I was speaking to an alumnus the other day who told me that he learned that females could “do everything” – carry canoes, food packs and wanagans – scout and paddle huge sets of white water – cook over an open fire – by attending Wanapitei. This, he said extended into all of his life – the knowledge that gender roles were not clearly defined and shouldn’t be.
Last week, we had a night with where we had only 2 Junior campers in camp – their one-week group left in the morning and their next one-week group arrived the following afternoon. One is an 9-year-old girl and one is an 8-year old boy. At school in grade 3 and 4, they are likely playing in mostly single sex groups at recess and certainly when they choose a partner, boys choose boys – girls choose girls. These two campers have spent this entire time playing together – being partners. The group of Juniors that we said goodbye to yesterday were mixed fully – had they been wearing hats and sunglasses we wouldn’t have known boys from girls.
So, who cares?
When we think about gender and stereotypes – we know that they limit us. Right down to the colours we choose to wear – whether we carry shoulder bags for our belongings – whether we jump in to build the fire in the wood stove, or study to be a welder in college. Challenging stereotypes by living, playing, and working together – by truly knowing each other as uncategorized people – now that’s the way to be free to be ourselves and to rejoice in the same for others.
JJ is the co-director of Camp Wanapitei.