Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A quick observation from my kung fu class

One thing that I have been noticing for some weeks now, is how the men and women in the class react differently to the act of punching a punch pad held by the instructor. The men tend to put in a lot of energy and aggression into whacking the pad, as if it had done them some grievous harm in a previous life. The women are much more timid, and have to be encouraged by the instructor in the act of giving the punch pad what for.

Part of this is, of course, down to physical strength, but it is not the whole story. The amount of personal effort and aggression the men put in seems proportionally to be greater than that supplied by the women (I am including myself here). I spoke to some of my female classmates about this, and we all seemed to be having a similar feeling: we felt kind of silly punching the pad, and found it hard to use it as a focus for our aggression, and we were worried about what it looked like.

Aggression, frustration, annoyance are emotions common to men and women and we know that it is better for the sufferer if they are expressed in a cathartic way that harms no-one else: punching the pad is perfect for this. But somehow we women found it incredibly difficult to allow ourselves to a) express such feelings (and thus admit to having them), and b) do so in front of others. We all felt that somehow we shouldn't be acting this way, that it was improper and unsuitable- we are used to having women's anger censured. A woman who expresses her rage in such a fashion is at risk of being considered 'masculine', as being considered wrong, as other than 'feminine' in a world where people are valued a great deal according to the extent to which they fit what society deems suitable for their sex.

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