Monday, 6 October 2014

Why a Female and Trans training session?

This is to explain the decision to run a Female & Trans beginners introductory session as part of the weekly sessions this term with Oxford Parkour.

This was originally called "non-male", but the language has been improved to "female and trans". There might be some inconsistencies with how it's used due to this change.

It's slightly different with potential controversy, so I thought I'd do my best to explain why I've decided to do it. Neither Oxford Parkour nor the coach in charge of this have done this before, so please excuse any poor use of language or misguided action.

What's the general aim?

To increase participation of parkour (in Oxford) by people who identify as female and trans. Parkour is for everyone, yet the participation is heavily cis-male, I want to encourage participation outside this, and I think this will help.

*for those who aren't aware of the term 'cis-male', this means somebody who was assigned gender male at birth and currently identifies as male. If you don't know what this means that probably includes you, but it is in contrast with somebody who identifies as a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth.

How will this help?

Hopefully, in a couple of ways:
1. For the marketing, to overcome the general perception of parkour as being masculine. A direct counter is “actually, there's a female and trans session you can come to, so it is for you!”.
2. To make this minority* feel more comfortable about coming to try out parkour. A kind-of 'safer space' for it to be tried out in with less perceived pressure or expectation – there isn't any pressure or expectation normally in our community, but that fact doesn't mean people don't worry about it, so this measure is to deal with the possible worry.

* minority within parkour - not within the population as a whole!

The 'segregation' is aimed to encourage female and trans participation, not to keep them apart: all of our other sessions are open to anyone, so this just gives more option to non-males to take part. 

This is also why the name is different and doesn't include the word 'parkour': a different marketing approach to try and shrug off some of the effect of the media misconception of parkour (imagine all you knew of running was from seeing the Olympics and thought that because you can't run 100m in under 11 seconds, you can't run at all!). I noticed that lots of the gym classes which are attended by mostly females have vague names that say little about the content or style or dogma of the session (Total Body Workout, Bodypump, Aerobics, Bums & Tums) and thought about coming  up with a similar thing for a parkour session, which is what I've done here. (All of the example female gym classes could also apply to this - it will work your whole body, be aerobic, and use your 'bums & tums').

Will the coaching be different?

No, but a little bit.

Parkour is not gendered. We don't teach girls differently to teaching guys. We teach individuals; all individuals are different: different bodies, different personalities, different experiences. So in some ways, coaching girls is no different to coaching guys.

There are some general trends among individuals within the gender classes. Guys tend to have both more ego and be more willing to take risks and try things that may be less safe – there are exceptions, of course, but a slight tendency. Guys are, on average, a bit stronger and taller. So to a small degree, the content will be different in that there might be less variation within the group and so the content can be more tailored. But this is nowhere near the sort of variety within, say, different aged practitioners: teaching 7 year-olds, 12 year-olds, 20 year-olds and 55-year olds is quite different!

So it is no different to any random group of people, that the coach will tailor the session content to fit the participants. And this is not the reason for running a non-male session.

Here, though, it's more about excluding (cis-)guys to allow for a non--cis-male space, not about splitting off the non-males.

I must mention though, the coach will be male, as we only have male coaches at the moment. I feel that's better than nothing though, and will look into seeing if a female coach could come along at some point later on in the term.

Further Information

Here are a few videos, incase you are interested (or not convinced that parkour is for you).

This one is an interview with a female practitioner and coach from London.

This one is a video of a youtuber doing parkour for the first time (without bias or vested interest as this was her first time).

And this one is my mum doing her first ever parkour session!