They’re the sayings we’ve heard all our lives. They’re not always said as shock but also to mock, not every one is delivered as a put down but even as a compliment, the outcome is always the same. It’s not just men who use them, but women too and every time someone says it to a little girl or little boy, a new generation of sexist stereotypes are passed down to our children. They’re damaging, dismissive and outdated. So let’s cut them out.
An incredible video has been posted online that sums up this saying perfectly. Teenagers are asked to ‘run like a girl’ – they run awkwardly with arms and legs going in all different directions, one girl cries out about her hair coming out of place. They then ask little girls (aged 4-8) the same question, they put their heads down and pretend they’re sprinting like a world champion, arms strong, eyes focussed. Writing appears on the screen ‘when did ‘like a girl’ become an insult?’
Somewhere during puberty, ‘like a girl’ turned into a put down, an insult, a misleading stereotype that means, weak, inferior and powerless. Being ‘a girl’ isn’t a bad thing and it doesn’t equal being weak and uncoordinated. It shouldn’t be an insult, but a badge of honour.
But to change the saying, it begins with us, all of us. Using it as an insult affects girls’ self-confidence as well as their prospects. Tell your children ‘like a girl’ can mean winning the race.
This is a common statement made a male sportsman when he’s beaten by a female. It’s simply awful, again used as an insult to reinforce a weak stereotype of females as inferior. I’m sorry to break it to you boys, but I can promise you that, in your life, you will be beaten by a chick. Some girls are simply faster, stronger, can leap further and will stand above you on the podium. The sooner we stop using this term, the sooner people will realise gender doesn’t automatically provide sporting superiority.
This one really is the younger brother of ‘getting chicked’. It’s often delivered as an insult when a girl beats a boy, but from an early age it instills a notion that men are superior and it’s embarrassing to have a girl beat them. Being beaten by a girl isn’t bad, it’s a pretty much a reality, it will happen. It’s natural that men will be outmuscled, outplayed and outperformed by a girl just as much as a boy, and it’s not something to feel ashamed.
From a little budding softballer who could throw far ‘for a girl’ to a sports journalist who has a firm handshake ‘for a girl’ – I just can’t escape this frustrating saying. The majority of people say this as a compliment but unfortunately in doing so insult half the population. ‘For a girl’ says that women aren’t expected to be strong, athletic, smart nor superior. To say this to little girls lowers their expectations of what is possible in life and for a ‘little boy’ to hear it, it tells him that girls are the lesser sex.
Now this is the bi-product of all the others sayings and another one that frustrates many women. It’s the saying to use when a girl surpasses all expectations, when she couldn’t have possibly succeeded on the back of merit, skill and hardwork, it must be ‘because she’s a girl’. ‘For a girl’, ‘beaten by a girl’ and ‘getting chicked’ have instilled the belief that there’s no way a female could rise above a male, so in the absence of the common sense explanation that she was simply better, they blame it on her sex and even, in some cases, sexual powers of persuation in influencing a decision. In claiming reverse discrimination it’s simply discriminating against women. Get over it, accept it and move on.
They’re just 5 sayings, not many at all, but sayings women have heard over and over and over again. We don’t need our sons and daughters to be influenced by them any more. This world will never change and the gender balance will never tip closer to even unless we remove these sexist and outdated sayings. Make the effort to stop using them and call someone out when they do. Most of the time, people don’t realise they’re using that saying or the subconscious affect it’s having on some very impressionable minds.
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