Re: On being Female in an Aikido Dojo
From my experiences as a woman who trained in a couple of all male schools, I think that how men train with and treat women really depends on the personality and atmosphere of the particular school and the individual men who are attracted to that atmosphere. Also, and I think this is true of women too in their own way, men can act differently as individuals than they do as a pack. You know, the pack mentality. Guys who treat a woman decently when they're outside a group can act very differently when surrounded by other guys.
One school I trained at for several years was like a boys club. They were safe to train with for the most part, but when it came to the before class and after class chitchat or any kind of camaraderie they completely blew me off. Even the instructor who normally was very nice to me when no one else was around would change totally when surrounded by his guys. They would lock eyes with each other and talk talk talk right past, around and through me and never included me in their conversations. But if I didn't sit right there and listen, if I started packing up my gi and gear to head home after class, they got mad at me and said I wasn't being sociable! I thought at first that it was because I was a noob and that in time I would be included. But that never happened and after a couple of years things were the same.
It was crazy and very hurtful. Eventually and unfortunately, instead of confronting it head on I let it affect my attitude and training. My relationship to the instructor, students and school went into a downward spiral. I didn't know how to address that at the time though now I have more insight and would handle it differently. I'm not as timid now as I was then and I would have been more forthright with them about what was going on with us.
Maybe we could have worked it out, maybe not. But at least I would have tried without forcing myself to be someone I'm not. But back then I just let my feelings get hurt and that would make them even angrier. They eventually implied I should leave because I wasn't a good fit with them. From their point of view I was the badguy disrupting the harmony of the school. I was sad but what could I do? I really liked the training, but at the time I thought it would be futile to try to change the opinons of men who at heart resented having their sacred space invaded by a woman who could not make herself be like a man to fit in.
Another school was entirely different. It also was all men and I was the sole woman, but they were much more inclusive. People actually said hello, how are you, before class! The whole atmosphere was devoid of drama. Everyone just wanted to train and after class chat generally focused on training and friendly banter that included anyone who wanted to contribute. As a noob I politely kept quiet and listened to all their stories. But as time went by and I was a regular, they started including me in the conversations. We didn't have to be buddies, but their inclusiveness has made me feel like a legitimate member of the school and a respected classmate. I am still training at that school and have found in it a sanctuary where I can work hard and improve my aikido and myself without any drama and personality games. And I am always mindful to reach out to newcomers so they too will feel welcome. A little compassion and friendliness go a long way!