If you are a man (or sometimes a woman) the following five words can be some of the most insulting in the English language: "You throw like a girl."
Such a simple statement seems to imply you are a sissy with no athleticism and lack any coordination or skill to get the job done.
As a woman, this five-word sentence used to insult me. Now I wonder, what's so wrong with throwing like a girl? I am a girl.
Last August I was invited to speak at the Harvard Women's Leadership Conference. One of the sessions focuses on the importance of athletics and impact on women. (Hence my involvement in the conference, as I am no Harvard graduate!)
While I was talking with the women, I commented about my own athletic deficiencies by saying I throw like a girl. Those few words lit a fire under one of the other panelists who went on to say my comment made her "cringe." She drove home the point that women can throw or perform any other activity as well or better than any man.
In the moment, I felt a little shameful. It seemed as though I had just set women back 25 years by uttering a few words.
My statement must not have been overly insulting. Harvard has graciously asked me to return to the conference for a second straight year. And this time, I'm ready to make a case for throwing like a girl.
Simple biology shows women are different than men. (Do I really need to quote the kid from "Kindergarten Cop?") Whether you believe in evolution, God, or some variance of the big bang theory, there is no disputing males and females were created quite differently.
There is a reason the qualifying time for men in the Boston Marathon is 30 minutes faster than a woman. There is a reason we have separate teams for boys and girls sports. We are built differently, and therefore perform differently.
Notice, I didn't say better, I said different.
For whatever reason, woman are constantly trying to be more like men. And this is not limited to athletic endeavors.
In the office we feel as if we have to approach problem solving or event planning with the mind of a man. In relationships we try and learn the ins and outs of football, basketball, and hockey to show how much we have "in common" with our significant other. (When is the last time your guy asked you how to knit one, pearl two?) In athletics, we are always trying to beat the boys.
I honestly don't understand why.
I'm in no way suggesting the entire female races bows down in defeat to males everywhere. I'm just throwing out the idea that maybe, if we all tried to be the best women we can be, as opposed to women who are a lot like men, we may be surprised by the outcome.
If you are building a baseball team, you want 25 guys who all bring something different to the table, right? Not everyone can be a power hitter or a base stealer or the ace of the staff. You need balance for the best team. The most successful franchises, business and interpersonal relationships are built on a combination of talent, ideas and personalities.
Yet in life, so many females shy away from tackling problems and solutions using the oh-so-valuable trait of a "woman's intuition." We seem to be afraid of being different. We shy away from being women.
At some point in our lives we were taught that when you are a girl, different means weak, incapable or not quite good enough. Oh, most of us were encouraged to follow our dreams and shoot for the stars, but be careful to never act too much like a girl.
Honestly, what is the big deal if you "throw like a girl" as long as you still get the job done? Does the process matter so much as the outcome?
I can't help but wonder what might happen if women started embracing their gender differences.
I'm the first to admit I couldn't hit a 100-mph fastball if my life depended on it. I also couldn't beat a boyfriend in a game of horse or match my male coworkers' ability to quote "Dumb and Dumber" word-for-word. But that doesn't make me inferior. If anything, it makes me valuable.
Part of being different, means seeing things with new eyes, and solving problems in fresh ways. Not every boardroom situation requires the hammer of toughness; sometimes a more graceful approach might get the job done. Yin and Yang. Two very different parts, working perfectly together.
So this August, when I once again step onto a campus that is rich in famous alumni, many of them male, I won't back down. Talk like a girl. Solve problems like a girl. Go ahead, throw like a girl. I think you'll be surprised how much further the ball goes.
Trenni Kusnierek is a sports reporter and radio host who has worked for networks such as ABC, Big Ten, MLB, and NFL. She is currently on 540 ESPN in Milwaukee on both the D-List and Broad Side. Kusnierek is also freelance writing and reporting until January, when she will leave on a service trip to India.
A graduate of Marquette University, she holds a degree in Broadcast and Electronic Journalism. An avid marathon runner, Kusnierek qualified for the 2010 Boston Marathon by running a 3:37:02 at the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee.