This week at Sonoma Jazz Girlz (yes, tee shirts have been ordered with a “z” in girlz, so Sonoma Jazz GirlZ we are now) one of the members told me about a boy who regularly tells her that she’s not a good player. She’s not good at this, she’s not good at that. Then she mentioned that he also insulted her about a sport they both play, and that she was seated higher than him in band, and it hit me.

“Oh! He’s threatened!” I told her.

Normally, I have an instant irritation with boys who seem to feel threatened. After all, why on earth would a boy think that girls are so weak and brainless that he’d rather meet just about any other fate than losing to a girl? So insulting! But this time, I had an epiphany.

Threatened. What a terrible feeling. And it doesn’t come from nowhere. Someone has told this boy that girls are less capable, and he’s living in the constant fear that if he loses to one, he is less, too. What a terrible curse!

Who is telling him this? My first thought is a macho, sexist dad, but the sad truth is that the message is everywhere. If this boy has latched on to a few movie one-liners and a few things his friends have said, not to mention noticing that there haven’t been any women presidents and whatnot, well I know from experience that it’s easy to latch on to those messages and live accordingly, ignoring the mountains of evidence that women are indeed equally capable.

If they are less capable, then what if they beat me?

Well I have good news for you, young man! IQ researcher James Flynn recently conducted a test in several different countries and found women’s intelligence to be either equal to or slightly higher than men’s. In the world of music, when orchestras have switched to blind auditions (this means the judges don’t know the race/gender of the auditioner) their percentage of women has drastically increased. So all those musical groups that have been telling you with their male/female ratio that men are better musicians have been wrong. The good news, Sir, is that if a girl beats you, it is just the same as a boy beating you. Sometimes you’re first chair, and sometimes you’re not.

So I don’t feel sorry for men, who have had a few more years to work this out, but I do feel a little sorry for the boys. And I’m so glad that the Jazz Girlz have our little group, where when a student tells me that a boy insulted her playing I can say, “Well no one’s going to tell you that here.” And that boy better start practicing.