It’s 9:23 a.m. and my father tells me my structured leggings (they have a zipper!) are not appropriate for church, which incidentally starts in seven minutes. I wish I could say I didn’t roll my eyes, but I was in my childhood home for winter break and some sort of teenage code took over my motor skills.
I was a little mad. I huffed and puffed as I trudged back up the steps and I thought about all the clever, snarky one-liners I could spout at my dad. And as I searched through my suitcase for a suitable pair of jeans, I thought how this would totally not have been a problem if I was a boy. I vowed to tell my brother this when I saw him for brunch later that day. Did dad ever make you change? Huh?
Here’s the thing. I knew the leggings were a bad idea. My butt was pretty visible and there was a small rip in my thigh from a laundry mishap. Not my Sunday best.
But I didn’t want to admit that. I was dressing like a girl was supposed to dress, I thought. Plenty of other girls wear leggings without anyone calling them out. What could be wrong with that? I wanted to pout and I wanted everyone to know the injustice I suffered because of my womanly clothing choices.
I didn’t realize it until midway through the Super Bowl, but I was doing an injustice. In this small, silly moment, I used the “like a girl” excuse without even thinking about it. Maybe I should’ve put more effort into my appearance. Maybe I shouldn’t have let other girls set the bar for me. But I definitely shouldn’t have defamed the strong, beautiful, wholly wonderful name of being a girl, even in a wardrobe crisis.
As a twenty-two-year-old, I’ve spent a long time being told to act in a certain way. I’ve been conditioned to want to look like an opposite version of myself. I’ve been sold products wrapped in pink bows and subconsciously been nudged in slightly different directions than my male counterparts. I’ve been softened. I’ve been commercialized. At least, there’s been a part of me that has been told to act on a basic “what being a girl is supposed to mean,” level.
For as long as I can remember, since the first time my dad ever suggested that I change for church, I’ve been learning and defining and labeling what a girl does, looks like and strives for.
The #LikeAGirl ad stirred something in me, as it did for many other women, young and old. It reminds me there is power in acting like a girl, throwing like a girl, walking like a girl, running, eating, dressing, etc. There is responsibility, in an eerie Spiderman kind of way. We can’t let stereotypes or old-school idealizations of womanhood hold the power.
I don’t want to adhere to a lower standard, in anything I do, and use my gender as an excuse. I want to look my best, run my best, get the best grades, and do it all because I’m a girl and because that is a beautiful thing.