What Does “Like a Girl” Really Mean?

The cultural object being studied is a commercial by Always called “#LikeAGirl.”  This commercial focuses on the now hegemonic association of the phrase “like a girl” with negativity or inferiority. This thought process is similar to the Baynton reading, which points out the negative connotations of disability and how this harms disabled people and encourages unequal treatment.

Similar to the Baynton reading, this commercial questions why being compared to a girl is such a bad insult. Just how it has been commonly accepted in our society that being referred to as “disabled” is an insult to one’s physical or mental ability, it has also become common to use the phrase “like a girl” to refer to poor athletic or physical ability. Not only does this imply that all girls are less skilled in athletics, but it damages the self esteem of girls by creating the notion that being a girl is automatically a disadvantage in life.

What other slang or common phrases shed women in a negative light? How does this affect the way our society views women in other aspects of life?

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2 thoughts on “What Does “Like a Girl” Really Mean?

  1. I remember seeing this ad pop up on YouTube and being taken back to times in middle school and high school when the term “like a girl” was especially prominent. As seen in the video, when younger girls are asked to run “like a girl” they run normally. Older women are the ones who are aware of the social construct that “running like a girl” means that you should look unsure, clumsy, or be worrying about the way you look.

    Another social construct I thought about was the judgment people will receive for trying to be athletic, particularly women, but still be expected to fit the societal construct of having a “thin” and less “curvaceous” body. In the past reading titled “The Body Electric” by Carolyn Thomas de la Pena, an image of a man from an electric belt ad from over 100 years ago, portrays a muscular man and a tall man. Men also do face societal pressures to have meet certain physical models. It’s interesting how men and women often feel like they will be judged for trying to be athletic or physically fit but then face the societal pressures to have a socially accepted body type. No matter what your gender, ethnicity, background, or any circumstance, a person should not be judged when trying to exercise or be fit. They are trying to be healthy or exercise for themselves and shouldn’t feel like society will bring them down. If someone feels that way, they should feel inspired by the #likeagirl video and remember that “if you’re still scoring and getting to the ball in time, then you’re doing it right. It doesn’t matter what they say.”

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  2. Throughout the past and in today’s society there are multiple words/phrases that are similar to the phrase “like a girl” that shed women in a negative light. Each of these words give off the idea that women are weak and inferior. Some of these words include: needy, emotional, uptight, dramatic, slutty, and bossy. All of these words are directed mostly towards women. For example if a man and a woman were acting provocatively, the term “slut” would almost always only be applied to the woman.

    Though ideas and phrases like this are still in use, there are campaigns to try to end it. This video is a perfect example of this. Not only does it show the ideologies of a new generation, it also shows that when brought up in topic, people understand that this is wrong. This is a start to end the “hegemonic associations” of these common phrases/slang.

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