Like A Girl
Like a Girl
Recently, I was coaching a class at CFNT and was chatting with a few male members about split jerks. We were discussing how incredibly strange it feels to split goofy (ie with the opposite foot forward from your usual stance). The conversation turned to throwing a ball with one’s non-dominant hand. The guys all joked that it made them feel as though they were throwing like a girl. Quite a while back, I hardly would have noticed the comment. With a background in soccer, swimming, and CrossFit, throwing has never been a strong suit of mine. I admittedly do not throw things well. However, I recently stumbled upon this video on the interwebs so the comment struck me a little more deeply.
For all of you reader types, the above video is all about what it means to do something “like a girl.” Young girls do not know that they are supposed to be slow, uncoordinated, weak, and awkward. We teach them that as they grow up. Now, I am not suggesting that anyone ever came up to me when I was a young athlete and told me I did not belong (maybe once on the playground, but I pushed that boy down). Thanks to legislation like Title IX, we have largely evolved beyond that point. However, the female gender as a whole continues to be portrayed as weak and unathletic. When someone proves that to be wrong, she is the exception rather than the rule. The small boy who bites his tongue when he realizes he may be insulting his sister is an excellent example of this behavior. We all learned in school that theories are generated from evidence, not the other way around. That rule applies to social sciences just as much as it does to physical sciences (I spent four years studying sociology with the degree to prove it so don’t fight me on that).
The more I look around, the more it seems that women are capable of just as many athletic feats as men. I am lucky enough to have a job where I witness this bad a$$ery day in and day out. The people I work with are all strong, fast, and athletic in their own way. To me, “like a girl” is neither a compliment nor a criticism. It is simply a fact. I do things like a girl because I am a girl. It is hardly a fact worth mentioning. Gender has nothing to do with hitting a PR, learning a new skill, or messing up. A girl capable of throwing a ball has not overcome some inherent gender defect. A boy who cannot throw a ball is no less a boy than one who can.
So why do we still bother with that language? We can chalk it up to the old adage “old habits die hard” but that just makes us sound lazy. We are not lazy (at least we shouldn’t be). Think about the small humans (children) that you know. When you use that language around them, do you think they understand that it is just a saying? I would bet not. It does not take much at a young age to lower self-esteem and alter the course of a child’s life. Those negative, stereotypical comments matter to them. They look up to you and hold your word as truth, even the most off handed of comments make a difference. In many ways we are making progress in gender equality, but there is still more we can do.
I am grateful to be a part of a community that celebrates, notices, and honors women as much as men. I am excited to see what the next generation of tiny humans is able to achieve and am hopeful that gender-slamming phrases (such as “you throw like a girl” and “don’t be a pussy”) start to go away.I want to live in a world where a little girl can say she wants to be a firefighter and a little boy can say he wants to be a nurse without getting laughed at. We can do better people, we really can. All it takes is a little more attention to detail and a little less playing into the stereotypes we have been hearing for generations. Mindfulness matters.