Dear Parents and Friends,
Recently I was sent a New York Times article by one of our camp parents entitled “Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute To Be Scared”. Caroline Paul, who wrote the piece, was one of the first women to join the San Francisco Fire Department. I can relate to this because I run a coed camp and my father was a career fireman who eventually made Chief of the City Fire Department. I can remember when he began hiring women firefighters into the department and how much flack he caught from those who felt women couldn’t perform or wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of the job of entering burning buildings. This was way back in the 70’s. Needless to say I learned very early that women and girls are up to the task. I coached a couple of soccer teams after college and had two girls on my middle school age team who went to the ball as bravely as any boy and most of the time they were outsized. I vividly remember visiting a friend of mine who worked for Outward Bound several years later and going climbing with her in Linville Gorge. I had been climbing for several years and was a fair lead climber (first up placing gear). I could not for the life of me make this scary overhang move about half way up the climb and had trouble committing to placing the gear and holding on with one hand. I was scared. I backed off and was lowered to the ground and Mary scampered up and blew through it like a butterfly. Grace, skill, and lack of fear were part of her topping out on the climb that day and belaying me through the crux that I couldn’t do.
I love having women teaching and being program leaders in our adventure programs. It helps young girls understand that they can do anything they set their minds to and young boys understand that gender should not limit what a person can accomplish. The role modeling provided in these situations sends all the right messages that girls pick up from female mentors.
This is nothing short of good solid support for the road ahead and debunking the myths surrounding “timid and scared girls”. The author of the article talks about a study that states “Girls may be less likely than boys to try challenging physical activities, which are important for developing new skills. The study points to an uncomfortable truth that we think our daughters are more fragile, both physically and emotionally, than our sons.” Not true in my world of camp. Yes, it is true most girls are more emotionally based and that’s a positive because they communicate better from an early age. Guys mostly just hold it in and are not willing to verbalize like the girls.
A healthy and respectful sense of fear is good for all of us. At camp we deal with fear in a way that leads to respect, systems, communication, confidence and grit. We talk about this in staff training in the context of “perceived risk” vs “actual risk”. The perceived risk is what the camper sees and it’s the actual risk we’re most concerned about. In designing program we leave the perceived risk to their discernment and control the actual risk. We do everything in our power to provide proper instruction, the right equipment and practice in an appropriately progressive way to enable most campers to move forward in a “scary” situation. The bonus here is they will have multiple chances to try again and hopefully succeed. Failure is a whole other topic we could talk about here, but let’s get back to our campers.
Camp is a great place to instill the aspects of making the best people. We are equal opportunity dispensers of fun and fear in all the right ways. Girls have all the same opportunities right alongside their male counterparts and I see this daily here at Gwynn Valley. It is our obligation to assist campers with making good choices whether it’s on the rock or in cabin/program interactions. Learning how to communicate about these aspects of navigating life’s challenges and risks are also a part of our work. At camp, being scared is not gender based. Our boys and girls need to experience camp participating and learning from one another. As one camper states in our video “We’re not going to live our lives separate with regard to gender.” We use the same terms for boys and girls when we think of bravery, grit and resilience as well as compassion when fear does exist. These are some very big buzzwords in growing young people into healthy and mentally strong adults. As stated above, we are equal opportunity dispensers of providing the right values to grow in the Gwynn Valley garden of life.
To check out the article from the Times click on this link: http://nyti.ms/1QaeDZ9