Manicure camp for girls, sports for boys. Because it’s 1957.

30 Mar

Apparently the city of Richmond Hill, Ontario seems to think their summer camps belong in another era. They are offering “Boyz Rule” camp, featuring extreme sports, including roller skating, biking and skateboarding. The “girlz” on the other hand, get to partake in such womanly activities as manicures, colouring and cooking. I kid you not.

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When my friend Audra posted this on Twitter last night, it started a bit of a shit storm. It seemed totally anachronistic to be teaching girls how to be perfect, passive housewives in 2016. Surely this had to be an anomaly. Richmond Hill must the only suburb stuck in the dark ages.

Sadly, it’s not. Turns out that the Dovercourt Recreation Centre in Ottawa is offering similar programming geared to 10-13 year-old children. Girls get to learn about “keeping fit” and “making healthy” snacks.” Boys on the other hand, get to attend a camp that is literally called “Man Cave.” And another camp claims it will teach them basic car maintenance.

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GIVE ME AN ALL-CAPS MOMENT TO EXPRESS MY RAGE.

There is nothing inherently wrong with activities that are generally coded as “girl stuff.” I cringe a bit at the thought of manicures being offered as a “camp” activity. But role playing and glitter represent fun, imaginative play for every kid. In fact, the LGBTQ+ camp that I volunteer on the board for even almost ran out of glitter on the second day of programming last summer. The horror!

And I was admittedly a kid who hated and feared sports. My parents were the intellectual, artsy types. In gym class, I was always vaguely terrified because I felt I was out of shape and had no idea how any of the games worked. It also didn’t help that I was never particularly masculine and sports activities were almost always geared to boys. Being segregated out of most sports activities certainly did not help. (I now take pride in lifting heavy weights while still wearing liquid eyeliner. Or running  with red lipstick on.)

But the worst part of all of this is how these camps are training young girls to be perfect housewives. In 2016. You’ll notice that basic food preparation is not included in any of the listed activities for boys. Because even today, boys are being socialized to be nurtured and served by women. It makes me want to projectile vomit all over the city recreation guide.

Kids have a long future of resisting the misogyny ahead of them. Why reinforce such blatant sexism in programming geared toward children?

(Oh and by the way, Girls Rock Camp is an actual feminist movement geared toward teaching girls how to play music and be awesome. Not to be confused with the Richmond Hill Manicure Camp for Young Housewives.)

If you want to support a summer camp that doesn’t propagate any of this gender essentialist nonsense, support our team in the Ten Oaks Bowlathon today.

[EDITED to add: Buzzfeed Canada picked up the story and as of press time, Dovercourt had pulled its recreation guide and Richmond Hill announced they would “review” their programming. Feminism FTW!]

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29 Responses to “Manicure camp for girls, sports for boys. Because it’s 1957.”

  1. Suzanne Grenier March 30, 2016 at 8:30 am #

    “But the worst part of all of this is how these camps are training young girls to be perfect housewives.” Yes, this. And also the distress and loneliness of children, in all the spectrum of their realities, who would like to go to a camp and don’t fit in one of those narrow and so biased gender categories.

    • Queer Femme Mama March 30, 2016 at 8:32 am #

      Absolutely. The poor, sweet boys who would love to paint their nails. And the bored girls who just wanna run. Or the kids with no set gender identity who would have no idea what to do.

    • Concerned Mama March 31, 2016 at 9:11 pm #

      For some reason you decided to miss numerous crafts and arts classes offered to both boys and girls by the Centre and a specific class called Girls Sports Spectacular, which does not bother you at all. So girls can have their sports camp for girls only, but not boys.

      You are one hateful person. I wonder what its like for your child to grow surrounded by some much misandry and hatred.

  2. Lindsay March 30, 2016 at 10:05 am #

    I saw this posted in a feminist/social justice focused parenting group I’m in (I think you are also in this?) and I haven’t been able to shake the anger that came over me as a result of this shit. It feels like genderered stuff like this just keeps getting worse! (Or maybe my awareness of it has increased since becoming a parent). Thanks for posting the contact info – sending an email now!

  3. Lindsay March 30, 2016 at 10:07 am #

    Orrr calling since I don’t see their emails have been made public. I don’t tweet from anywhere but my work account!

  4. andrea March 30, 2016 at 10:30 am #

    I lve near this area and I’ve contacted Jen. Someone from the department will contact me. this is utterly offensive and makes my blood boil…not only as a woman but as a mom!

  5. jessica low - March 30, 2016 at 11:01 am #

    Hi it’s jessica at Metro Morning – would you be interested in an interview with Matt to tlak about this tomorrow (Thursday) ? please email me asap

  6. Sam B March 30, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

    Reblogged this on Fit Is a Feminist Issue and commented:
    Blog reader spotted this and wrote this!

    Buzzfeed Canada picked up the story and as of press time, Dovercourt had pulled its recreation guide and Richmond Hill announced they would “review” their programming. Feminism FTW!]

  7. RunBikeThrow March 30, 2016 at 7:23 pm #

    My oldest daughter loves card games, can spiral a football, and changes her own oil and brakes. I wonder if anyone in Canada knows that girls are capable of such things. If “camps” like these are the norm, they may never find out.

    • Concerned Mama March 31, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

      Andrea, don’t fall for misandrist hatred by this activist. The Dovercourt centre offers Girls Spectacular Sports specifically for girls and many sports camps without mentioning gender. How pathetic one can be to try to stir controversy by shaming our daughters for doing scrapbook and manicure camp. Shameless! And she is mama too. Wow.

      • Sarah April 1, 2016 at 6:10 am #

        You have really missed the point. It’s not misandry to object to the idea that “every girl” dreams about scrapbooking, personal grooming, and cooking. They should totally offer these camps if there’s an interest in them. What they should *not* do is imply that only girls enjoy these things, or that all girls enjoy them. You may think this is a non-issue, but these messages cause real harm and it’s easy to avoid. It’s not complicated.

  8. Janet B March 30, 2016 at 9:44 pm #

    I fucking LOVE this post. I cannot stop laughing (through my rage) at Manicure Camp for Young Housewives. Better get my three year old on this shit, right? Ugh.

  9. MikeTO March 31, 2016 at 3:31 am #

    Question from a casual reader; why the anger at a program that obviously appeals to some people? Would you like traditionalists to crap on “progressive” children’s programs? Tolerance has to be a 2 way street otherwise, it’s totalitarianism.

    PS – I have skin in the game. My Mother in Law is a Homemaker, and has had a life-long impairment that makes most sports participation impossible. She would have loved a camp like this as a child.

    • Queer Femme Mama March 31, 2016 at 4:28 am #

      Nothing wrong with the activities if they are open to any kid. I was not a sports camp kind of child either!

      • MikeTO March 31, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

        I see your point in the abstract. Personally I notice that my 2 daughters, who have all things (school, sports, activities) co-ed, really enjoy a girls only safe space when they can. I can imagine boys would too. Guess my point is that Canada is predominantly “gender integrated”, so does it have to be so 100% or is there room for girls and boys to do their thing?

        My partner and I do most things together, but a little time to pursue individual interests helps keep some of the mystery and uniqueness we value – a win win. Is this not a similar situation?

    • Sarah April 1, 2016 at 6:13 am #

      I think you’ve missed the point. Nobody objects to the camp itself. They object to the message that it’s what every girl wants, and that only girls want it. So easy to offer the same thing without this gender stereotyping, which causes real harm- so they should.

      • MikeTO April 2, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

        Maybe I don’t get it, but I don’t read the message as “what EVERY girl wants” but more “what most girls want”, and I do think these camps are what 80-90% of girls do want (from observing my daughters and how they end up playing with their female friends). I also don’t think it is EXCLUSIVELY what these girls want and most end up doing sports and free play outside of camp hours. My issue is that if you re-jig the camps to fit the 10-20% that don’t fit into this program you end up sacrificing the needs of the majority for the needs of a minority, and in this city, with so many choices of what kids can do, that is not necessary. Ultimately, I believe a more relaxed attitude toward individual preferences and general gender preferences leads to people being happier in each others company, as no one is forcing their will on others – something I think we can all appreciate.

  10. Downwithopp March 31, 2016 at 5:13 am #

    How about just not give them your business, and just send the message that way? Why contact them and try to get them to change something kids might enjoy because it doesn’t fit your particular agenda? I would’ve loved going here as a child.

    • cejunge March 31, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

      Well, just cause some kids would like something doesn’t mean it’s a good thing, societally speaking. Clearly many people see the problem with a camp not allowing girls to be as active as boys and not allowing boys to cook. It’s not just some fringe agenda.

  11. Alex March 31, 2016 at 10:50 am #

    Hi Ariel. I’m a middle aged mom of two who lives in Ottawa. I heard your interview this morning on CBC’s Ottawa Morning, and I wanted to respond to something that you said. I didn’t find an email address, so I thought I try to contact you via the comments section – you can post or not post.

    I agree with you that these Dovercourt camps are sexist, and you were right to bring this to their attention. But in the interview I heard, you characterized this as being misogynist. I disagree with that assessment, and it bothered me enough that I wanted to share with you why I disagree.

    If we accept the definition of misogyny as the hatred or dislike of women and girls, it seems to follow that these classes do not fit that definition. I know that the manifestation of misogyny can be found in actions like belittling women and girls, and I suppose you could make an argument that these camps are somewhat belittling. But I feel confident in saying that Dovercourt did not have an agenda of hatred toward women and girls, which manifest itself in these camps.

    I think that calling something like this misogynist, trivializes the word misogyny and the acts of hatred perpetrated against women and girls here in Canada and around the world. Creating an equivocation between a sexist manicure camp, on one hand, and throwing acid in someone’s face or not allowing someone to vote or excluding someone from holding public office for example, is not credible. We both know that hatred and violence towards women is real. But I don’t think these camps are an example of that. I think these camps were sexist and stupid, and that you were right to point that out.

    Thanks for listening to my concerns.

    Sincerely, Alex

    • Queer Femme Mama March 31, 2016 at 11:03 am #

      Hi Alex,

      Thanks for responding. We can agree to disagree on this one. I believe that gender policing of young children thwarts their potential and actually *is* a form of gender-based violence. I hear this especially from trans friends and family members who felt squelched and oppressed by this type of gender policing.

      This is a useful debate to have. Language is important. But my use of the term was deliberate.

      Thanks for the conversation!

      Ariel

  12. Jenner March 31, 2016 at 7:49 pm #

    Just read the article re. Dovercourt sexist daycamps. Good on you! A woman after my own heart. Thank you for speaking up!

  13. Concerned Mama March 31, 2016 at 9:11 pm #

    For some reason you decided to miss numerous crafts and arts classes offered to both boys and girls by the Centre and a specific class called Girls Sports Spectacular, which does not bother you at all. So girls can have their sports camp for girls only, but not boys.

    You are one hateful person. I wonder what its like for your child to grow surrounded by some much misandry and hatred.

    • Queer Femme Mama April 1, 2016 at 4:22 am #

      I am approving this comment so readers can see the kind of trolling and harassment that women get when they talk about feminism online. It’s relentless.

  14. Dan R. April 1, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

    Father of three kids under five, two of them girls, and glad I saw this article on CBC and was able to read the above blog post. As a man with two girls married to a strong, intelligent, feminist woman I have come to be a feminist myself. It’s truly amazing how you begin to notice the obvious, rampant sexism and misogyny in our society once you open your eyes to it. Thank you for calling these camps out and fighting back against every day sexism. Cheers!

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