My friend Transatlantic Blonde started hosting Feminist Friday for fellow women, mothers and/or bloggers. This week her theme was ‘The Power of Words.’
I throw like a girl. It’s been told to me in the same tone that someone might use to say ‘you are a terrible singer.’ But I wasn’t bothered because, well, I am a girl. And I am also not good at throwing things. The sad thing, however, is that being told you throw like a girl, even if you are one, is meant to be an insulting. And if you happen to be a boy, just know that being told the way you heave a projectile through the air is feminine is the height of all aspersions. Why? Because what could be WORSE than being a girl? NOTHING.
Even when all our conversations about raising future children were purely hypothetical, my husband and I had many talks, some quite heated, about the way we use language and how that will affect our future children. And when I brought up ‘throw like a girl’, things got a little heated. Not because Dave thinks women can’t throw balls or play sports or do things men can do. But because he feels that since it is likely true that a randomly chosen man can throw faster/farther/more accurately/whatever than a randomly chosen woman, this makes the statement not an injustice against women but more of a law of averages and physical design. This coming from a man with athletic sisters, lots of love in his heart for the females, and no ill intent. And yet upon hearing this, my head exploded.
I understand in the age and culture of extreme political correctness, sometimes it starts to feel like things are watered down and neutralized to the point of meaninglessness. Children’s sporting events where ‘everyone’s a winner’ and the ongoing argument about the holiday season vs. the Christmas season. I fully believe in the power of words to hurt or help, to empower or impede. And I’m also willing to admit that sometimes by simply making words taboo we give them more meaning and force than they ever had before they were outlawed. But for me phrases like ‘you throw like a girl’ sting too much to be passed over.
I’ll tell you what I told my wonderful husband. Take it or leave, do with it what you will.
I don’t think women can do every single thing men can do at the same exact level. Dave lifts the heavy things in our relationship because he is stronger, and I don’t want a hernia. Equality is not about sameness. Men cannot do everything women can do at the exact same level, I’d love to see Dave try to feed a human from his breast or even sit cross-legged for goodness sake. I know that many generalizations about ability based on gender are proven true in many cases, and I know there are exceptions to any rule we could come up with that divides gender so clearly by those abilities.
I accept differences in ability between not just gender, but also age or even physical size and I love that there are exceptions in all those cases. I’m not here to get us to hold hands and sing songs and live in a world where we’re all just as good and just as smart and just as strong.
The problem isn’t that I throw like a girl. The problem is that throwing like a girl, or crying like a girl, or bitching like a woman, is meant to put someone down. While you may mean to say ‘you are really terrible at throwing things’ or ‘you might be a little over-emotional about this’ or ‘you really seem to complain a lot’, what you are really saying (whether you want to admit it or not, whether it was conscious or not) is that those negative things are female traits. You’re saying women are weaker, less rational, more antagonistic. Using these phrases insults all women, even if you are one, and doesn’t do much for men. SAY WHAT YOU MEAN. Tell me I have terrible aim and a disturbing lack of hand-eye coordination. I can take it. But don’t get lazy and used washed-up stereotypes to imply that doing something the way a girl or woman would isn’t as good as doing it the way a man would. You’re better than that. And my aim is better when I’m angry.