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Why 'acting like a girl' isn't an insult

Posted by Jessica Swanger | Columnist ( on 24th Feb 2016

You fight like a girl.

You’re just being a B****.

You’re pretty good - for a girl.

Real men don’t act like little girls.

Since when did being a girl become an accepted form of insulting one another?

Why is it insulting to be called a girl, to be associated with having feminine-like qualities?

I understand that modern slang has developed from our historically male-dominated societal ideals where women were seen as objects. I understand that at one point in history, I would have been considered a male’s property.

But we are in the 21st century; I am no one’s property but my own.

While these phrases aren’t always aimed at referring to females in a derogatory manner, they still have lasting impacts on society that are derogatory in nature.

In a TEDWomen talk given by Tony Porter, he calls to men to get out of their “Man box”.

Inside this man box are all of the stereotypical traits associated with being a male.

He said men are taught to be tough, strong, courageous, dominating, to feel no pain, have no emotions except anger and definitely have no fear.

The ideas within the man box include some of the following: Men are supposed to be in charge, which means women are not. Men are supposed to be leaders and women are not. Men are strong and women are weak.

Women are of less value; they are the property of men. They are objects, particularly of the sexual variety. Porter said this is where we need to make a change.

We need to allow males to step outside of this man box, and I couldn’t agree more

He asked a 12-year-old football player, “How would you feel, if in front of all of your fellow players, your coach told you that you were playing like a girl?”

He said, “It would destroy me.”

If it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we teaching him about girls?

What are we teaching males about females when we look at this concept of the man box?

We are teaching them that females are less than males.

What are we teaching females about females?

We are teaching females that in order to be accepted, they need to be pretty, submissive, emotional and weak.

We are a nation of teenage boys - we don’t know what to make of women. The more power and success that women gain, the more backlash they receive.

We could substitute race, ethnicity or religion into these insults that are using feminized words, and they no longer become appropriate in society.

This substitution of ideas would be considered disrespectful, crude and wrong to do in mainstream society.

So why do we freely use negative connotations for gender but we don’t when we discuss race or religion?

Finding these stereotypical sex differences is more apparent in older rather than younger children and adolescents, but pop culture is finding ways to perpetuate these stereotypes to children at younger ages.

Society places individuals into categories based upon stereotypical sex differences, which are perpetuated throughout our media.

Sometimes, the media works to bring to light these stereotypical differences and shows us that these stereotypes can be more harmful than helpful.

For example, Always created a commercial where adolescent and young adult males and females are asked what it is like to run like a girl and throw like a girl.

Both sexes immediately show the stereotype of worrying about hair, skipping and waving their arms everywhere, not committing to the legitimate act of running. Even male children as young as 12 show these behaviors.

But when young female children are asked to throw like a girl/run like a girl they run the same way as they always do - as fast as they can, doing their absolute best.

Because when these young females run “like a girl” they are running as themselves, without the stereotypical lens of society.

Again, why is being called a girl such a bad thing?

We need to bring awareness about this subject, because without showing society that being “a girl” is a good thing, nothing will change.

The insults will continue, and being associated with feminine traits will always be derogatory in nature.

I’m not asking everyone to up-and-change their entire vocabulary overnight.

I’m calling for you to become aware of how this language affects our generation; I am asking for you to do your part and help us become a society where the phrase “like a girl” holds no negative connotation.

My name is Jessica. I talk like a girl, I fight like a girl, I speak like a girl and I act like a girl.

I am a girl, and I am proud to be one.