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Monday
May072012

Not "Just As Good"--Just "Good"

Have you noticed that whenever a girl or woman is spoken about in the context of doing something typically considered unfeminine, or somehow outside the realm of a girl's world it is immediately and inevitably followed by, "She's just as good as the boys," or, "The boys got nothing on her," or, "She's doing great for a girl!" As if we should all be surprised by a girl's ability to stand with the guys on equal footing or that a girl's performance must be justified when excelling in an area that is perceived as being reserved for males. 

My daughter looking to second base.

The critique, at first, seems like a positive one, right? I'll admit--I've been guilty of saying it before . For instance, my daughter, nine-years-old, is the only girl on her baseball team and has been since she started playing at five--I have definitely found myself saying "she's just as good as any of the boys." And many have made that comment after watching her play. But I'm going to take that back and say something now that might seem biased--she's not "just as good as"--she's damn good...for anyone! She's a great fielder and swings a mean bat. She's focused and determined--and loves the sport. Is she the best on the team? No. Is she the worst? No. That means that there are some boys who are better than her, and some who are not as good. So how does that situate her as being "good for a girl?" Would anyone ever say about a boy who isn't as good as a girl on the baseball diamond that he "doesn't measure up to the girls?" Or, "he's pretty good for a boy!" Absolutely not. 

Lately, I've been posting stories about girls who play sports on boys teams. Here's an actual headline that I saw posted this morning: "Houston girl, 7, gives boys run for their money on baseball diamond." That's it--that's the story. This kind of attention is incessant and happens throughout women's lives--it's not just when a girl plays sports with the boys. It reaches into adulthood. For instance, if a girl goes into science or engineering, if a woman becomes a CEO or shows strength in the boardroom. It's a constant reminder that, while we've come a long way, we are still struggling to be recognized as being "just as good." I wonder how this affects a girl psychologically? I think it can create anxiety, an inferiority complex, and self-defeatism. Think about how many more girls might actually try out for little league if there wasn't this stigma attached?

I'm all for encouraging girls and women, but I believe that when it's not news that a girl makes it onto a boys baseball team, or a woman becomes the CEO of a huge corporation, is when we will inherently understand that girls are just as good as boys. When we are free from the simile and the words "just as good" become just "good." 

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Reader Comments (6)

Great point! I've never really thought about it before but you're right, these expressions are everywhere. It will definitely be a better world when they're not!

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLori Day

I've struggled with this myself - trying to come to terms with my lauding companies and social systems, acknowledging entire realities that give voices to women in the context of acknowledging traditional gender identities. This completely, as you so aptly pointed out, continues into adulthood. Women billionaires make headlines, because that is not something a woman would traditionally do? Because it's crushing the glass ceiling? Do we reinforce the oppression when we take note of ways that we have pushed historical defintions of what it means to be female, or are we making strides? I recently wrote a piece on my blog about whether or not Mattel should be given credit for making Barbies that are not clad in glittery garb and sparkly swim suits when they essentially created and reinforced this unattainable ideal to women and girls alike.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterM.s Mettle

I was a mediocre girl soccer player on the boy's team for most of my childhood. I remember realizing at about age 8 that I was now the only girl (I think there had been others earlier on). I stuck with it through my early teens, never any kind of star player, but basically skilled enough to pass and kick and occasionally steal the ball.

I think I definitely got the attitude from some people like they couldn't figure out why I kept showing up. More so, I think, then the mediocre guys. I was probably insulated from that somewhat b/c my older brother was often in my same age group and was a better player. I'm sure it would have been hard psychologically for a girl without other family around to just keep playing with grudging acceptance.

It seems like whenever a person is doing something that is considered out of the ordinary for their sex/gender/race there is heightened scrutiny of their competence. There's sort of an attitude that if you are some kind of prodigy or superstar, than that's great, but otherwise why bother. By engaging in whatever unusual activity you are seen as trying to prove the worth of your sex/gender/race or outdo the established majority. Maybe it's just that the media an society want the dramatic storyline, and "girl who likes baseball is an all right player," or "woman who got good grades at business school leads Big Crop to a year of acceptable revenue" does not satisfy.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary Neal

I've been reading your blog for a few time and I haven't decided yet if I agree with you or not. On one side I'm concerned about the extreme genderization of toys and activities and the very narrow definition of what a girl (or woman) can do and its implications. On the other side I think that we should be more inclusive as possible and concentrate on the right argumentations.
As a girl I had a bland princess phase (and a space warrior phase, and a superhero phase, and a sport champion phase, and a medieval knight phase and probably more phases than one could possibly imagine...); sometimes I wished I were a boy, but most time I didn't.
As a woman I am into science and engeneering - though not at a very high level - and it's true, I have many men and a few women as collegues. When I decided what I wanted to be it' wasn't a question of "it's a girl thing" or "it's a boy thing"; it' was just a part of what I was. I didn't stop to think if it was sexy because I couldn't see the meaning of it. Nevertheless, nobody ever questioned if I was "as good as", because there is no reason why I shouldn't be.
I have my doubts on sports and other activities that imply sheer strenght. I admit I don't know anything about baseball, non a popular sport in Italy, or soccer, a very popular sport I'm not interested into. A very "girly" stereotype, I admit. So even my housband in very girly on this account. We simply are into other sports. So, as an athlete, I really wish I could outrun him, because if now, in his forties and "as a boy" he is a mediocre runner at a local level, "as a girl" I would qualify for the Olimpic Games.
Our daughter, seven years old, now outruns many of her friends, boys and girls. By age 17, she would be outrunned by all the boys in her athletic team and still could be a champion. It's called "biology". So, the question is not "is a girl as good as a boy" but "are the women competitions perceived as less important than the men's"?

Please, I didn't mean to sound unpolite if I did; I studied English as a second language and even though I can read it quite fluently, I can't write on the same level.

May 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterm@w

I was a girl who loved sports, especially sprinting. Prior to puberty, I ran against the boys on the track teams and always came in first. It got so eventually the boys didn't want to race against me anymore because they were being beaten by a girl and it hurt their egos. It frustrated me to no end, I suddenly had no competitors and felt that beating the boys was a bad thing as I was no longer allowed to win. Of course when we all hit puberty the boys got their man muscles and I fell behind. Although I was still fast... for a girl...

Looking back I notice that I didn't consider the girls as my competition because they were not as fast as most of the boys. (With some exceptions.) Probably because the boys spent a lot of their free time running around being active while many of my female friends sat around talking, which bored me.

October 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEli

I never really noticed that... I mean, most of the time I am 'just as god as a boy' but actually, that's because I am level with a boy at something- and that is the only thing it should be used for. This blog really woke me up.

May 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine E K

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