Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Leila has a wonderful soccer coach. He is amused by the foibles of little girls and very patient with their craziness.
However, there is something I really don't like. Perhaps because I am a linguist (of sorts) and the daughter of linguists, I think that language really matters. The words that we use carry a lot of meaning, sometimes without our being aware of it.
Last night at the end of the game (which they lost, as usual, but which they played very well, and much better than their earlier games,) he had them put their hands into the huddle for a final cheer. "But don't scream like girls," he told them.*
Um, excuse me. They are girls. The only possible way for them to scream is like girls. Even if they scream with a super deep voice, they will be girls screaming, and thus will be screaming like girls!
The language, however, implies that screaming "like a girl" is bad. Of course I've heard this before. Leila said her little friend, a boy, screamed like a girl the other day. This was meant in a mocking way. (But I explained that he couldn't because he is a boy and therefore can only scream like a boy!) The problem is that we only use this phrase in a negative way- don't do it, or a boy did it and therefore we can laugh at him.
What the coach should have said is: "Don't scream." I think that's what he meant. Don't be make a loud, high pitched, sound. Just yell. Like girls.
(Tonight I'm going to hear Gloria Steinem speak- I think the topic is Men and Women working together. It should be good, but, I warn you, it might lead to more posts like this one.)
*I told him, in a joking tone, that he's got to stop using sexist language. I hope he heard me.
**And this post replaces the email I thought about sending him. Instead, I'm going to tell Leila to say- "But I AM a girl!" anytime someone says that to her.

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