Also gender differences in past experiences. Girls are not generally encouraged to participate in contact sports or even in physical horseplay, while boys are.
I think you hit the nail on the head there Katherine. Studying a martial art isn't feminine. I used to joke with my Sensei when I was a teenager that I couldn't get a date because of his training and the confidence he gave me. And I wouldn't sacrifice it for anything. But it's not common for women to feel that way, even now. Taking a self defense class at a local gym is acceptable, but actually training to fight is unacceptable in the world of what is proper for women.
And if we do try to learn to fight, we run into some men at the best dojos who don't want to throw us or hit us. Not because they're bad teachers or because they are sexist, but because they believe it's never ok to hit a woman. We run into other men at the worst dojos that either want to throw us harder just because they feel like we don't have the right to be there because of our gender, or view us as useful only as potential dates who won't complain about how much time they spend training. And we run into the average every day man who has no desire to train in a martial art, and treat us like aliens because the idea of a woman training to fight is anathema to them. And the worst of the worst who use nasty homophobic slurs because they can't deal with a woman who can take care of herself.
So, for all you guys who go easy on the girls in dojo, please don't. We know you have the best intentions. But going easy on us will make us worse martial artists, not better. And if we ever actually need to use our training, that false confidence will crumble in the face of a rapist who isn't going to go down easy. Take into consideration our size, yes, but the same way you would take into consideration the size of a man. And remember that from birth, we are told over and over again that we need, above all, to be nice. To compromise, to sacrifice our own desire for the good of someone else.
So when you train us just like one of the guys, you are giving us more than your knowledge and experience. You are helping to break down years of that garbage. Years of being told that we always need to smile and pretend everything is ok. And years of being told that we will turn into single crazy cat-women who can't get a husband because men don't like women who are confident and can take care of themselves.
So, I finish off by being grateful for my Sensei, when he throws me hard enough to crack my back,, and trusts me enough to know that I will jump back up smiling, but also gently applies nikkyo because he knows the arthritis is really bad in both my wrists. And most of all, I'm grateful to women like Janet Rosen and the other women both on Aikiweb and in my own style of Aikido who remind me that I'm not the only crazy chick who passionately values everything I can learn from Aikido, both in self-defense and in my personal and spiritual worldview.