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.
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."