like a girl

July 03, 2016 Roobs Leiser

you know that way when you grow up with something that’s just so pervasively, inherently a part of culture that you become desensitised to how problematic it is? like using ‘gay’ to mean ‘lame’, or your grandparents’ casual low-key racism. one such example of this which has started to gain some mainstream opposition in recent years is that king of internalised misogyny: ‘like a girl’. 
but the issue is that the direction our society has taken in condemning it is based on the notion that only men use the phrase. ‘fight like a girl’, ‘throw like a girl’, ‘don’t be such a girl’ etc etc etc, the colloquialisms are numerous and each is as tacky as the one before. if i start discussing gender stereotyping, discrimination, inequality etc in general terms, this piece will never be finished, but i’ll recap briefly one of the more famous cases of absolute grossness founded by supposed gender norms. 
in 2011, two sky sports commentators were caught launching absolute poison at an official before a liverpool v wolves football game when they thought their microphones were switched off - because she was a woman. the 25 year old was selected to be a lineswoman for the game (side-note: the autocorrect on my mac has just changed that to ‘linesman’ for me. adding fuel to the fire there, apple.). their comments included the so-predictable-it’s-almost-more-boring-than-offensive ‘we should go down there and explain offside to her’, as well as attacking the then west ham chairman (a woman) for her newspaper column, published the day before, in which she discussed…..sexism in football. retrospectively, i’m sitting here reading the numerous articles pertaining to the incident and realising the extent to which the two men just made themselves look like absolute buffoons. what’s causing me more distress now, however, is the way in which various media outlets reported it as being a bit of banter gone wrong. the daily mail’s headline was ‘sky sports presenters score an own goal..’. 
as though the only side effect of sexism is embarrassment for men when they get caught out. as though luton town’s manager mike newell wasn’t once let off with a fine & a warning because he justified comments made to a female referee’s assistant by saying ‘i know that sounds sexist but i am sexist’. as though female commentators don’t open up their social media everyday to be welcomed by endless threats of rape & death - as a result of talking about sports. 
but the ‘like a girl’ rhetoric has reached that catastrophic level of infiltration, in which we no longer need men to substantiate it. how has our society stagnated enough to perpetuate, in 2016, girls captioning photos of themselves in dresses with ‘i look like a girl for once’ or ‘dressing like a girl’ because they’re in pink or ‘i’m a real girl tonight’ because they’ve made an effort with their hair/makeup? why are we allowing ourselves to conform to this archaic idea of ‘real’ femininity being constituted by pink bows and all things sugary sweet? that beauty and glamour and preened perfection can only belong to women who embody the full package of girliness, as though the combo of streetwear & a slaying contour, for example, can’t possibly exist within our world of compartmentalised gender standards? 
when i ran the giftshop, an older woman once refused to buy a blue bunny soft toy because the embroidered eyelashes were 'too long' and it might be confused for a girl rabbit. she was one of very, very many who still subscribe to this outdated notion of the sheer HORROR that is having a child be associated in any way, from birth, with anything that isn’t explicitly designed for their gender. and, as abhorrent as it was to me, encountering customers like that never really surprised me. they were always women, they were always older, and they were always entirely unapologetic in their views because they genuinely didn’t understand why they were wrong. 
what does sadden me, however, is that this divisive nonsense has permeated even our supposedly more-informed generation’s consciousness. proclamations of ‘real women have curves’, ‘every girl just needs a man who…’, ‘all girls just want to be called princess’ haunt my twitter feed and my dreams. 
read this, and understand:
in a world where it is finally understood that even your sex doesn’t define your gender, sagely dishing out your perceived wisdom about the universal behaviour/preferences/characteristics of every single person on the planet with the same genitalia literally just makes you stupid.
i am not intending to resurrect the 80s/90s difference-versus-equality debate. my point is, simply, that ‘like a girl’ will always either be used disparagingly or as a would-be empowering reclamation in response to those who would use it with malicious intent. but being a girl is not something we should have to reclaim. being a girl is not something we should have to defend, something we should have to demand fellow women to be proud of, something that requires tv adverts to tell us is actually a valid thing. 
being a girl is not something that we should permit others to instruct us on, or define for us, or set boundaries for. 
if you define yourself as a girl, nothing on this earth will ever make you more or less of a girl. not the clothes you wear, or the shoes you buy, or the sports you play, or the eyeshadow you perfect, or the way you act. and no-one else, based on any of those things, can tell you otherwise.
as always: do no harm, but take no shit.

1 comment

  • FIona

    Jul 04, 2016

    Something related, and so very important, which you may have already watched.

    You are wonderful..xo

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