The gym is a magical place full of eavesdropping, and awkward encounters that include getting hit on, loud grunting noises, and stinky-sweaty bodies. I have started a new routine, working out at 6 a.m.. I am on a quest to become a morning person.
My particular gym has a large older male population. Picture this.
It is 6 a.m., barely awake, pedaling away on my elliptical (slowly-it’s early and I am not with the program), my mind is wandering and I couldn’t help but listen to the background noise. A group of old men who clearly frequent the gym at this time are in the midst of their morning social hour. They kinda sound like clucking hens.
My back was facing them so all I could do was listen and imagine what it actually looked like.
Most of their conversation I couldn’t hear clearly. Then I heard the phrase, “Ah Man. Don’t be such a girl.” Immediately I was shocked into complete awake mode. Like someone had taken charged paddles to my chest to revive me.
Part of me thought it was irony at its finest, considering I was the only woman in the gym and actually working out. The two engaged in conversation were standing around their machines jabbering away. Then I thought, I really cannot stand that phrase. In fact my whole life I have never liked that phrase. Since I was now more awake and capable of thinking actual thoughts I asked myself, Why do we say that?. Because its not just men who use that phrase, its women too. If I’m being really honest, I have even caught myself saying it. The phrases “Like a girl” or “Don’t be such a girl” are so engrained in our culture that someone who NEVER liked it in the first place still catches herself using it. Like an automatic reflex.
My mind was reeling at 6 a.m. (this is a whole new experience) and I realized how completely messed up that is. I began to think of all the similar phrases I have heard in my life:
- Don’t be such a girl.
- You run like a girl. (I find this particularly infuriating because I was a sprinter and a pretty good one.)
- You throw like a girl. (Also infuriating because I played softball.)
- Are you going to cry like a girl?
- She deserved it. (In response to a woman being sexually harassed or raped because of how she was dressed.)
- I don’t want to have a girl. (In response to the possibility of having a baby girl.)
As children we are taught, “Sticks and stones will break my bones. But words will never harm me.”
Here’s the thing, words are powerful. They hold meaning. The language we use, the way we talk about things is a direct reflection of our culture. So why are we still using words that shame girls and women? Why is someone like me using it automatically?
It is moments like this that make me realize just how far we have to go. And I wonder am I the only one who is deeply struck by this? Why aren’t more people talking about this?
The universe has a funny way of timing things because today on my Facebook feed I saw this post from Girl Up:
I haven’t reached my goal of raising $30,000 yet to benefit the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing and Michigan Food and Farming Systems. I REFUSE to give up. We need more people empowering girls and women. We need more people investing in organizations that remove barriers so dreams are achievable.
I am making a commitment to delete the “Like a girl” or “Don’t be such a girl” mentality from my vocabulary. If for no other reason than I am a girl. I owe it to myself to use language that empowers me and those around me.
Make a $30 Empowerment Investment and help me change the conversation around girls and women.