Sunday, February 8, 2015


I can't remember the last time a TV spot during the superbowl made me choke up. The ad by Always #LikeAGirl did just that. It was a great spot about how the phrase is insulting to women and supports the need for people to change.  I tweeted my approval to the world and read that others disapproved for some unfathomable reason.

Why is the phrase " a girl" offensive to women? Let me explain in very basic terms. I've learned by raising two sons. If you don't practice something, you don't get good at it. Watching my kids learn how to throw, hit and run in little league baseball showed me it's not easy. It took 2-3 seasons for them to lose that awkwardness around catching a baseball while wearing a mitt. Hitting a ball with a bat is so hard that the first year they have a device that holds the ball in the air for them to swing at (the "t" in "t-ball"). Even then, they miss a lot.

The conclusion? Everybody "throws like a girl" until they learn not to. In my family, girls weren't really encouraged to learn sports. As a kid, my brother was signed up and supported to play football, baseball and basketball before he decided that soccer was his preferred sport. I was enrolled in ballet. Although I was a natural at swimming and loved the water, I didn't recognize that my swimming was considered "athletic" until well into adulthood.

If girls don't participate in sports, they don't learn to throw, kick, hit, catch like boys do. Thanks to Title 9, that is changing. This amendment legally gave equal access to sports for both genders. It was controversial. It passed in the 1970's but wasn't fully enforced until well into the 2000's. My cousin gave up a shot at Olympic skiing because of the impact Title 9 had on him in college. Despite that, I find it hard to express the inner freedom I feel when I see more laws like this put in place, and more attitudes changing as a result. Women growing up now may not ever have to know what it was like to be excluded from sports and the subsequent inequality that follows us through adulthood (anyone putting up with sports metaphors when talking shop in the boardroom knows what I mean... really, when's the last time you heard a childbirth metaphor used at work?)

My world is slowly transforming to make more space for the contribution of women, but we are far from a place where equality and respect flourish. I could cite plenty of statistics on how women earn less than men, own less land, hold fewer positions of authority around the world, etc. The Always superbowl ad displays to the world that we still have a long way to travel before womens' contributions are valued and recognized.

For anybody who thinks "throwing like a girl" is an insult, I'd like to set the record straight. May you, and all whom you know, be able to:

  • drive like a girl, Danica Patrick
  • fight like a girl, Laila Ali
  • kick like a girl, Brandy Chastain
  • hit like a girl, Venus Williams
  • lead like a girl, Hillary Clinton

I know there are many examples of women doing amazing things in your community. May you celebrate each and every one of them.