Just last year, Always released their video campaign, #LikeAGirl, which went viral across multiple media platforms.
The video asked us all to consider the thought-provoking question, “When did doing something ‘like a girl’ become an insult?”
It’s not uncommon to hear phrases like “You hit like a girl” and “You are whining like a girl” tossed around in casual conversations. But by dismissing phrases like those as common a culture is created that becomes profoundly disempowering for young women and girls.
Since the #LikeAGirl video’s release, both men and women have rallied behind the idea that it is time to redefine what it means to do something “like a girl.” And while it is crucial that people are made aware of how these specific word choices impact girls, it’s also important for them to recognize other disempowering phrases that are used in daily interactions.
To me, the phrase “for a woman” is one of the most limiting and detrimental phrases that we as a society toss around in our day to day chatter. While most of us do not stop to consider the repercussions of constantly using this phrase, “for a woman” is another way in which our culture reiterates the idea that women are inferior to men in certain ways.
1. “You Are Actually Pretty Strong… For a Woman.”
I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have heard men and other women say this to me or someone that I know. There’s often an air of surprise when a woman succeeds in an athletic challenge or when a woman is able to control her emotions by herself. To set the record straight, women are not inherently weak beings. Both physically and emotionally, women are capable of possessing great strength in times of hardships and challenges.
2. “Wow, You’re Sorta Funny, I Mean for a Woman.”
When I hear people use this phrase in reference to a female friend or a family member, I automatically cringe. Of course a woman can be funny. In fact, a woman can be hilariously funny. I don’t understand why people feel the need to backtrack from acknowledging that women have senses of humor. In society, there exists this strange and archaic stereotype that women are more serious than men and that their tastes are too mature for sarcasm, crude humor and stupid jokes. The people that feed into that stereotype are the same people who neglect to acknowledge Tina Fey, Melissa McCarthy and every other female comedian as “real” comedians.
3. The Implied “For a Woman”
Perhaps my favorite use of the phrase “for a woman” is when the phrase is not used at all. Rather, it is implied that there is surprise that a woman has surpassed the low expectation that was set for her. For instance, when a woman can change her own tire, most people will congratulate her for being an “independent woman.” Are these people really that impressed that this particular woman could change a tire? No. These people expected that the woman would be incapable of changing her own tire because society tends to associate men, not women, with having a familiarity with cars.
A person’s individual knowledge and capability to participate in certain activities are not inherently tied to one’s gender identification. When we as a society allow for subtle stereotyping to invade our speech, we allow ourselves to accept the specific expectations and limitations that have been set up for either gender. It’s about time that we become more conscious of how we are speaking and how we can alter our vocabulary to be more inclusive.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK.