Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Gender Gap

So this should be apparent by now: I am a female. Do I fence like a girl? Likely. However, at practice and even at tournaments I fence almost exclusively men (and boys).

Now, this doesn't really bother me. For several years I've worked with mostly all men. Going farther back I've mostly been a participant of sports where the guys and girls were, if not competing against each other, at least practicing together. So I'm comfortable sweating around members of the opposite sex, to say the least. I am not a priss. That fact becomes important in a couple paragraphs.

Likely, this informs my style of fencing. From a purely physical standpoint, I am almost always the weaker opponent. I know with most men that I have a difficult time taking the blade and I can never bind unless I catch them at exactly the right point. So this has forced me instead to hone my disengage, find speed, and (as a perpetual work in progress) try tactics like second intention. This is all fine and good and I have no complaints about this facet of the gender gap.

Here is where I have a complaint: fencers who practice unnecessary roughness. Fencers for whom Finesse is just a shampoo. Who always hit as hard as they can, no matter what. Who wield their epees like a machete and hack at you like they were running blindly through the jungle with so many rabid wildebeests on their tail.

Exhibit A: A knot on my palm after my opponent crashed into my bell guard so hard last night that it lodged the pommel nut into my hand.

In all fairness, there are probably women who fence like this too, I just haven't met them. Call me a coward or a wimp or anything you like. But fencing is supposed to be fun and to me, it's just not fun to limp away from every touch.

Maybe I'll never be able to beat these guys who choose brute force over tactics. I'll just take solace in the fact that I look way better in knickers than they do.

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