I Throw Like A Girl

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.

Barf.

(source)

11 thoughts on “I Throw Like A Girl

  1. This entry caused me to take a minute to think over our sayings. While Kevin isn’t guilty of saying “you throw like a girl” (he says to me, “Act like you’ve actually played a sport before!”) I am guilty of saying “Did you look like a boy or a girl” when asked by Kevin “where is the ____?” My stereotype is that men aren’t capable of looking beyond the first row. Looks like I’ll have to change my phrasing

  2. well said! it’s so true. that saying implies that girls are weak and useless, it is not a saying that comments on girls physical strenth.

    there are also sayings like this related to racism. in australia when someone asks us to do something we say ‘what did your last slave die of?, quite nonchalantly, but it is not a nice saying at all. One day I said it to my partner who is Jamaican (Jamaica has a terrible slavery history)and he didn’t understand. So i had to explain, and then it clicked and in feeling terrible, it also made me very aware of my language.

  3. I am a high school teacher and would love to share this with my students. Being told you “throw like a girl” is tame compared to some of the things I hear, and no matter how much talking we do about it kids don’t seem to understand the power of their words.

  4. I love this. Totally 100% love this. I know this sounds dumb but I have been trying to say that simple phrase for years: “Equality is not about sameness.” and I think that point is lost so often.

    I shared this on my google reader and will do so on facebook. I hope it makes the rounds.

    Love you.

  5. Another great post Lane. I hate that phrase; a friend of mine recently tweeted that her football team were “playing like girls,” so I tweeted back “Oh, they must be winning then!”

    If someone tells me I throw like a girl, I’d be likely to retort “Oh you think I’m as good as Jennie Finch?” I mean it’s a complement to be told you are as good as an olympic athlete, right?

    I think it is important to call people out when they say things like this otherwise it will just keep going on forever.

    PS- I wrote this post while sitting cross-legged 🙂

  6. And some more barfing. But, in hono(u)r of the fact that Blondie and I live in Scotland, I’ll say ‘boke’ instead. Your post made me laugh and cry at the same time. One of my sons got a rounders game for his birthday a few weeks ago. It is a bit like baseball– only significantly stupider. Tristan (son 2) wasn’t very good at hitting (who is, the first 200 times they try?). I said I used to have real trouble when I was his age. My husband and sons then assumed that I couldn’t hit. Suckers. Out of the park and into the road. I asked them why, and got the dreaded answer: “because you are a girl.” I didn’t hit any of them with the bat, and am still congratulating myself.

  7. Didn’t barf at the picture accompanying this entry because I was too busy laughing. I 100% agree with you unless you’re talking about our slow pitch team in which we have some girls who are pretty awesome athletess, superior to some of the men on our team, and therefore it’s a compliment. 🙂

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