I know as a feminist, as a woman, as a mother of a strong daughter and two equally awesome boys I am supposed to get behind the #runlikeagirl movement. I’ll admit to sniffling a bit during the commercial when it ran during the Super Bowl. But that was before I knew that the very next day, grown women would begin using the hashtag on the regular.
Every single day.
Yes, it’s supposed to inspire our girls. Does it? I don’t know, but despite one use of the hashtag myself, I’ve stopped using it—just like I’ve stopped referring to myself and other women as girls.
I want our youngest generation of future women to understand that doing anything “like a girl” is worthy, warranted, and no less than their male gendered counterparts. I put the kibosh on any child playing in my yard, mine or someone else’s, from accusing anyone of “throwing like a girl.” I correct grownups as well. It’s 2015. Check your gender at the door and quit it.
I want my daughter to grow up knowing she can do anything she puts her mind to, whether that’s running a marathon or starting a band or becoming the next YouTube/Instagram sensation. I want her to know, deep within her bones, that her worth is not tied to her gender, her role in life as a girl and future woman. I want her to stand on her own two feet some day and feel proud of who she is, no matter what she decides to do with her life. I want the same for my sons, for them to recognize their worth without making unnecessary comparisons. I want the three of them to look at each other and the rest of their generation with equal eyes, with compassion, with a firm understanding of who they are and what that means.
Listen, you guys, I don’t “run like a girl.” I don’t.
I run like a woman. I run like me.
I run like a 34-year-old. I run like someone who overcame a back injury to make it back out onto the road and trail. I run like a human being currently battling insomnia, which is to say I run even though I really, really don’t want to or have the energy to do so. I run like a mental health survivor, one who uses running and other exercise to keep anxiety at bay. I run like a mother of three living children, with stretch marks and a poochy belly and floppy breasts and hips that creak and pop and a general sense of exhaustion from the daily life that is parenting. I run like a writer, with lines of my next post, article, or poem racing through my head; sometimes I remember them, most often I do not. I run like a photographer, which means sometimes I stop and take pictures of the deer who surprised me on the trail, the lot of us blinking at one another. I run like an adult who has lived through the good, the bad, the everything in between; I’ve earned these scars and stretch marks, these aches and pains, these memories that flit to the surface when I stop worrying about the here and now and escape into the weird subconscious place that is the mind while running. I am a full grown woman, a grown up, an adult. I am not a girl.
There are challenges outside of running, of course, to stop using the diminutive term of girl, especially in our military. I wonder, like the author of the article, why “accomplished adult women refer to themselves as girls” and know, not wonder, that it is indicative of a broader problem within our society. We don’t call men boys. We don’t diminish them by selecting terminology that paints them as young, inexperienced, cute, less than, or weak. And yes, that’s what the #runlikeagirl intends to change, to paint girls as strong and equal.
But it falls short.
The words we choose and use matter; language shapes our thoughts. Go ahead and read the article about how the military calls servicewomen girls. Read up on why others have stopped using the term girl when they mean women. Be a Harvard Crimson writer and research the language around women vs girl. Consider the questions BBC came under when they censored the word girl. Even the newest actress to be featured as in a James Bond movie doesn’t want to be called a Bond Girl; she is a Bond Woman.
Listen. I’m all for empowering our daughters to be strong, to hear sexism and see misogyny for what it is, to stand up for themselves in ways they really shouldn’t have to by now; we should already be so much further along than we are, so much further. I will support my children in their journey. I will model what a strong woman looks like, acts like, speaks like, does. I will run and work and parent and love and fail and cry and laugh and do so many things wrong and do even more things right. I will do all those things as an adult.
I #runlikeawoman. I #runlikeahumanbeing. I am a role model for both boys and girls, for my sons and daughters, but I am not a girl, a child. I support telling our youth that running like a girl is not a bad or negative thing, but I do not run like one myself. I #runlikeanadult. I #runlikeme.