“Girl” is not an insult.

Dear Stranger,

I heard you make a remark about my ability to drive the other day. It was derogatory, and it centered on my gender. I am a woman. You saw me backing out of a tight spot in a parking lot, and because I had to attempt it twice, you made your remark. I don’t even remember your words now. But I have some words for you.

Anything you can do, I can do too.

When you, a man, make a mistake, nobody tells you, “Don’t be such a man,” or, “You drive/play/talk/do that like a man.” Instead, the phrases are more along these lines: Don’t be such a girl. You play/drive/act like a girl. You’re a bunch of girls. Stop crying like a little girl.

But by way of encouragement, we say things like Man up. Or Be a man!

Why is girl an insult? Why is girl the first thing that comes to mind when you want to tell someone that they’re doing something poorly? Why does one simple mistake on my part get turned into an attack on who I am as a person, who and what I am at my core?

However, sir, I don’t blame you personally. I blame the culture that we live in for perpetuating that girl is an okay insult. It’s a form of bullying that’s gaining attention, but not quickly enough for me. It’s not something that even women usually think about. I hear girls make the same kinds of comments to each other.

But you know what? I realized, after hearing you say what you said, that people have been placing limitations on me for my entire life solely based on gender. I’ve heard, “Girls can’t do that,” one too many times. And I’ll tell you what. I am not okay with it. I am not okay with being told that I can’t do things because I’m a woman. I am not okay with making simple mistakes and being told that it’s because I’m a woman, where if it were a man making the same mistake, his buddies would probably just laugh it off.

Do you know what happens when girls grow up hearing things like Girls can’t do that. Stop being such a girl. Man up already. Stop crying like a girl. They start to put those limitations on themselves without knowing that they’re doing it. Their internal dialogue starts to sound something like this: “I can’t because I’m a girl. I won’t because I’m a girl.” Confidence that was present in childhood diminishes. They begin to think that being emotional is a negative thing. They begin to see their responses to situations, their natural tendencies, and their body parts as negative things.

We wonder why there’s a difference between the number of women versus the number of men in certain professions? Or why women struggle so much with self-image? Or why men disrespect women so often? Or why there are so many women who can’t even respect themselves?

Well, how about this. How about we stop talking about not having a penis like it’s a handicap. How about instead of telling people to man up we encourage them by telling them things that bring out their personal strengths and help to develop them. How about instead of telling girls what they should or shouldn’t be doing, we encourage their interests and hobbies, whatever those may be. How about we ask them what they want to be when they grow up, and whether they say that they want to be an engineer, or an artist, we tell them that that’s awesome. Whether they love Spider Man, or Wonder Woman, that’s awesome.

I want to encourage a generation of women who don’t have to be told that they can do it, because they already know that they can. In fact, I want there to be a generation of women who doesn’t even have to question their abilities because of their gender. I want to encourage a generation of men and women to realize that being a man or a woman is a wonderful, wonderful thing. And I want my generation to be the one who raises those people.

We need women who know their self-worth and who will help younger girls to realize theirs. We need to start encouraging both men and women to realize that men and women were created equally. We are different. That’s true. But neither is better or worse than the other. A person can be better or worse than another person, but one gender, any more than one race, is not better or worse than the other. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made by a fearfully wonderful Creator, and I’m sure that his intention was for us to build on each other, not tear each other down.

Sincerely,

A Woman

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