‘Throwing like a girl’.

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This morning I went to pull up the
bedroom blind and hesitated as I often do.  I have trouble getting the blind to retract without its
flapping all the way to the top and over such that it’s hard to retrieve the
cord the next time I need to pull down the blind.
            ‘Hold
onto the cord,’ my husband tells me repeatedly ‘that way it won’t run away from
you,’ but still I get it wrong. 
I lack coordination in such matters
no matter how hard I try.  It’s a
familiar feeling my distrust of any capacity when it comes to things
physical.  Too clumsy and uncoordinated.  
I’ve been reading Iris Marion Young’s essay ‘Throwing like a girl’ which seems to connect.  She writes about the way girls tend not to use their bodes in the same free and easy way their counterpart males do. 
My brothers used to laugh at me and
my sisters, the way we ran. 
Running like a girl/throwing like a girl are derisory expressions used
to reflect a certain discomfort women have with their bodies.  How are we taught these things?
I don’t remember anyone saying to
me that I should or should not use my whole body when throwing a ball but I
remember a pressure to keep my body out of the equation.  I always put it down to wanting to
remain invisible from my father but lately I’ve observed that other women also
feel some pressure to remain invisible even as women are also the ones most
likely to be looked at, the ones who feel great pressure to put their bodies on
display, especially the young women. 
‘Didn’t your mother teach you to
pull up blinds,’ my husband asks half joking.
‘No,’ I say.  ‘I only remember Venetian blinds.’
‘Posh,’ is my husband’s reply. 
I have never thought of Venetian
blinds as posh but I can see now they were when they first came into
existence.  Before we moved into
our new AV Jennings special – a triple fronted cream brick veneer on Warrigal
road in Cheltenham – we too had never seen the likes of Venetian blinds, but we
had no blinds ether as far as I can recall, only curtains.  So I did not get to practice the retraction of the cord. 
These blinds remind me of my
body.  Out of control.  I felt it last week after I side swiped
the car to which I had failed to give way. It was almost as if I was in a
dream.  I pulled to one side
slightly up onto the footpath and felt my foot trembling on the brake and for a
moment there I feared I could not even stop the car and I saw myself rolling
into several other cars that were parked in front of me in the car park.
I pulled myself together in time to
stop but the sensation was one I often have in dreams where I cannot stop no
matter how hard I try, though in dreams my sense more often is of getting into
reverse and not being able to get myself back into a forward motion.
These things come to me now as I
reflect on my clumsiness in all things physical.  My lack of physical strength relative to the boys and men in
my life.  I know men are believed
to be inherently stronger and often times are bigger but as Iris Marion Young
suggests women tend to underplay their own strength relative to their size.  We could be stronger she implies if only we could
convince ourselves it’s okay to be strong.   
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8 Comments on ‘Throwing like a girl’.

  1. Elizabeth
    May 8, 2013 at 4:44 am (4 years ago)

    So interesting. I have a lot of upper body strength and attribute it to my Italian grandmother. She was a peasant from southern Italy and renowned for her simple strength.

    I do throw "like a girl," though.

    Reply
  2. River
    May 8, 2013 at 6:54 am (4 years ago)

    I never had trouble with blinds since we all grew up with them; running came easily too although I can't do it now without a fortnight of pain afterwards. As for throwing like a girl, we do it because we are girls and no matter how much people go on about equality, we (most of us) just don't have the same upper body or shoulder strength that males do. It's genetic inheritance. Way back in the caves, the men did the running and throwing of spears while the women tended the children and cooking fires in between gathering vegetables, herbs and nuts. It is possible for many women to throw well, the "weakling" rule doesn't apply to everyone, there are women baseball players, cricketers, basketballers etc. In other areas such as construction there are very capable women also.

    Reply
  3. Christine
    May 8, 2013 at 10:21 am (4 years ago)

    When I was in Primary School I remember admiring the way the boys could throw a ball.. so far and with such ease while I, all mimsy, could manage less than ten yards. It was the ease and majesty of the throw: and now I think of it, rather sexy. I wished I could do the same. I had never thought of the explanation that the upper body was differently developed. Even so it was the moment of recognition that boys and girls are different.But I was never a sports player. I lacled co ordination. I was not confident of my body in space. Another story? Perhaps

    Reply
  4. Jim Murdoch
    May 8, 2013 at 10:50 am (4 years ago)

    I have always been strong. My father was strong. My brother told me a story of him in his sixties lifting a motorcycle up with one hand whilst trying to fit a wheel and failing. The failing was the important bit for my brother; he gleaned some satisfaction from our father’s failing powers. I never did. I sensed the confusion in him—and I do think that’s the right word here—when his body refused to do what it always had. One might assume that with physical strength comes strength of character and the confidence that comes with physical prowess can often be misread as character but in my father’s case this was not true; he was a strong man through and through, the kind of man who took vows and stood by those vows. Of course he was not without weaknesses which is why, when he died in 1996, I wrote this short but telling poem:

            THE END OF ALL ILLUSIONS

            Yes, even granite men
            melt in the rain in time.

            20 January 1996

    I am nowhere near as strong as I used to be. I’m talking in physical terms here; I’ve never been that strong in other ways. In my case tenacity—which I know is an expression of a form of strength—and intellect have covered a multitude of sins. It’s only in recent years though that I’ve felt my physical strength diminish. Lack of exercise is to blame. I remember when I was thirteen showing off to impress a girl by lifting her brother (who I would imagine was about nine at the time) over my head. I got him to lie on the ground, instructed him to stay stiff, took a hold of his ankles and the back of his neck and lifted him straight above my head, arms locked. Later, in my twenties, I took up weight training and I’ve always regretted letting it slip. A few days ago I took Carrie out in her wheelchair for the first time—she doesn’t need it for short trips, it’s more for her visits to the States—and that’s the most exercise I’ve done in years. We live at the top of a fairly steep hill which in my overconfidence I believed I could cope with. I’m afraid by the time we reached the top I had to sit down on the kerb and compose myself and I definitely felt old and frail for the first time in my life.

    As far as running like a girl goes, no, no one could ever accuse me of that. I was the fastest sprinter in the school. No use at anything longer than 200m though—the asthma was too bad for that—the 100m was my event and I even have a medal kicking around in a drawer somewhere. But I have been guilty of insulting people by accusing them of running or throwing like a girl even if they were a girl and the most recent instance of that was only a couple of days ago with my wife as she tossed me a flash drive. Of course we Scots insult each other all the time and too much shouldn’t be made of it; we say terrible things to each other but somehow we always know when it’s meant affectionately and when someone’s deadly serious. I have no problems with women—I’m one of the least chauvinistic males you’re likely to meet—and it pleased me no end when my wife and daughter dubbed me an honorary woman. But I’ll tease anyone. You should hear what I say to the bird sometimes. Thank God he doesn’t understand a word I say.

    Reply
  5. sarah toa
    May 8, 2013 at 5:41 pm (4 years ago)

    I throw like a girl but that is because I am a girl!
    This post annoyed me and spoke to me too. I remember when, in adolescence, my new-formed jiggly bits made throwing, running etc strange and different.
    But our bodies are our whole lives, we are born into them and stay there. How sad it is to not feel comfortable using that power. Now I'm in my 40s I still love running, throwing, swimming … I find the strength of my body completely thrilling.
    And the disparity in physical strength between the sexes can be overcome by sheer bloodymindedness. Those other strengths should never be underestimated. :~)

    Reply
  6. Birdie
    May 9, 2013 at 1:27 am (4 years ago)

    I have always been clutzy and clumsy. It no longer bothers me. In fact, I now embrace it because now I know my limitations and must always be Mindful and In the Moment.

    Yoga is good for those of us who feel challenged by the way our bodies work. For me, yoga (and swimming) allow my body to work and I do not feel inferior.

    Reply
  7. ellen abbott
    May 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm (4 years ago)

    women are stronger than we believe. it comes from generations of men and professionals telling us that we are the weaker sex, the fainting flower. but how is it we are the weaker sex when we work so hard at physical labor for far more hours than men. in nomadic or native cultures, women do all the work. our modern labor saving devices have made us weak and afraid of our bodies. up until a couple of hundred years ago, life was physical for both sexes. we are stronger, proportionally, than men, we have a higher tolerance to pain, and we have more stamina. this 'inherent' weakness of women is a story told to us to keep us in our place, under the control of men who for some reason need to feel superior to women to feel good about themselves, hence the ultimate insult of one man to another…you 'blank' like a girl. I like my body and its strength. I like to do physical things. I may not be able to throw a ball very far or fast but I can control and maneuver a heavily loaded canoe on a river through rapids. I can lug around 40 and 50 pound bags of dirt and compost while gardening. I never ask for help with physical acts that require strength until I know I need help.

    Reply
  8. River
    May 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm (4 years ago)

    @ Ellen Abbott; well said, you made the point that I was trying to get across.
    I used to enjoy my body and its strength, the things I could do. I can no longer do many of those things, and I never did throw very well, but I had the strength to dig and garden, I could walk for miles, I had the stamina to just keep going.

    Reply

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