I Do Throw Like a Girl
I just wanted to weigh in on this because I think our culture is sort of spiraling into a Dove-induced pity party for ladies. This one was an Always ad, but it’s squarely in that “so hard to be a girl” vein.
Strangely, the ad seems to defeat its own purpose starting about halfway through. They start out asking adult women to “run like a girl” etc. and they all do a forlorn, air-headed, flailing run. After a sad exhortation about self-esteem, one woman says she’d just run like herself if asked again to “run like a girl.” Doesn’t that say it all? She knew that she herself was female the first time she was asked to run like a girl. But she swished and dangled while running anyway. Everyone given that command interpreted it the same: Run like a girly girl. None of the women were offended when asked to run like a girl. They seemed delighted and amused, happy to act like a persona they didn’t appear to identify with themselves whatsoever.
The ad defeats itself again when blue-dress-lady rightly points out that if a girl is excelling in her sport, it doesn’t matter if someone says that she kicks like a girl or shoots like a girl, etc. Exactly– it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t mean anything. I have never heard of someone saying, “you throw like a girl” to a girl who throws well. When they say it to a boy who throws badly, they mean the same thing inferred by the women in the ad: “you throw like a girly girl who’s afraid to break a nail and mess up her hair!” not, “you throw like a girl who loves baseball and practices pitching with her dad after school!”
Look guys, self-esteem is important but it isn’t some mystical dragon that we have to chase after collectively as a culture. And to the idea that a girl’s self-esteem drops around puberty, can’t we just say, “of course it does”? So do boys’? So does everyone’s because junior high is an insane crucible of developing personalities, self-questioning, brain chemistry, and crazy changes in pretty much every aspect of life?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. Yeah, puberty was a strange time socially. But self-esteem isn’t pulled primarily from the dude in class who says you suck at gym class. You probably do suck at gym class.
Self-esteem is drawn from people who love you totally apart from what you can do and what you look like. I thought I was ugly in junior high and high school, but it never occurred to me that I lacked value because of it. All of my family (most importantly my parents) made it plain, in words and actions, that I was valued by them with no stipulations. Nothing could alter this value. Because of this, I naturally chose friends who treated me well. Why on earth would I have borne back-stabbers or fair-weather friends while all along having a knowledge that I was capable of having worth to people?
Over time, my friends were incorporated into my self-esteem, but it was safe because they valued me, too. A boy we didn’t know called me ugly in grade eight as he walked by and Kim looked at me, disbelieving, and said, “Wow, what an asshole.” A perfect response that said it all. A gushing reassurance that I was actually beautiful would have made things worse because I would have thought she was lying or exaggerating to spare my feelings. Instead she insinuated that she was my friend no matter what I looked like– so much stronger of a solidarity.
As an aside, growing up in the church, I heard continuously that I was precious to God and that was meant to help my self-esteem. But the thought didn’t really land with me until my 20s. So, Christian parents, by all means underline your child’s deep worth to God, but never leave out their deep and unchangeable worth to you.
All that to say, I can pretty much guarantee you that no young lady has cried into her pillow at night because someone told her that she throws like a girl. But she’ll cry and never stop if she thinks her parents don’t love her, even if she has a mean curveball. The way of making any kid impervious to the degrading remarks of people who don’t value them is raising them to know, not think, know that they are special, important and precious to a few certain people.
Revolutionizing the meaning of “like a girl” won’t change anything. Girls, and boys — every adult human ever– will face insult, slander and disrespect in varying magnitudes for their whole life. Trying to remove the storms of life is utterly, utterly futile. Far better and simpler: teach children the healthy way to respond.