The Legacy of Our Words
Have you ever told someone they do something "like a girl" to imply they didn't meet a particular standard, were weaker, incapable, slower, etc.? Why is being associated with femaleness an insult? You run like a girl, throw like a girl, hit like a girl. These statements are hurtful as they are learned. And then they become dangerous to the psyche as it's internalized, accepted it and then learned to laugh about it and agree with it.
That shit is poisonous to our self worth, self esteem, self acceptance, self ... everything. Associating our gender with something other than positive words is toxic as hell. And, what of the boys who say it and the men they become? They pay us less, vote less often for women, say women can't hold office because they are emotional, they reinforce the glass ceilings, they critique our bodies, they rape our bodies, they objectify us, they belittle us ... and if we don't laugh with them, then we have "no sense of humor."
One small comment builds upon others. Certainly "like a girl" doesn't need to be a gateway to other overt and subtle sexism but it's certainly a part of the equation early on in life. We dress girls differently, we give them less access to things to enjoy -- play with dolls and not dinosaurs. Play nurse and not doctor. Pretty yourself by doing your hair and playing salon.
Boys also have rigid gender roles that are hurtful but in different ways. A hyper masculine male will never be seen to be as vulnerable as a less masculine male. And, that's not even adding to the equation non-binary people, transitioning people, transgendered people, androgynous people, etc. Each comes with their own challenges, of course.
But my primary point of contention is the "like a girl" comment. It was said to me the other day when a friend who I have known for eight damn years said that when he was talking about how his hand is weaker because he was shot. He was fucking shot in his hand and the way he parlayed his strength was to compare it to the weakness of a girl. He's not weak. He's tall, handsome, intelligent and a highly skilled soldier. He's among those cool elite guys who go places and do stuff quietly in the dark of the night. So, pardon my saying so but nothing about him is weak - not his body and not his mind. Is his hand less strong because of his injury? Sure. But why explain his weakness to that of a girl? Why insult my gender in the process?
This is when he said the thing I absolutely can't stand. Rationalizing sexism by saying that women normally laugh about it. WHY WOULD THEY? That's like women who are also republicans. It's literally against their best interest to land on that area of the spectrum. Laughing about sexism means they've internalized it so deeply and accepted it as their reality that they laugh about it. And not laughing about it means I have no sense of humor and now I'm a man hater, right?
I am not a man hater because I don't condone sexism. I am in a matriarchal household. I am raising two daughters. Under no circumstance do I want them to internalize their self worth to be less than because they have a fucking vulva and not penis.
Am I upset about it?
Definitely. Sexism is unsettling no matter the source. Perhaps it's worse when it's someone I respect but it's still bad nonetheless. And the fact that society tells me that I'm just being a sensitive chick for being offended and not telling him that the comment is wrong is part of the problem.
I'm not to blame for the offense I took.
Like a girl is a fucked up expression when it's meant as an insult. Don't give me the biological "but they are smaller and weaker" nonsense. In the military, there were men I was stronger than. In the military, there were men I was weaker than. We exist on a spectrum. I'm not saying that women physically surpass men. What I'm saying is that men comparing weakness to being a girl is a problem. There is no digging out of that hole.
And, a timely tidbit showed up on my newsfeed from Ms Magazine. An article "A New Study shows how gender stereotypes hurt kids around the world" points directly to the correlation between sexism and the negative effects it has on both boys and girls.
But the thing is ... as we grow up and develop greater awareness, it's a failure on our part to not identify the fucked up things we say and correct it. We are designed for growth, designed to learn, designed to improve with age. So, there's no excuse to sit back and say the things we say if they are hurtful, negative, detrimental to a girl's growth -- particularly when you are the parent of a daughter OR son.
It's not just imperative to teach our girls that their worth is beyond that of being "just a girl" -- it's essential we teach boys to not diminish girls' value as well. Teaching girls one thing and boys the other is the same thing as teaching girls to not get raped instead of teaching boys to simply not rape.
I'm a feminist and proud of the awareness I have about society, myself, expectations that were pushed on me, my refusal to accept hurtful norms ... I'm confident in my ability to fill my daughters with the intrinsic value of them as human beings, not "just girls."
It is my hope to continue to make friends more aware of their words so they can curtail some of their speech and replace it with other expressions.
To end on a positive note ... here are some videos that are powerful reminders of what we are and what we can do when filled with self love ...