Run Like a Girl Means I Can Also Win the Race
July 1, 2014 3:17 AM   Subscribe

Previously, Hello Flo, created this hilarious video about spunky young girls at summer camp and then First Moon Party, a celebration of a young woman's first period, which she fakes with glittery red nail polish on a pad, so desperate is she to begin menstruation. And now, another feminine hygiene product gets in on the image of powerful young women who menstruate by asking what it means to say someone does something "like a girl." Yes, I kick like a girl, and that's a good thing.

**Yes, this is created by a feminine hygiene company; the link is not to their website.
posted by kinetic (35 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
You would think this sort of message was being promoted in every school at every level. It's a poor thing if we need advertisers to tell our kids this stuff. But then, I suppose advertisers have more power than educators in many ways.
posted by pipeski at 3:46 AM on July 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

I am ridiculously proud this morning that Always is my feminine hygiene product of choice.

In truth, when I was a little kid I thought "like a girl" just meant "physically weaker than a boy". I knew enough about science at the time to know that, as an aggregate, women did tend to be a little physically weaker than men. So I assumed it just meant I had to work a little harder, and a little smarter, to be as physically strong as a boy.

Which struck me as pretty fair, because it seemed to me that most of the boys of my acquaintance had to work a little harder to be as smart as us girls. Girls had the brains, boys had the brawn, we were kids and it would even out with we all got older, I reasoned.

That naive mindset led me down some interesting paths. I'm out of shape now, but I remember learning things about muscle mass and muscle size differences between the genders, so working out had to be slightly different for women and men in order to get the same results. Heart and lung capacity played a role, too. I remember Ma telling me that women could often beat a man on endurance "because we're the ones who have to have the babies, so God built us to put up with pain and exhaustion a lot longer. Most men couldn't do it even if they wanted to".

Ultimately, "like a girl" to me was simply "different" not "unequal". I know kids tried to use "like a girl" as an insult, but I just figured they were stupid and didn't know better.

I'm rambling, but as I look back at what I wrote, it makes me exceptionally glad I was a little girl in the 1970s. Feminism was all over the news, and there was a lot of talk about equal rights for women in popular culture. My mom wasn't a feminist with a capital F, but she was a black woman who survived Jim Crow. She knew that black women always did whatever had to be done (regardless of what white people said a woman was supposed to do and to be) and with the new laws and new cultural attitude in America, a black woman could now do whatever she wanted, as well, and be respected for it.

All of that was the background radiation of my life, and I guess I absorbed it. It seems like that despite role models and such, a pro-woman attitude no longer permeates our culture the same way it did forty years ago. It's not out there for today's girls and young women to absorb, and that's a real shame.
posted by magstheaxe at 4:39 AM on July 1, 2014 [23 favorites]

Neither of my two girls run, throw or do anything "like a girl", although my oldest was absolutely terrible at bat in softball (she took after me in that aspect). I'm so glad they had the opportunity to be involved in things that girls weren't allowed to be in when I was a kid.
posted by tommasz at 5:20 AM on July 1, 2014

It's not a phrase I've heard seriously probably in decades, but it was definitely used as an insult when I was in grade school and middle school. Things at recess and in PE were very gender divided, with girls doing more demure, sedate things and the boys being directed to do more physical activity.

I was going to write that this was pre-Title IX as an explanation for why girls did virtually no sports at the schools I went to, but when I checked Title IX actually predates me -- it was signed into law in 1972, but it clearly took a lot longer to filter down to the places I lived. But now most of my friends with girls have them playing all kinds of sports, which is a great change from when I was that age.

I hope that the phrase can disappear as an insult eventually, and I liked the point the video makes.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:27 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I remember always being a bit annoyed at the phrase "throw like a girl" (okay, I still am). Why? Ignore sexism for a minute, I remember the afternoon where I and virtually every other boy in my grade learned to throw a baseball. It's not like anyone pretended it was some ability inherent to gender. (It was this ridiculously gendered afternoon workshop put on by the park district before baseball started in first grade (not before tee-ball, which was explicitly co-ed*)--you were supposed to show up with your dad (not even 'a parent' or 'an adult' with the assumption said parent/adult would be male). It's one of few things my dad actually made time to do with me when I was a kid, which may be why I remember this. Of course, my dad only vaguely knew how to throw a baseball.)

*Baseball was co-ed in that they wouldn't turn girls away. However, this meant the only girls playing baseball and not softball were the ones who nagged their parents and whose parents said "fuck this "boys'" nonsense, I'm signing my kid up".
posted by hoyland at 5:49 AM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

A former roommate of mine posted this on her Facebook feed about a week ago, and shared a story:
I've studied different martial arts, including boxing. I hit fairly hard. Certainly enough to push my trainer back and off his feet if I put my mind to it. One day, another friend of mine was talking about his own practice, where a form partner wasn't hitting terribly hard. And as he related the story, he said: "I told him 'you hit like a girl'."

I almost let it pass, but I didn't. Instead I cheerfully replied, "well, why don't we see just how hard a girl hits?"

There was a pause. And to his enduring credit he didn't backtrack or make excuses. I believe the response was something along the lines of "fair point."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:02 AM on July 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

I liked it, but I'd have liked it a lot more without the didactic bit at the end showing that the participants have Learned Their Lesson.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:15 AM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

My mom taught me how to throw a ball, which is not to say that "like a girl" is necessarily always a positive, but it was certainly better than my father's throw. We weren't a very athletic family OK? Anyway, I digress. Why do we need to say "like a ____" anyway? Why can't people just run or throw or hit like they do without us having to make a gender statement out of it?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:43 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like to talk about the time I went for a run and, maybe six miles in, got the most hellacious menstrual cramp of my life. I stuck it out for as long as I could, but eventually had to stop and curl up miserably on the sidewalk while my husband had to go get the car and rescue me. Which is not exactly a feminist ending, I know, but I still think of it with the same sort of masochistic pride as people who brag about puking during a CrossFit workout. Because periods are metal as fuck and "like a girl" sometimes means "like you are getting repeatedly slugged in the uterus for hours on end."
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:57 AM on July 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

My college girlfriend trained in Aikido. She was good at it (maybe she still is, this was more than 20 years ago). I watched her training on day, and she was working with a new student teaching him how to fall safely when thrown. They would work in slow motion, him approching her and then her grappling him in such a way that he would be thrown across her hip so that he would roll and land on his back. They did this several times, until he made his fatal mistake.

"Yeah," he says, "but I am only falling because *I* am intentionally falling. It's not like you are really doing anything."

"Oh, really?" she replies. "Tell you what, come at me and try to take me down. Don't hold back. Take a few steps back and really run at me and knock me flat. Do NOT let me throw you."

You can see where this is headed.

The poor idiot backs up, growls, and then barrels straight at her like a freight train. At which point she deftly grabs him and flips him, such that he lands flat on his back with a resounding BANG! She had completely knocked the wind out of him. Then she just strolled over to him, smiled sweetly, and offered him a hand to get up off his back.

Oh, yeah, she seriously threw like a girl. And like a boss.
posted by Lokheed at 6:58 AM on July 1, 2014 [19 favorites]

Anyway, I digress. Why do we need to say "like a ____" anyway? Why can't people just run or throw or hit like they do without us having to make a gender statement out of it?

...That's kind of exactly what this particular video is asking.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:09 AM on July 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

My nine-year-old daughter has a softball shirt that says "You wish you could hit like a girl." She thinks it is super badass, and my tiny little girl FEELS super badass when she wears it.
posted by altopower at 7:20 AM on July 1, 2014 [12 favorites]

... I'd have liked it a lot more without the didactic bit at the end showing that the participants have Learned Their Lesson.

I don't know though, I think that's a pretty hugely important bit at the end there. I'd bet everyone has some sexist leanings/thoughts/ideas that they haven't fully realized yet, and that moment—the moment when you realize that as a woman, you're capable of occasionally being part of the problem because you've internalized a bunch of this shit yourself—can be a pretty powerful one.

It can be the beginning of the realization of how absolutely huge the problem is. How insanely difficult it's going to be to fight it back. How disgustingly pervasive and harmful it all is. How you wish you could take back every instance of every sexist, shitty thing you've ever done to another girl/woman because jesus, harming other women and being part of their massive, lifelong struggle is omg not the effect you intended.

The learning part at the end is good. It should be shown that learning this isn't scary. It's easy. You just think for a minute, then you go, "Ohhhhh, I get it," and well, there you have it. Super easy. If a girl can do it, surely everyone can do it.
posted by heyho at 7:25 AM on July 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Anyway, I digress. Why do we need to say "like a ____" anyway? Why can't people just run or throw or hit like they do without us having to make a gender statement out of it?

...That's kind of exactly what this particular video is asking.

Not quite, the video is about "flipping it ['like a girl'] completely on its head in this awesome commercial and making it into something amazing" and I'm asking why does "run" have to have gender at all. The problem is not solely that certain categories need to be empowered but more that we need to stop disempowering anyone because of a body part or gender identity or skin color or ethnicity or whatever category has been used to set people apart.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:42 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a Girl Scout leader and Outdoor Mom, and I keep meaning to make "Camp Like a Girl" T-shirts for my Brownies.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:04 AM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

I just wrapped my second year coaching baseball for 6-8 year olds. I have not heard that "like a girl" phrase once. The kids don't know to say it yet and I haven't heard it from parents.

The parents do tend to get more excited when a girl does well, you can hear it. Also what does happen is that girls who show up tend to want to play more, boys can be put in baseball by default. My lefty girl is quite keen and good and my younger boy would be but he's too excited to settle and play the game.

I will tell on myself though. I am terrified of what I had referred to (always silently, to myself, but there it is) as "catching like a girl", making an upended basket of the glove above the waist, channeling the ball into the player's body/face for impact. After two seasons of endless reminding that term has just naturally disappeared. I have naturally stopped referring to it as such even silently. EVERYONE does it.
posted by drowsy at 8:15 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

making an upended basket of the glove above the waist

Yeah, it's just not cricket, oh, wait, it is.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:35 AM on July 1, 2014

Field. Hockey. I know it's co-ed internationally, but in the States it's often a women's sport. And it is the best, toughest, most unabashedly proud-to-be a girl community I've ever been a part of. I was a gangly kid with long scrawny limbs and no hope of ever doing a pull-up. But with a hockey stick? I had an unbeatable reach and the power to drive a ball down the field. "Hit 'em like a girl!" sounds pretty great when screamed loudly by a pack of tough-ass teenagers in mouthguards.
posted by synapse at 9:01 AM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was one of the kids who played football at recess in 3rd and 4th grade. It was a fight to get the boys to pick me, but eventually a few caught on that I was good at football, and thus could be used as a secret weapon against the other team who still refused to acknowledge this fact. And so then I became the ace in the pocket because the other team would crowd close to me whenever I threw, and the football would soar over their heads and into the arms of whatever 9-year-old boy I was aiming at, who would then score. People stopped trying to teach me how to properly hold and throw a football when they saw the lovely spiral arcs fly by 20 feet above them... Eventually, they all got over it and I was just The Girl and they'd say "OK, we get The Girl this game," or whatever. And sometimes I'd even get picked as captain!

And then, in 5th grade, we had a new kid who thought that it was stupid that The Girl played football. I was captain and picked him for my team, and he actually SPAT on me. I wish I remembered some sort of inspiring moment of solidarity from the other kids, but I mostly remember that he spat on me and everyone thought it was kind of funny, and then they stopped choosing me as a team captain, and then they stopped throwing me the ball during recess, and then they stopped throwing me the ball during gym class, and finally I decided I was tired of The Boys and stopped playing football altogether, and eventually stopped playing soccer and then stopped playing softball and got rid of my "I'm not a tomboy, I'm an athlete!" t-shirt and retreated into the world of ballet (which I loved, but it made me feel strong in a totally different way than football and soccer did).

The other day, we were at a park where there were a group of kids on a field trip, and there was a girl playing football with the boys, and just like always they got really close to her when she threw the football, and then she'd throw WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY over their heads. One of the times, it rolled over to me and I threw her the ball back - a nice spiral toss that she caught perfectly. And it was wonderful!
posted by ChuraChura at 9:05 AM on July 1, 2014 [16 favorites]

Field. Hockey...I had an unbeatable reach and the power to drive a ball down the field.

When I was in eighth grade I hit a ball so hard I broke off the bottom half of the hitty part of the stick and had to borrow someone else's for the rest of the game. It did indeed make me feel amazing.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:07 AM on July 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

I went out for the school softball team in the 4th grade, and on the first day of practice I caught a long fly ball in left field and threw it to home plate on the fly, only to have coach Lusk, a fifth grade teacher and one of two male teachers in the school, bellow out 'you throw like a goddam GIRL, jamjam!'

I didn't know what he meant; I'd won the third grade softball throw by a wide margin on the school track and field day the previous year -- where my only serious competition was a little Native American girl named Cynthia who could throw like nobody's business -- and I'd been the only pitcher and batted 4th on a 9-10 year old little league team the previous summer.

So I never went back, and when he asked me a couple of weeks later where I'd been, I said 'girls aren't allowed on the team, are they?' at which he turned on his heel and walked off.
posted by jamjam at 9:41 AM on July 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

My (adult) sons and I recently watched the video of the first moon party and my kids loved the mom. They could totally see me doing something like that ("Do you make vagina cakes? Hello?" -- while looking very middle class socker mom). In fact, I watched it repeatedly to catch some of the details (one woman is wearing tampons for earrings, there is a flag-like banner made with panties). We really thought both the girl and the mother did awesome jobs. And we really liked the mother's male coworker who brought "the super pack" (of coffee filters) in part because it's not clear if he is just that much of an ass or if he is in on it.

My son had accidentally downloaded a different one for me first, set at summer camp, and it just kind of missed. But the first moon party version just smacked it out of the park.

As for "like a girl," my sons like to quote something where the rebuttal to "you fight like a girl" is "yeah: dirty." They also like to tell me factoids like although men have better upper body strength than women, women have better lower body strength than men. So if you really want a woman to kick some ass, teach her something like kick boxing.
posted by Michele in California at 10:06 AM on July 1, 2014

Excuse me, I have something in my eye. Many, many somethings...
posted by ericbop at 10:13 AM on July 1, 2014

It's okay to express emotions like a girl, ericbop.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:24 AM on July 1, 2014

Perhaps a tangent, but suggesting that "throw like a girl" somehow means weakness or should be considered insulting is demonstrably false.

The single action, in any sporting event ever, that terrifies me more than anything, is girls' fast-pitch softball pitching. Holy crap.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:15 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

My six-year-old earned her karate yellow belt today. I'm not the one teaching her how to fight, but I'm the one teaching her when to fight. Which is: whenever she needs to.
posted by Hogshead at 1:11 PM on July 1, 2014

This is a needed message.

Yes it is! Isn't it time we told her she's pretty brilliant, too? Verizon gets in on the PSA about girls as well, going over the small but subtle things that we say to girls at a young age that discourage them from getting involved in science and technology.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 3:10 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's okay to express emotions like a girl, ericbop.

When I was in high school (mid-90s) this Nike Ad ("Oh, You Are So Emotional") meant a huge deal to my teammates and I who were prone to tears but were still tough.

ugh, the misspelling on the site, though.
posted by TwoStride at 5:03 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Congratulations to your daughter, hogshead. This shirt seems appropriate, given the discussion. I hadn't seen this one before and I now have something to put on my Xmas list.
posted by mogget at 5:14 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

The First Moon many people linked me to it on Facebook because they were all "OMG, you would do this." To which I responded: "Someone needs to have a menstruating daughter, because I really want to make a vagina cake."
posted by dejah420 at 6:03 PM on July 1, 2014

I switched to saying "like a toddler" instead and it feels great.
posted by cadge at 8:20 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel like a badass when I wear my "Climb Like a Girl" tee. Especially when I think about people like Meagan Martin and Ashima Shiraishi.
posted by athenasbanquet at 9:04 PM on July 1, 2014

The phrase "I hit like a grl" has been used as a badge of pride in the SCA for some time, where female knights have been made based on their prowess in our full-strength, nearly full-contact fighting system (armored combat using 1-1/4" diameter rattan weapons).

The earliest knights had to endure a high amount of physical abuse from men who felt they didn't belong on the field, back when the sport wasn't heavily policed. Of course, to this day there's an onus - on every fighter, but especially women - to not complain about excessive force, lest they be labeled weak or whiny.

However, AFAIK there's one or more female knights in every long-established kingdom (major regional group) at this point; a book by a prominent female fighter on how to best adapt the female body to the fighting sport (since most people learn from experienced, local fighters, who are unlikely to be women themselves, and thus teach from a male-oriented body expectation). The author was recently knighted herself.

Here in Pittsburgh a local SCA couple built a 1/4 scale castle. They are both knights.

Knighthood in the SCA is a lengthy journey that probably fewer than 1% finish. It's a very high hurdle, and AFAICT no bars are lowered for women - the very macho existing body of knights recommend new candidates to the ruling king & queen, and they have a vested interest in keeping out weak candidates of any gender, but especially if that candidate will be especially scrutinized. Thus, when I say the castle's owner Ariella (Cara, IRL) is newly knighted, she most assuredly can beat most male fighters in a tournament (where speed is vital, but speed without force is useless), and acquits herself well when she loses. I.E., the lovely, slender, and soft-spoken lady is a brute, and everyone knows it.

Shirts and FB memes abound in the SCA with slogans like, "I hit like a girl. Take it like a man."
posted by IAmBroom at 7:58 AM on July 4, 2014

I hope we can reclaim or better yet eliminate the "like a girl" phrase. One that I hear a lot that riles me up is hearing a guy saying "I cried like a little girl." That sends me over the edge.

In one of the 2007 feminist threads, I made a comment on the "x like a little girl" phenomena as it surfaced in searches here on metafilter. I think it's gotten better since then.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:21 PM on July 4, 2014

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