When did “Like a Girl” Become an Insult?

I know I’m late on jumping on the band wagon, but I came across Always’ Like A Girl campaign a few days ago, and it moved me. To be honest, I saw this ad campaign when it first launched, however, I didn’t have the urge to talk about it. Yet, as I came across the YouTube video last week, I couldn’t help but follow the urge to write my thoughts on it. It had the capacity to affect me because I would have mirrored the words and actions of the older women in the video who described “like a girl” meant being “weak.” I hate myself for that. As I write this, I’m thinking: “What’s wrong with running like a girl?” I damn well can run fast and run for long (10K runner here, baby!). Yet, that’s not how I would have thought about it a few years ago. So then, why would I have originally thought running like a girl meant being the last in the pack as my styled hair flopped on to my face? When did “like a girl” become an insult? Because cultural clichés are real.

As this article from AVoiceForMen so perfectly puts it, the phrase “like a girl” was borne out of the conventional identity of gender roles. A female is, in its most stereotypical essence, a nurturer and caregiver. Centuries of defining gender roles solidified women as the caregiver, the “softer” gender. Anything callus deemed us as manly and in the context of a female, that wasn’t a very feminine characteristic. Thus, women were grown to learn to be more feminine and softer compared to her counterpart.

Yet, that very cultural cliché has been a downfall for women who’ve struggled to live past the stereotype. For the women who strive to identify with strength, they were shot down with unjust comments. In similar fashion, before I started to consider fitness as a “happy place” for myself, I didn’t mind being girly. That meant I was being feminine, right? No. Not by a long shot and not from how I see it now.

What I didn’t realize was how damaging this sort of mindset was to me. It translated into everyday life to a paralyzing extent. When I first started working out at the gym, I was afraid to lift heavy. I didn’t want to seem like a head-strong girl lifting heavy with the men in the weight room. I liked the dainty 2KG dumbbells. Deadlifts were for the buff dudes with their protein shakes and the cardio stations were for women to run endlessly in the hopes it will burn their fat for eternity. That’s how I thought before.

Today, I’m saying, screw that.

Strong is the new beautiful. Running like a girl is the new feminine. Throwing like a girl is the new sexy.

Why do we limit ourselves with societal norms? It’s a damaging standard to achieve and inhibits the exploration of womankind. Today, I deadlift, leg-press close to 100LBS and advanced from 5LBS dumbbells to 20LBS. Why? Because I can. Because I am a woman and I lift like a girl. The more I allow myself to explore my strength and womankind, the more I amaze myself. My body and mind extend to phenomenal capacities. My strength as a woman exceeds my boundaries every day, and no unjustifiable, uncharacteristic normative about what it means to be a girl will stop me. It shouldn’t stop any other girl, either. Because I love doing things like a girl. A girl can, and will. I lift like a girl, and I love it.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic! Do you feel differently? Have you felt the same? What was your experience? There’s nothing more empowering than women banding together to fight uncharacteristic clichés!

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