One of my biggest fears growing up was being told that I “threw like a girl,” following behind serial killers and spiders of course. I prided myself on being an athlete, so being deemed as girl-like seemed like one of the worst insults.
It wasn’t until I grew up a little that I realized throwing like a girl, hitting like a girl, etc. was pretty damn awesome and something of which I should be proud. I didn’t want anyone to succeed in bringing me down by using my gender as an insult. Despite this attempt to eliminate the negative association with doing things like a girl, I still saw that most of my girl friends threw a ball in a way that looked a lot different than the way my guy friends threw.
After reading Iris Marion Young’s essay “Throwing Like a Girl” this week, I felt like someone actually explained how I felt about female participation in sport and my own experiences with sports. The author argues that women, generally speaking, do not put their whole body in motion when going about physical tasks. Women are not taught at a young age how to throw, as boys are, and instead they are taught that their bodies are fragile and incapable of many physical functions. Women then become more hesitant because they lack confidence in their bodies’ abilities, which then shows in the physical attempts that they do make. Additionally, women often feel that their bodies are objects of the male gaze, objectified, and judged, leading them to feel that they are confined physically. To open her body in free action and bold outward direction is for a woman to invite objectification.
As an athlete throughout high school, I was very aware of the fact that while I was supposed to be tough and aggressive on the field or on the court, I also ran the risk of appearing masculine and therefore undesirable to my male peers. I often became more hesitant in my motion, feeling self-conscious about the way I moved and looked. As you can imagine, and as Young explains, when I became more hesitant, I probably then looked more “like a girl.” It seems illogical that people blame women’s throwing and other athletic motions on biology rather than the way in which girls are socialized to not learn or practice throwing as children, stay quiet, avoid being bold, and appeal to men. If “throwing like a girl” means navigating all of these restrictions while trying to stay sane, then I’d like to see you try throwing like a girl.