“You hit like a girl!” he shouted.
I was six and had just been insulted by Jake. He was a fellow student and resident cool guy in 1st grade. I wanted to be just like him. He was good at sports (gym class dodgeball), he liked rock music (his dad’s 60s records) and and the girls wrote him notes (the “Do you like me? Check Yes or No” kind). It devastated me. I was a boy. I was supposed to be everything a girl wasn’t. I failed. Or so I thought. Moments before I was on the edge of greatness.
It was recess and there was a group of boys playing baseball. One of the kids asked if I wanted to go up to bat and I said “Sure.” Stepping up to the plate I was nervous. I gripped the bat by its handle and found a comfortable fit. I was never very good with connecting the bat and ball in situations like this. There were people watching and I desperately wanted to get a good hit. Acceptance or rejection was staring me down. In only a few seconds I would find out which one it was.
I was a kid in the 80s and I remember using this line as an insult. Boys were supposed to be rough. Boys were supposed to spit and like sports. Boys could throw fastballs a million miles an hour. Girls? Girls were weak. They ran funny and didn’t even know what to do with a baseball and bat when the perfect pitch came around.
That first pitch came. It was low and outside, but I swung anyways. My bat sliced through the air and hit nothing. I heard some background shouts of “Strike!” and “Haha, he missed.”
I had two more chances. Two more swings to make up for that miss. The next pitch came. It was perfect. Straight down the line and at ideal striking distance for my height. I panicked. Froze in place. I remember that ball flying past while I did nothing but watch. “Strike two!” one of the kids shouted. Another followed up with “He’s gonna strike out!”
I took a deep breath and tried to calm my panicked feeling. The third pitch came and the bat and ball connected. The hit was all luck. I began to swing as the ball came flying towards the plate and closed my eyes. The ball hit the ground, bounced twice and went straight to the shortstop. I ran as fast as I could towards first base, hoping he’d miss the ball, but it was an easy out.
That’s when Doug shouted, “You hit like a girl!” I walked off the field feeling humiliated and in tears. The bell rang shortly there after. Luckily, I thought, the bell saved me from crying in front of the guys.
That was almost 30 years ago. I still remember how I felt like it was yesterday. Those words, “like a girl”, hurt. They were meant to. It was an insult that told me I was subpar in some way because I wasn’t good at something. Today I realize how wrong that whole situation was. So, I didn’t get a decent hit. That didn’t mean I’m any less human than those that did get great hits that day. That insult too, it is so wrong.
I grew up in a social framework as a child that put women in a box where “like a girl” meant less worthy of something than a man. I accepted it because no one around let me see anything different. My parents never mistreated each other, but my dad always had the final word. It was just how it was, because he was the man of the house. It was what our church taught.
That idea infuriates me now. Women are powerful, creative and at least as capable of mastering skills if not more so than men. Three specific moments opened my mind to more than that.
- A family friend of ours was a soccer player. She was a girl. In 5th grade I thought this was awesome, because she could play as well as any of the guys on the field. She even broke her nose more than once while playing. This amazed me because I had not been exposed to a female sports player/fan so intense before her.
- I was in my late teens before I saw a girl spit. She was a teenager a year or two younger than me. I was in shock. There were a group of us hanging out at a park and out of no where she spit. Not on anyone of course. She just wanted to clear her throat. Again, I had my tiny little bubble burst.
- My friend, now wife, was at a new year’s eve party my family held one year. One of the games we played was spoons. She and one of the guys there grabbed a spoon at the same time and fought over it. The tug of war over a spoon lasted for almost a full minute. I think he ended up with the spoon, but I can’t fault Abigail for not trying*. She eventually let go when the spoon had wrapped around her finger so tightly it cut her. Her passion and determination to win impressed me. Seriously, do you know anyone that’s cut themselves on a spoon?
“Like a girl” is still used as an insult today, by school children and adults a like. Always, a P&G company, released a video and ad campaign yesterday that challenges society to redefine the phrase into something positive. I wholeheartedly agree with its message. I am not being compensated for writing this post. I just feel strongly about the subject matter and was inspired to share because of the ad. Haven’t seen it yet? Take a look:
Let’s turn #LikeAGirl into the compliment it should be. Let’s stop using the phrase like an insult and start using it as a compliment. Women have strength, confidence, and power to be admired. Women have accomplished so much in our world and are often ignored for it. It is well past time to change that. I plan on showing my son that “Like a Girl” means like someone with immense talent, understanding and strength. I’ve seen my wife give birth without medication like a pro and know I couldn’t do it. What have you seen a girl do that has put you in awe?
*Abigail thinks she won but neither of us remember for sure.