it.

Of course, I would love for those peoples' opinions to change and I think its gradually happening in Europe, it will reach Russia( hope so!) :}

You know its kind of like what some americans think that american football is not for girls because its dangerous, they don't play well bla bla..

I would like to say that I hope your girls get to practice and enjoy whatever sport they like. I have a little boy who loves soccer, if I am ever blessed with a girl that likes soccer, I would encourage her to play. Obviously as an Italian married to a Brit,we LOVE soccer.

P.S: I am sorry English is not my first language so I hope you can understand.That is why I hesitate to write!I have been reading your bog for a couple of years!

Expat in Dubai