8-Year-Old Girls Can Kick 8-Year-Old Boys' Asses at Sports, So Quit Telling Them That They Can't

Illustration for article titled 8-Year-Old Girls Can Kick 8-Year-Old Boys' Asses at Sports, So Quit Telling Them That They Can't

The idea that girls are "bad at sports"—or, at least, fundamentally less skilled than boys—is an enduring one, and just one of the billion ways that we set girls up to fail before they've even begun to try. Well, men are just stronger. Men are just better. More coordinated. It's a mantra that's drilled into kids' heads long before puberty hits—even during the years when girls' growth spurts pull some crazy Gulliver's Travels shit in elementary school classrooms (have you seen 5th grade girls? They're like four feet taller than the boys).

And, it turns out, among prepubescent kids, it's not true in the least:

The study analyzed data provided by USA Swimming that consisted of the best 50-yard freestyle performances for all USA Swimming-registered male and female swimmers ages 6 to 19 who competed from 2005 to 2010. This included 1.9 million swims.

The study found no difference in swim performance in children younger than 8. It also found little difference in 11- and 12-year-olds. The effects of puberty began showing in the older swimmers, as the boys began experiencing accelerated growth in height, weight and strength typical of age 13 and older.


I mean, let's be honest. All kids are shitty at sports. Did you know that there are zero children in the NBA? FACT. But telling girls that they're just not as good at boys—at an age when they are measurably exactly as capable as boys—does nothing but lower girls' expectations of themselves, and acclimate them to the idea that they're less than men. After puberty, sure, boys' and girls' musculature develops in different ways, and you're not going to see a woman win a men's heavyweight boxing title. But there is absolutely no reason to instill that inferiority in girls before those physical differences even manifest themselves. Plenty of little girls can ruin boys in kickball.

As a girl who played a lot of sports growing up, I remember really vividly that they always felt like fake sports. Like, yeah, the girls could do their cute little basketball thing for fun (it's like they think they're people!), but boys' basketball was the real basketball. Clear off the court, ladies. And even if a girl was really, really, really good at sports, there wasn't any future in it the way there was for the boys. So what was the point?

When I was a kid, there was no WNBA. There were no female professional athletes. Can you imagine if there were no female scientists? Or no female politicians? No female artists? Like, okay, girl-children. You can play with your little chemistry sets and do your adorable little debate club and practice your little doodles, but you'll just never be as good as the men. Don't cry, it's biology! It's because of your stupid noodle arms. Don't worry, though, Mother Nature didn't totally rip you off—you are super excellent at vacuuming. Sigh.

Photo credit: pressmaster / Stockfresh.

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At the risk of being an ass, am I the only girl who was mercilessly pummeled by boys in co-ed gym classes in elementary school? We played a lot of dodge ball, and the boys tended to throw to *hurt* while the girls threw to get people out of the game, no red marks left behind. I was widely hated, so maybe it had more to do with being a dork than being a girl.

Of course, the stronger girls probably have a different memory, and I'm sure the weaker boys remember things much the way I do, but I think this is an issue of degrees of strength and athleticism rather than a boy vs. girl thing.