Have you ever been told you hit like a girl? Or run like one? Or cry like one? If so, I hope you answered yes. Because you are a girl and girls do all of those things. Oh, and we do them well. What – you thought “hit like a girl” was an insult? For a long time, so did I.
Recently ad companies – especially those specializing in cotton catchers for our crimson cooters – have been pumping out the girl positivity. Taking a page from all the #realbeauty Dove adver-mocumentaries (that was a terrible portmanteau, I’m sorry!), companies are realizing that instead of telling us we should be ashamed of the “weird” things that make us women – stretch marks, menstruation, boobs, periods, hair, below-ground bleeding, cellulite, did I mention all our bloodletting? - if they tell us to be proud of those things and embrace them we’ll feel happier about ourselves! (And talk about them more by blogging about them and using their hashtags and sharing all the inspirational videos on Facebook and, natch, buying more of their products.)
First we had the Period Party, sponsored by Hello Flo (a monthly subscription service for… your monthly):
Not going to lie, this was hysterical. First because I was totally that girl who was the absolute last among her friends to join the “cherry slushie club” (I was 16). Second because my family was totally the type to do a first moon party (alas no Vagician or bobbing for ovaries though). And last because… periods don’t have glitter. (If you haven’t seen this vid yet, it’s a must. Click through to see it if it doesn’t show up in your reader or e-mail!)
I laughed. (So hard.)
Next we had the Sorry Not Sorry video, brought to you by Pantene:
The phenomenon of women apologizing for everything is well documented and the video (again, click through if it doesn’t show up for you) gives some perfect examples. I so totally do this! Although I think some of it is just social lubrication and isn’t meant to be demeaning, I do think lots of us have just gotten in the habit of starting everything with, “Sorry, can I say something?” When instead we could just come out with it: “I have something to say.” You can say it with a smile. You can still be polite and professional. And you can still be powerful. We don’t have to apologize for owning our own power.
I got mad. (Just a little.)
Then there was this Like a Girl video, courtesy of Always maxi pads:
I got sad.
“You punch like a girl,” my boxing coach laughed as I futilely tried again to get a good, clean jab at him. “Come on, you can do better!” And you know what? I felt encouraged. I punched harder, worked harder, attacked faster. Inherently I knew that “punching like a girl” was bad and I felt like my girly-ness was something I had to overcome to be competent at Krav Maga. In hindsight, I think I was punching like a newbie as I’d never done real boxing before. It was inexperience, not gender, that made me incompetent.
But this idea of “you …. like a girl” is so ingrained in me that until tonight I’d never even thought to question it. Of course men are better at punching, kicking, throwing, hitting, running, or whatever-ing because they’re bigger and stronger, right? And while there is truth to that – I will never say there aren’t significant differences between genders – it doesn’t mean that the girl way is inherently worse. Different doesn’t mean bad.
What I wish I’d said that night: “Thank you, I do hit like a girl. Because I am one.” You hit like a girl should be a compliment, or a statement of fact.
As I thought about this, I was reminded of Azusmom’s comment on my post yesterday about taking gentle care of yourself. She wrote,
” Because that’s what we, as females, are “supposed” to do. If we take care of ourselves, we’re “selfish.” Which is the worst thing a girl or woman can be. I took that lesson to heart. Don’t be selfish, and don’t be confident. Don’t be more accomplished than someone else. Hide that light under a bushel, lest you make another person feel bad. Oh, and don’t be angry. No one likes a bitch. Don’t cry, because everyone hates needy, manipulative girls.”
We’re given such a narrow role of what a “cool girl” needs to be and while we may question certain items on the list, we rarely question why just being a girl isn’t “cool” in it’s own right. We always feel like we’re not enough – always trying to improve, be better, be perfect. Always trying to overcome our girly weaknesses.
I’m not trying to make the guys look bad here or diminish them at all as we’re all a product of the culture that we are living in. We’re taught it from the very beginning, from both men and other women. And we ladies often inadvertently reinforce these lessons with each other as we grow older. No, what made me sad about this video is that I had so totally bought into this “like a girl” message. I innately agreed that doing those things “like a girl” meant that I was doing them poorly and I needed to not be like a girl to do it right.
Just in the past week, I’ve heard other women say or said the following things myself:
- “I’m totally girl-braining this” (said because she thought she was over-analyzing a text from a boy)
- “Stop being such a girl” (said because she said she didn’t want to do a mud run)
- “I’m a girl, I can’t help it” (said when I purchased another foofy dress)
- “I don’t want to be that girl” (said while she was crying through some hurt feelings)
- “I’m a basic b*tch” (said to explain her spray tan, acrylic nails and hair extensions)
- “Stop acting like a girl” (said to a boy, intended as the ultimate insult)
All of these were said as if the person was doing something wrong. But is it wrong to try and figure out a relationship from a cryptic text or opt out of an athletic competition or cry or want to be beautiful or love pretty things? Even if these are stereotypical girl behaviors (and of course there are many girls who don’t fit these stereotypes), it isn’t bad to do things like a girl. (It’s also not bad for a boy, if he wants, to imitate “girly” characteristics he likes and sees value in.)
Remember when a guy in my bootcamp class told me, “You sure are strong… for a girl“? I was indignant and with the help of you all came up with some really great comebacks to that comment. Yet ideally it should just be a statement of fact like “I had eggs for breakfast” or “My left foot is a half size bigger than my right”. What I wish I had replied to him: “ I am strong. I am a girl. And neither has much to do with my muscles.”
Even the word “girl” can be problematic. A while ago I wrote a post about how terribly NFL cheerleaders are treated and one comment on it that has stuck with me ever since was someone who basically said, “Great article. But you should have referred to them as ‘women’ instead of ‘girls’.” And I think she made a good point. Supreme court justices are always women. Cheerleaders are always girls. Yet being a supreme court justice doesn’t necessarily make you a better human being than does being a cheerleader. Plus, NFL cheerleaders are adult women, even if they represent the extreme end of stereotypical girly behavior. I should have used “women” in my article about the cheerleaders. But I also hope that someday “girl” won’t be seen as an insult either.
Being a girl doesn’t make us better than boys. But we’ve got to stop treating “… like a girl” as an insult. To which I have to say get it girl. Oh, and to my boxing coach? It turns out that I only started to get better at Krav Maga once I accepted and embraced the part of my girl-self I was most ashamed of.
Have you ever been told you do something “like a girl”? Have you ever slammed yourself for “being that girl”? How do we turn “like a girl” from a pejorative to a positive??