Have you ever been told you hit/run/cry like a girl? [It's time we make "being a girl" not an insult]

by Charlotte on July 1, 2014 · 22 comments

59399-Fight-Like-A-Girl

 

Image Credit: Anne Cha (facebook, instagram)

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 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??

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura P. July 1, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Good article.

I’m from a family of all girl so I haven’t thought too much about doing things “like a girl”. We all had to work hard no matter what, However, I’m blonde as blonde can be, (Swedish heritage) and I have been teased about being a “dumb blonde”. Honesty, it hurts a little bit. I only hear the jokes being about blonde girls – not blonde guys.

What do I do about this? Just roll with the punches and laugh?

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Darwin July 2, 2014 at 12:19 am

You COULD mention to them that a remark of that caliber must come from a VERY smooth brain…

…then explain that smart brains have wrinkles.

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Laura P. July 2, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Lol. Good comeback.

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Darwin July 2, 2014 at 3:02 pm

It’s yours to use as you desire, milady!

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Darwin July 2, 2014 at 12:10 am

I have been around a…few hours…days…weeks,,,months…years…longer than you Charlotte.

And maybe it is the age showing, but I don’t ever recall the “You throw…hit…whatever” like a girl thing ever being directed at girls.

Because that…would not…make ANY sense.

And I have taken the time to explain to a guy mocking another guy for his lack of throwing ability…that if he himself threw with his non-dominant hand, he would have no aim or power either…

UNTIL he practiced enough to get good at it.
Just like EVERY BEGINNER.

And FYI…most guys do not know how to punch. No speed, no power.

EVEN many martial artists don’t know how to punch. All speed, no power.

And, if guys somehow manage to get in one or two good punches, they hurt their hands in the process, and are reluctant to throw solid ones after.

A solid punch involves distance and timing and accuracy as well as speed and an understanding of power.

Also calmness under pressure and stress.

Even when guys have an idea of those requirements, those considerations get neglected and abandoned in the heat of the moment.

Then it all becomes speed and flailing.

Like many hockey fights. Windmill arms, lots of hits, little or no “ooomph”.

A good solid consistent punch involves THINKING while your learning and training.

And then after enough training…YOU don’t hit…IT hits all by itself.

You move in like sound and echo.

Like Bruce Lee said: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

THAT is all much more time and effort than most people are willing to invest.

Most guys don’t. And even less ladies do.

I had my oldest daughter, along with her brothers (my youngest daughter was not yet two when they were abducted) work out punching and kicking the punching bag. She got some weapons training as well.

Back when the world was younger, I made a pointed effort to make my verbal descriptions non-gender.

For example…

Weakness: “I was sick. So weak I couldn’t out-punch a lame gerbil.”

****NO gerbils were offended in the typing of this comment****

Let me let you in on a little secret in regards to “guy-think” Charlotte…

…the guy in bootcamp class who told you “You sure are strong…for a girl.”…

Was insecure.

He was sincerely impressed by your strength, but he had to add the qualifier LEST BY NOT DOING SO he would himself be diminished in:

a) his own eyes
b) the eyes of any guys who might be within earshot
c) the eyes of any girls within earshot
d) the eyes of any guys you might relate the story to
e) the eyes of any girls you might relate the story to
f) your eyes

He had to add the qualifier, the “swipe” at you…”You sure are strong…for a girl” to diminish YOU, so he would not be diminished.

Ego.

Another guy secret: Most CANNOT “woo in festival terms”.

To explain:

“Leander the good swimmer, Troilus the first employer of panders, and
a whole bookful of these quondam carpet-mangers,
whose names yet run smoothly in the even road of a
blank verse, why, they were never so truly turned
over and over as my poor self in love. Marry, I
cannot show it in rhyme; I have tried: I can find
out no rhyme to ‘lady’ but ‘baby,’ an innocent
rhyme; for ‘scorn,’ ‘horn,’ a hard rhyme; for,
‘school,’ ‘fool,’ a babbling rhyme; very ominous
endings: no, I was not born under a rhyming planet,
nor I cannot woo in festival terms.”

[Much Ado About Nothing Act 5 scene 2 LEONATO'S garden.William Shakespeare]

What I am saying is that a large percentage of males don’t actually put a lot of thought into what they say…or write…and especially not what they text. Most Guys are happy that spelling is…flexible in texting.

But the fact that a lady will analyze…even over-analyze…a text from a guy is not a bad thing.
She may even discern meaning he was not aware of communicating. Because most guys are lousy communicators and they need help to be understood.

Just don’t make a habit of doing it ALL for them or they will never learn.

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Megz July 2, 2014 at 3:52 am

I actually have no issue with ‘you are strong for a girl’. Physiologically, women have less muscle bulk than men (thanks to their lower testosterone) so a 130lb man would likely be stronger than a 130lb woman of the same fitness level.

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Margot July 2, 2014 at 4:04 am

Hi Charlotte, this made me think of you, in case you need it

http://themindunleashed.org/2014/03/15-tips-empaths-highly-sensitive-people.html

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Jess July 2, 2014 at 6:51 am

I have been trying to get past not being girlie for a long time. I didn’t want to be ‘one of those.’ Now I am much better at accepting myself for who I am, including the most basic and fundamental parts of me. Why is it so difficult to accept being a girl? I was raised with boys surrounding me and sisters much older, so tom girl it was. It hasn’t been very long since I decided I was good at being me and being me can include being feminine. And thankfully I have decided that. It has been freeing. Not to mention helpful when my daughter is trying to figure out gender and frequently wants to be a boy. At 3 it is a bit funny, but I have to fight for the girls and it has been eye-opening.

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JLVerde July 2, 2014 at 8:02 am

The first step to taking “like a girl” from pejorative to positive?

The delivery.

Ever heard someone brag, “I (did whatever) LIKE A BOSS!”

Just sub out “boss” with “girl”. Make sure to really get into the brag, too. Posture and swag and go all hog with it.

“I ran that half marathon, LIKE A GIRL!” *swag and posture*

Heck, even do it for the silly stuff like crying over a sappy dog food commercial (guilty!). “I showed my emotions, LIKE A GIRL!” *swag and posture*

I bet you want to try it right now. Go ahead.

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Stephanie July 2, 2014 at 8:17 am

Yes, I remember being told this as a child. And being the only girl in between two brothers and with a majority of male cousins, it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough…like I had to prove myself.

I had run across the Always video before and scrolled on past it…the “like a girl” phrase makes me angry. Now that I watched it, I’m really glad that I did. Because who says that being a girl isn’t as good as being a boy? And why do girls have to do things like boys anyway? Our bodies are different, our brains work a bit differently (or so I’ve been told), so why do I have to throw/run/walk/laugh the same way a guy does? I don’t!

OK – rant over. Thanks for sharing this. It made me think and, honestly, it has given me a bit more confidence/pride in being a “girl.”

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Darwin July 2, 2014 at 8:26 am

“The conventional wisdom of the world would have you be equal with men. We say, we would not have you descend to that level. ”

President Ezra Taft Benson

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Nicholle July 2, 2014 at 9:41 am

Your comment about punching like a newbie struck home. My brother helps me out with home reno sometimes, and when I do something incorrectly, his comment is usually, “You’re such a girl!” I love my brother and he’s a great guy, so I don’t take it too seriously, but the put-down is there. What he forgets is that fathers tend to teach sons how to use power tools and build stuff and don’t do the same for daughters (usually).
And my favourite “girl power” quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (yes, I’m a geek):
“So here’s the part where you make a choice. What if you could have that power, now? In every generation, one Slayer is born, because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power, should be *our* power. … From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong? “

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Julia July 2, 2014 at 10:09 am

I like Megz ‘s comment.

Also, I can’t help but to reverse this stereotyping and think of statements like
“you’re such a bro,” an example which is routinely remarked to a male and meant to imply to him that he is displaying excessive machoism and a dim intellect. Diff side of the same coin. I think women only give power to the negative sense of “throw [or whatever] like a girl” if we (women and men) let it. 9/10 instances the speaker doesn’t mean anything by it, and, yes, granted there are the arguments that not standing up for it simply lets the hegemony continue, but I think it’s more reasonable and gracious to chuckle, shrug it off, and pick better battles.

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Darwin July 2, 2014 at 5:12 pm

“hegemony’

THANK-YOU for teaching me a new word Julia!

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Laura July 2, 2014 at 11:31 am

Check out the other HelloFlo commercial: The Camp Gyno. Also hilarious.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XnzfRqkRxU

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Susan Helene Gottfried July 2, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Man, I just want to hang and dish with you…

So. Topic at hand. I’ve called my Scouts on the “like a girl” garbage, but c’mon. “You screech like a girl” is pretty hard to refute. Girls have higher voices. It’s biology. The rest? I’ll tell ‘em where they can stuff it. Haven’t had to challenge any of them to feats of skill or strength to get them to show up; they know me too well. They’ve seen me out-Scout-skill some of our other dads.

So I asked my 11-year-old daughter about it. The “popular” crowd uses it and she doesn’t like them, so she doesn’t care. She’s teflon (for now). My son, who’s older, has never been told he does something like a girl, other than when his hair was almost waist-length (and then it was “You look like a girl”), and let me tell you how fast that stopped when he chopped it off and said, “Yeah, I cut my hair. I DONATED it.”

Am I in a more enlightened area? Hell, no. I have kids who have watched their mom roll her eyes when she faced that attempted put-down and, well… there’s a reason it’s MOM who’s the Boy Scout. Around here, after all we’ve been through (and continue to deal with), Mom might even have the edge.

BUT 2c about the girls versus women cheerleaders. Here’s how I, the pro wordsmith, view it: when you call an adult a girl, you’re saying she’s youthful. That she’s energetic, that life hasn’t beat her down, that she’s got a glow, a blush, an air to her. That’s what I see on those cheerleaders. Sure, it’s makeup and an act. But it’s an enthusiasm, a zest for life. A woman… she’s mature. Thoughtful. Maybe a bit restrained. Life sits more heavily on her.

Thus, I don’t see it as an insult to call a cheerleader a girl. She’s selling her youth and her beauty and the endemic enthusiasm for life that girls often have (especially when they are young. Like, Jellybean young). It’s a bit of flattery, an image-shaping word that is more about the emotion evoked than actual circumstance.

Likewise, being called a woman, especially when young, means wisdom, strength, power. Not an insult either.

But, clearly, my view is skewed. Anyone got an axe? I got some wood to chop.

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Darwin July 2, 2014 at 3:01 pm

I love the way your explained all of that.

Just saying.

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Kevin Hipple July 2, 2014 at 3:51 pm

I am one of three boys and was raised in a neighborhood of mostly boys with a couple very tomboyish girls thrown in. So I did not grow up around girls. Then I ended up coaching my daughter’s softball team. Which was dramatically different from working with my son’s team. They boys had been playing catch and hitting balls essentially all their lives. The girls hadn’t. So much of my coaching was on basics, even as basic as how to run! Most of the girls were there to flirt with boys, so my efforts were pretty much wasted. But a couple girls did pay attention and work on their technique. Which paid huge dividends over the course of a couple seasons. Some of the worst players that first year were some of the best at the end of the second season.

So you are right. If they throw like a girl or bat like a girl, it probably means they don’t know how. Not because they are girls, but because they weren’t taught or never practiced. Sex really doesn’t matter.

Also, I used to refer to the women in my office as “ladies” because to me that meant a classy female. I was told that was insulting them by insinuating they were old. I prefer my interpretation and continue that reference to this day. Sorry to anyone that insults.

Good post.

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Darwin July 2, 2014 at 4:54 pm

This all just still boggles my mind….

When I was in in public school, all the way from kindergarten to grade eight, I knew a lot of awesomely athletic girls.

A girl taught me how to do the fitness test “hang” because I was having a difficult time. With her help, I improved, but she could STILL kick my butt at it. Ladder against the wall, a rung that let her hang just a few inches off the ground, and one time she did it in a dress and dress shoes. Just to demonstrate. Again.

Another girl gave me tips when I first started distance running in grade four. She had already been doing it, and told me what to expect and how to get past progress barriers.

Many girls were faster than me.

None of this ever seemed strange to me.

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Matt July 2, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Maybe a little off topic, but I take exception to the idea that push ups on the knees are “girly push ups.”

I highly disagree. Push ups of any kind are non gender specific and there is no such thing as an easy push up or wimpy push up. People who contend that there is and I just have them do a normal push up and I tell them that that version could be considered wimpy or girly. When they ask why I tell them that it’s being done with both arms.

It kind of puts things into perspective.

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Channon July 4, 2014 at 6:30 am

GREAT post. We are our own worst enemies sometimes and we need to be mindful of what comes out of our mouths.

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AmyB July 13, 2014 at 5:18 pm

A good friend I golf with calls herself a “girly girl” and when I challenged her to define exactly what she meant, she was dumbstruck. She figured I HAD to know what she meant. Of course I did have an idea – but forcing her to be more specific was an interesting exercise. Just one more example of how important word/phrase choices are and the inherent difficulties of clear communication.

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