There was a time in my life when the overabundance of “political correctness” frustrated me. It seemed like no matter what was said, someone took offense. I was proud of the fact that I was not easily offended, and thought that we shouldn’t get so uptight over words.
As I’ve mentioned before, it is okay to evolve – and evolve I have. I now find myself pointing out why certain language, even while said with no ill intention, is still harmful. I’m hyperaware of the things I say and the things I hear, listening for opportunities to point where our cultural biases and societal norms have created negativity.
I myself recently told someone that when I have car trouble, I “turn into a girl”. Eek. Did I really just say that? I immediately self-corrected that problematic language.
When someone uses the phrase “like a girl” to indicate something that is done in a weak manner, they probably do not intend to offend or belittle an entire gender. (I certainly didn’t when I used it.) Getting called out on using language like this is embarrassing, and we might wonder why the listener is so sensitive to be offended. But the problem is that the phrase “like a girl” is used to indicate weakness because we’ve created a cultural bias to believe that girls are weak. And if we continue to use those seemingly innocuous words and phrases, that cultural bias will persist – and equality of the sexes will continue to elude us.
I’m particularly sensitive when I hear someone tell a boy not to “cry like a girl”. It’s a double-edged offense, both using “like a girl” as something negative and weak, and teaching boys that showing emotion is to show weakness.
So if you hear me say something that perpetuates negative cultural biases, stereotypes or negativity, you have my permission and my encouragement to let me know. Because words matter.