Ask A Woman: “Let’s get physical, physical.” But not too much.
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I am in college and I play basketball recreationally. The other day I was playing a pick up game and two people asked if they could join. One guy, one girl. During the game I found it difficult to be competitive against the girl and at times I played differently because I, well, it’s just different.
I’m all for gender equality, but some things are just harder to do to women than to men. Men in our society are conditioned to be gentle with women in a physical sense. This makes it difficult to wrench a basketball out of a girl’s hands, push into her when trying to score, or defending her closely.
So how should I have acted? Do you think she would expect different treatment, whether she would like to admit it or not? How would you feel in that situation (both mine and the girl’s)?
I totally understand how you’d feel confused about this issue. Striving to maintain gender equality is important, but at the same time, we have to be realistic about the biological differences between men and women. There’s a reason professional sporting leagues are separated by gender–men are naturally stronger and faster. Elite female and male athletes aren’t competing at the same level. But it’s harder to make the call during co-ed rec or pick up leagues, where the skill level of a stranger is so unknown right off the bat and can vary so widely.
If I asked to join your game, would I want you to be gentler with me? Hell yes. I have never played basketball beyond shooting hoops in my driveway and during the b-ball unit in gym class. I stink at sports and have trouble staying on my feet while walking between my kitchen and living room. Which is why, in reality, I would never ask to join your game. I’m aware that you’d play a much more aggressive game than I’d be comfortable with, so I wouldn’t put myself (or you) in that situation.
Focker doesn’t lower his intensity for anyone.
I have to believe that a woman who actually sought out a co-ed game also would be aware that men are typically more aggressive players. Thus my feeling is that if a woman asks to play with men, she should expect that the game will be higher intensity than if she were playing with only women.
So a female participant’s responsibility is to make sure she’s comfortable with the likelihood that she’ll get jostled more simply because it’s a more physical game. What is a male participant’s responsibility? Test the waters–do you need to be as chippy with this particular player? If not, why do it? If you can still play a good game, still win, at a lower intensity, what’s the drawback to doing so? If you start at that lower intensity and find that the player is a worthy adversary, then dial it back up. Match what she brings, or go slightly above it.
David, it’s good that you’re thinking about this issue. You’re right, men are and should be conditioned to be gentle with women in an everyday setting. The basketball court is a little different, though. Do the best you can to balance respect for other people’s well-being, with still having fun and challenging yourself physically.
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