I [...] Like a Girl

Whitney, 1985

Whitney, 1985

The idea of doing something ‘like a girl’ has been talked about a lot this summer. The idea came flooding back into our consciousness in June when a video campaign by Always, the feminine hygiene company, went viral. It brilliantly displays the negative stereotype of doing [something] 'like a girl.' In the video, the producers asked a series of women, men, boys, and girls—through a variety of ages—to mimic running, fighting, and throwing ‘like a girl.’ Unsurprisingly, the common response was to do it poorly, weakly, and timidly. ‘Like a girl’ is an insult, and this was highlighted.

The Always campaign seemed prescient of what was about to happen with the media explosion of Mo'ne Davis, who became the first girl to throw a shutout at the Little League World Series. Mo'ne's Taney Dragons team from Philadelphia was eliminated from the tournament in the next game, however her strong performance sparked a swarm of #throwlikeagirl tweats, in a move reclaiming the once belittling saying for the strong and talented.

Mo'ne has been highly embraced for her performance, appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, being referenced on nightly news casts everywhere, and even gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated—a highly coveted spot that is unfortunately not too common for even the most well-known and successful female athletes.

All of this recent attention given to doing 'it like a girl' shows new awareness and progress in countering the damaging stereotypes girls and women have been encountering forever. This progress is good, but it is still heartbreaking to realize how ubiquitous the negative stereotypes of women and girls are. Society still actively sends implicit messages telling girls we are weaker and not as good as our male peers.

These stereotypes are even perpetuated unintentionally by many who would never even think of themselves as being sexist. I remember hearing a story about an NFL football player who was raising a small daughter. When she was about five years old, he realized that he had never thrown a ball to his little girl, but if she had been a boy, he would have been playing football with him from his first tottering moments. Unintentionally, he had been telling his daughter, that as a girl, she was not meant to be athletic and strong.

Although I am saddened by the fact that doing it 'like a girl' still has an insidious underbelly, the best news from this newly reinvigorated conversation stems from the point that the youngest girls in the Always commercial were ignorant of the insult and ran, fought, and threw hard when prompted to do it 'like a girl.' Even Mo'ne Davis seems quite unaware of the insult hidden in 'throwing like a girl' and shows incredible confidence, saying “I throw my curveball like Clayton Kershaw and my fastball like Mo'ne Davis.” She expects to be recognized for her skill and performance. In her swagger, she seems to say, "of course I throw like a girl. I throw like a damn good girl, and I want to see you try to hit my pitch."

Hopefully soon we will be at the place where when I raise a daughter or a son, she/he will want to do [something] ‘like a girl’ because it will not be an insult but rather a it will be a compliment.

- whitney hopkins