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.
Last week after our reflection dinner, my suitemate Alex told me how she noticed I take up less space when I contribute to group discussions. She said I would cross my arms and legs and always start with “I don’t know if this is right…” when I speak. After she made that comment, I suddenly realized I do use verbal qualifiers quite often and I do tend to make myself smaller and look down when I talk in group settings.
As I reflect on how my body language projects uncertainty and a lack of confidence, I started to recognize how my low self-confidence can be limiting sometimes. From reading about why women don’t run for office to discussing women’s empowerment and activism last week in seminar, I started to reflect on my own behavior, especially in spaces that I don’t feel comfortable. Often times I don’t believe in myself and question my ability. I usually don’t contribute much in class discussions because I am not sure that my argument is as valid and well-developed as my peers’. Instead of getting competitive and speaking up for myself, I’ve frequently said things like “I don’t think I am cut out for that” or “I don’t think I have it in me” without even trying. I have lowered my expectations for myself and thus I never think I am qualified to do anything.
Our society urges girls to take up less space and boys to take up more. Gendered body practices are taught subtly and learned early. In “Throwing Like a Girl,” author Iris Marion Young points out that girls don’t take up lateral space, because the concept of femininity creates a set of structures that delimit the typical situation of being a woman in a particular society. Therefore, women learn to live out our existence in accordance with the definition that patriarchal culture assigns to us. Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her inspiriting TEDx talk: “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man.”
These readings and conversations have helped me realize that there are so many little things I can change about my own behavior to fight for the right to space, and I challenge you to do the same:
1. Stop saying “I’m sorry” for no reason.
2. Drop the word “just” from every request.
3. Speak up when I disagree.
4. Speak up when I agree.
5. Take up space when I should.
June 25th, P R I D E !
Throughout the month of June, New York City buildings and businesses have been adorned in rainbow flags and messages of support. I woke up Sunday morning to see the restaurant on the corner hanging additional rainbow flags and stood in line with people wearing t-shirts supporting pride in the bagel shop. I knew it was going to be a good day!
For Pride, we were invited to march with Sanctuary for Families in the parade. I knew we were in for a great experience. The parade exceeded my expectations. So many happy people filled the streets of Manhattan to unapologetically exist. And despite the progress that still needs to be made, this one day was set aside for joy and celebration of how far we have come. People of all ages, colors, and creeds were present for this celebration.
After spending a week talking about the policing of LGBTQ+ communities, I was hopeful that for this one day there would be minimal policing. I was disheartened to go home and read this article. 12 people were arrested at the Pride parade for protesting the corporatization and police presence / participation in Pride. Some people cheered as the protesters were taken away and the parade able to continue. I am frustrated by the outcome of this demonstration.
I think in this new era of “progress,” it is easy to forget about who has been doing liberation work and all to often we fail to acknowledge those that are continuing to fight for freedom. We forget about the lives lost due to police brutality during the Stonewall riots of 1969. We forget that the first Pride parades were political demonstrations, marches, and parades, honoring Stonewall. We forget that while corporations and police forces can show solidarity during pride, they continue to discriminate against and disproportionately arrest, change, and sentence LGBTQ+ people. We forget that the fight is not over.
Self-care is important and necessary for survival, but I never want to allow myself to be complacent with anything short of liberation for all.
“Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” ~ Emma Lazarus