17 Nov 2014

In a World Where Doing Something “Like a Girl” has Become an Insult Let’s Teach our Daughters {and our Sons} a Different Definition

They tell me to do something, “like a girl” is a bad thing.

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I’ve heard it all my life; I’m guessing you have too.

To do something “like a girl” implies floppy-wristed ridicule at attempts to throw a ball, make a catch, win a race, step up to bat, figure out math. It’s not usually malicious. It can be funny. 

Until it isn’t.

Because now I have a girl.

Listen up you beautiful women in the minivan-driving years, you powerful women of suits and sweat pants, of car pool lines and cubicles, of to-do lists and big dreams, of kitchen sinks and cross-country ambitions, of daughters and sons and sleep-deprived hopes for your kids.

Let’s take back, “Like a girl.”

Let’s remember what it felt like to be eight and convinced your legs were just as strong and as fast as your brothers’.

Let’s remember what it felt like to forget to be afraid.

And then let’s tell our daughters all about it.

Because no matter how hard the Internet tries to tell our girls what they’re supposed to look like; how they’re supposed to feel about themselves; how taking all their clothes off for a million strangers is a viral ambition –

we, their mothers, we get to have the FIRST WORD.

Yes, the first word.

Here at the boring beginning over Cornflakes or Cheerios, grilled cheese or grits, we get to have the very first word about what it means to do something, “Like a girl” – so let’s make it count.

Say it to your daughters with me – print it out, read it aloud, repeat together:

My darling daughter,

When you run like a girl I see your strength. I see determination. I see grit and joy and delight at the speed of your strong knees.

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So go ahead and run like a girl.

Go ahead and wear pink and ribbons or jeans and sneakers. Go ahead and wear ’em all.

Go ahead and keep up with your brothers, steal their basketball, sneak a determined, missed shot at the basket.

Go ahead and chug that milk, go ahead and fling yourself wildly between the sofas.

Go ahead and cry like a girl, daughter. Let your tears speak, learn to listen to them. Don’t be afraid to feel your feelings.

Go ahead and eat, daughter. Full, hearty helpings of mashed potatoes piled high, your tiny fingers dipping into them. Steak, salad, spaghetti or stroganoff – go ahead and eat like a girl.

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Go ahead and cook alongside me, stirring, mixing, helping, tasting, whirling my kitchen into a mess made for two.

Go ahead and sing daughter, off key and out loud. In your bed and in the living room. In church and at the park. Go ahead and sing.

Go ahead and run, climb, wrestle, ride, and bike like a girl. In shorts or jeans or skirts with leggings, go ahead and be free.

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Go ahead and snuggle your daddy. Go ahead and kiss your brothers.

Go ahead and let your feelings out, daughter. Hand me your sadness, your heaping, helpings of joy, your curiosity. I won’t drop it.

Go ahead and laugh like a girl. Unrestrained, full, belly laughs. Snort if you have to. Laugh with your whole body, don’t hide any of your wild happiness.

Go ahead and swing, daughter, feet reaching for the sky. Ache and push and pull and arch and fly a little higher like a girl.

Go ahead and climb, daughter. The jungle gym, the slide, your company’s ladder, that mountain top, the back of a South African elephant. Go ahead and climb high.

Go ahead and love, daughter. Fully, arms open, heart exposed, go ahead and love extravagantly.

Go ahead and forgive, go ahead and show grace, go ahead and don’t be afraid to say sorry like a girl.

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Go ahead and explore daughter. Find your way in the world.

Go ahead and just say, “no” like a girl. And mean it. And stick to it.

Go ahead and race, run till the breath comes out of you in gulps, feel how strong your legs are. Go ahead and run.

Go ahead and play house, love your babies, rock your dolls to sleep like a girl.

Go ahead and be overwhelmed by wonder. Open your eyes wide. Point, research, be awed and amazed. Go ahead and think like a girl.

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Go ahead and embrace the wonder of you. The beauty of womanhood, the gift of being a girl.

Because you are. All gift to me.

And I won’t hold you back for anything.

Me, your dad, both your brothers, your grandma and grandpa, your ouma and oupa – we’re cheering for you to take this world by storm —

just exactly like the uniquely created girl you are.

 

Read my own recovering “Like a girl” story –> click here to purchase or click here to download the first three chapters for free.

This post was inspired by the amazing #LikeAGirl video campaign I stumbled onto last week. It made me gulp tears; it’s a must watch for all mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.

Comments

{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    As a mom to three beautiful, intelligent, independent young women, I could not say AMEN loud enough to this beautiful piece. Thank you for writing it, Lisa-Jo. Thank you.

  2. 2

    And every time when the girl gets the re-do to “run like a girl” I lose it. Here’s to the re-dos and the teaching girls a better way so they won’t need them, but always grace if they do.

  3. 3

    Lisa-Jo,
    I have a boy and a girl. And, honestly, the part of your post and the video that makes me sob is not the message to my daughter. It’s not her teammates who hear, “You hit like a girl” or “You run like a girl”. It’s my son’s. He’s been fortunate to have coaches in his short 7 years who have been excellent examples. But, he’s been exposed to plenty of others who yell, “What are you doing?? That throw looked like your sister!” Or, “Get around those bases! What are you, a girl??” I get that cooties, and girls-are-yucky, etc. are just playground games boys play. They have for ages and there’s no malicious intent. But the ignorance of adult men screaming insults across a baseball field is often too much for me to hear. As much as our daughters need empowering, our sons need less poison spewed at them to absorb.

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