Ask any little boy what his friends call him when he’s not behaving in a way that’s acceptable for boys and he’ll tell you that they call him a girl. Have you ever thought about the implications of this? That the worst thing you can call a boy is a girl?
The harshest insult boys hurl at each other is to say they’re acting like a girl. When they grow into men they say, “stop acting like a little bitch!”
What does it say to girls that the worst thing you can call a boy is exactly what you are? How does it affect us as women to hear men deride each other by accusing them of being like us?
It doesn’t go both ways. Women love to brag that they were tomboys when they were young, which usually means they were athletic and eschewed girly things. We say this with pride because it’s looked at with a bit of admiration. Like, you were cool when you were little because you acted like a boy.
Can you imagine a heterosexual man bragging about ‘what a little girl’ he was when he was young? It would never happen. There is nothing admirable about saying you acted like a girl. Why do you suppose that is? And what do you think it does on a subconscious level to females, knowing that a boy being accused of acting like you is the harshest indignity?
We hear phrases like, ‘She is the coolest chick ever! She’s like one of the guys!” which sends us the message that the more we imitate male behavior the more acceptable we will be.
Is making stereotypical male behavior a goal to aspire to behind the choices we make as women? Are we subconsciously still trying to get that approval by acting like ‘one of the boys’?
Or do we go the other route and play on our weaknesses as females so the males around us will feel comfortable and unthreatened?
We may think this is a trivial issue, but ask yourself how many times in a day you question your thoughts and feelings. How often when you’re in a situation where men are involved do you monitor your words and behavior?
Are these beliefs and gender assignations working for us? Shouldn’t it be true that regardless of gender, we are allowed to behave in any way that comes naturally to us, without correction or ridicule?
It’s these labels that keep us boxed in, denying the parts of us that we’re told are unacceptable.
Is this our goal? To fall in line? To do only what’s expected of us and stifle anything that doesn’t fit the status quo?
We wonder why girls self-esteem plummets before they reach puberty. Could it have anything to do with the fact that this is about the time that boys start insulting each other by saying ‘stop acting like a girl!’?
Is it possible that girls internalize this and also start checking any behavior that might label them as such?
How do you think the world would change if when we heard a little boy say this we would ask him why he thinks being a girl is an insult? Isn’t that really the place to start?