Last night I was at a bar with some friends, about to play a game of Connect 4. There’s nothing I like more than playing silly games like that. It’s less demanding than one-on-one conversation, but still such a good way to catch up, to chat about the mundanities of life. As there were four of us, we decided to go into teams of two, with the rule that we couldn’t discuss our strategy with our partner. This made it so much more interesting actually, as you had to think about your plan, your partners plan, and also the plan of the other team, which itself might be two plans as they couldn’t discuss their strategy either.
One team was two girls, and the other was one girl and one guy (we kept switching the teams after each game). One of the girls suddenly piped up, ‘we ought to go first, because we’re two girls!’ The rest of us looked at her in confusion. It was my male friend who spoke first, ‘are you suggesting that you have some sort of disadvantage because you’re both female?’ he asked, as we all stared. She caught herself, ‘well, we are both girls on this team’. I asked what that had to do with anything, and she said ‘well, girls should always go first’. After the rest of us declared that a little bit sexist, we began playing the game. Nobody tried to make her feel uncomfortable for saying it, so much so that she repeated her statement at the beginning of the next game. It seemed best to clarify: ‘I don’t mean that two females are automatically a weaker team,’ she said, ‘just that we ought to go first because it gives us a better chance of winning’.
The rest of us tried digging into why she might think that the girls ought to be given a head start just by virtue of their femaleness, but she couldn’t explain. She was just convinced that ‘girls go first’, and didn’t see any problem with this attitude. Usually, once you begin to ask someone ‘why?’ they will question why they think a certain way. It’s the classic way to deal with a racist or sexist joke, just keep asking ‘why is that funny?’ until they realise their idiocy as they’re trying to brush off their discriminatory views. But sometimes, like yesterday, this doesn’t work. It’s like if a child asked me why the sky is blue. I am terrible at anything scientific, so while I know there is a logical explanation, I simply just understand that it is that way because, well, it just is. When we asked why girls should go first, the girl showed the same logic. They just do. All we can do is keep asking, and keep challenging, because some people might realise that their logic isn’t all that logical, and they might convince someone else of the same. Perhaps in the meantime I should go and learn exactly why the sky is blue.