“You run like a girl!”

Ew, why does she wear so much makeup?”

On a day to day basis, I hear casual jabs at femininity – jabs that imply that being feminine is something to be ashamed of, or that femininity can be used as an insult. Genders across the board are guilty of this, from guys smack talking each other with the incessant, “You throw like a girl!” to women shaming fellow women for excessive makeup usage or being scantily clothed.

Regardless of what gender has directed the insult at whom, these common phrases derive from internalized sexism. Since the dawn of time, women have been oppressed- specifically in the eighteenth century of America, when the American Industrial Revolution was instigating, a cult of domesticity was pushed onto women, shoving them out of the workforce and into the home. It helped perpetuate the sexist belief that women are weak and powerless. Hence, this propelled the idea that therefore, anything feminine was also weak and powerless. As a result, centuries later this sentiment is ingrained into the minds of the public, and people use femininity as an insult without a second thought as to its misogynistic origins and effects.

“You run/throw/hit/play/etc. like a girl” is one of the most toxic displays of this idea. It indicates that doing something, typically an athletic activity, “like a girl,” means you’re doing it poorly. Not only does this sustain the exclusion and discrimination of women in sports, but it paints a picture to those who hear it that being “like a girl” is undesirable. That being “like a girl” is synonymous to being weak and vulnerable. It pushes women’s rights activists back decades. Women are still fighting to have an equal face in sports, the army, prestigious business occupations, and other “powerful” jobs that men are typically seen in, and using femininity as an equivalency to weakness is immensely hindering. But it also subjugates men who want to indulge in feminine traits: men who enjoy ice skating, nail polish, makeup, et cetera.

Men who find happiness in activities or clothing deemed “feminine” receive hate, simply because society associates feminine things with weakness. Or, they are labeled “gay,” which is a whole separate issue, one that furthers the oppression of the LGBTQ+ community. Women who are more “tomboy” don’t experience the same hate because when a woman leans more toward the masculine side of the spectrum, she is seen as powerful and strong. On the other hand, “tomgirl” men are ridiculed because they are seen as frilly and delicate–both things associated with femininity and thus seen as negative. The hypocrisy is revealed. And this double standard originates all the way back to the foundations of female oppression and sexism.

But this toxic trend is not just seen in terms of men displaying superiority over women. Many women experience hatred from fellow women in the form of how much of a “girly girl” one is. Women who love to go all out with their hair, makeup, outfits, nails, shoes, et cetera, often hear messages like “She’s such a girly-girl” or “She’s trying too hard” or likewise. They are perceived as feeble and dainty and unintelligent. But these perceptions are a direct result of society instilling into us the association of femininity with weakness. Being feminine is seen as a negative thing, and thus “girly girl” girls are the victims of people with internally sexist preconceptions. Women who enjoy the color pink and wearing a full face every day and carefully selecting stylish, fashionable outfits are not any less than women who enjoy sports and wearing their hair back, but due to internalized sexism, the former women are deemed subordinate. Likewise, “tomgirl” men are deemed subordinate to “manly man” men.

Overall, to be “like a girl” is not an inferior state, despite what centuries of sexism tries to tell us. Femininity is not a bad thing. Many young girls deviate from feminine characteristics because of the youthful association of it with weakness and it is time we put a stop to that. Femininity is not an insult. To be feminine is not to be any less powerful or mighty.

“You run like a girl.”

“Hell yeah, I do. Try to keep up.”