In high school, I had a poster taped up in my bedroom that read:
You run like a girl. You hit like a girl. You throw like a girl. You serve 60 mph in their face like a girl.
Which, I think, is why I kicked so much ass.
But this is not to say I didn't understand that "like a girl" was meant to be an insult. As a child, one of my favorite movies was
, a film about a troop of best buddies playing sandlot baseball over one amazing childhood summer. In a key scene, the sandlot players are confronted by a bike-riding crew of Little Leaguers, and the two sets of eleven-year-old males trade insults. They say some pretty sick, plausibly child-imagined stuff. But the crescendo, hollered by Ham--the heavy, freckled catcher--is, of course: "You play ball like a girl!" Someone snort-laughs.
The boys shoot one another panicked looks. As though, with this, Ham might have gone a bit too far.
It never got to me. Because I was one scrappy chick. I ran faster, hit harder, threw longer than any boy in my neighborhood. When I watched The Sandlot, I
Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez, not his little sister. Not the main character, Scotty Smalls, who can't catch a baseball to save his own life. Sure, when my hormones began sparking, I developed a crush on Benny, but in my daydreams, I never sat in the bleachers to cheer him on. I was on the field, too.
There's no denying that the playground, even in the 1990s, belonged to the boys. Girls were in the minority in every game. Soccer, baseball, tetherball, dodge ball. I never let this bother me at the time, but looking back, I'm appalled.
My beloved elementary school PE teacher segregated us when we ran laps, and I think he did it because he didn't want to make the girls feel bad about coming in last. I remember this vividly because I protested. At the age of ten, I walked up to Mr. H and said, "I'm faster than the girls. I want to run with the boys." He let me. And when I flew down the blacktop, around the square of orange cones, my skinny legs and arms pumping, I often won the whole thing. Which killed killed killed the boys in my class. A girl had beaten them. There was nothing worse. An inferior being had upset the scale of our grade level humanity.
Here's the secret: I
that they were crushed by my accomplishments. I ate it up.
When I stepped up to "bat" during a kickball game, and the outfielders were urged to move back, I felt a surge of pride. When we played tackle football, and it took three of them to bring me down, and they took their time at it, and shoved my face into the turf a little longer just to teach me a lesson about the pecking order, I popped up stronger and happier and proud.
The question is, how did the boys realize I wasn't supposed to be beating them? Prepubescent Audrey looked just like prepubescent Matt or Chris or David. Wiry and strong, skinny, freckled, dirty, bloody at the knees. I don't believe for one second that little boys are born with some kind of gender radar, and want to put down the opposite sex. It comes from somewhere. Movies like The Sandlot, probably. Parents. Teachers. Babysitters. Even Sunday school.
The video above made me laugh and cry. Why can't "run like a girl" also mean "win the race"? It can. But only when we press the reset button on the thinking of the current adult generation and quash any sentiment that divides boys against girls, then makes girls out to be inferior from the day they are born. This will be tough. The prejudices are deep-seated and insidious. But let's try. Correct it, gently and firmly, wherever you see it. From your sons, your brothers, your husbands, your fathers. From your daughters, your sisters, your wives, your mothers.
The value of a human being has nothing to do with her genitals, nor her chromosomes. You are either a feminist or you're not, and if you're not, I have no time for you. I refuse to tolerate your intolerance.