November 28, 2011 / Media - Entertainment, Opportunity, Sexism

“Girl” Is Not a “Four-Letter Word”


The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.

Anything but weak: Athletes, Leaders, Soldiers, Mothers

Recently, Glen Beck had more than just a few words for Jimmy Fallon over his band’s use of a song called “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” as Michele Bachmann was walking onstage for an interview. Mr. Beck pulled no punches, calling Mr. Fallon “despicable” and “reprehensible”, saying Mr. Fallon should be ashamed of himself. Mr. Beck told his co-host, “If you ever did that, I’d fire your ass so fast your head would spin!” Jimmy Fallon and NBC have both apologized.

I was happy to see a high-profile man in the media be so vocal about a woman being treated disrespectfully. I would love to see more media personalities do the same. Unfortunately, Mr. Beck didn’t end his reprimand there. According to the article, he continued, saying Mr. Fallon probably wouldn’t fire his band because he was “a girl…playing little girl games.”

The word “girl” has long been used as a put down to indicate weakness. It is meant to be the ultimate emasculating phrase. In our society, racial, religious, and homophobic epithets have become completely unacceptable, and they absolutely should be. The use of such words gets actors fired and politicians apologizing. Using the word representing my gender as a vulgarity, however, seems perfectly fine.

In April, 2011 Sarah Palin said the GOP could learn something from the resolve of the women’s hockey team at the University of Wisconsin (national champions) and that they needed to, “learn how to fight like a girl.” She was holding up these young women to her party as examples of strength and determination. I love that she tried putting a positive spin on that expression. Dave Briggs of Fox & Friends saw it differently. Referring to that part of her speech, he said, “They (girls) gossip, they do it behind your back! Just kidding, ladies!”

On a recent (11/22) episode of ABC’s “Man Up” one character was teased by a junior high bully with “You have girl hips, that’s why you can’t run!” Years later he’s still traumatized, and when faced with the same taunt by the same bully, a public brawl erupts. It isn’t limited to TV personalities or sitcoms, either. I’m sure we’ve all heard, “You run/fight/throw/act/cry like a girl!” or “Are you going to let a girl outrun/outsmart you?”

This kind of sexist language teaches us all that women have been disadvantaged since birth, that being born female automatically relegates us to a life of mediocrity and “almost, but not quite”. No matter how hard we work to instill a sense of empowerment and pride in girls and young women, it will be diminished as long as being called  “girl” is an insult. When casually hurled at men as a way to expose supposed weaknesses, we are hearing that women are also weak. Women like Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Michele Bachmann are viewed as exceptions, rather than the norm.

Being female does not equal being weak. “Girl” must no longer be tolerated as another “four-letter word.”

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