What Does “Like a Girl” Really Mean?

I chose the name “Like a Girl” for my book deliberately. It’s a phrase that is often targeted at women, girls, and even men and boys, to undercut them. To belittle them, to put them in their place. We are raised from when we are young to be in a society where there are binary sexual identities and gender roles. We are raised in a society that values women and girls less than men and boys, and if either girls or boys don’t follow their prescribed gender roles they targeted. Boys are told they do things “like a girl”, as in, wrong. Girls are denied access to things because they do things “like a girl”, as in, inadequately.

That is why I created this book. I grew up that way, so did my friends, my mom and my aunts, my grandma. But now my friends have children, I have a niece and a nephew, a little sister and young cousins, and I teach preschool. I want those children to grow up with different ideas about their own identities being given to them from the start.IMG_20150310_152626

So what does doing something “like a girl” really mean then? I came up with numerous qualities, attributes, and careers that women, girls, boys, and men could look to as examples and models. But it’s more than just that. Not every girl will be all of the things in this book, or even any of the things in this book. But hopefully reading this book, what she will get out of it, is that a girl can be anything. That being a girl is positive, that girls can be leaders, can better their communities, that girls can be strong and smart, and a variety of other things. That girls can be many things, and so whatever kind of girl she is, that is what being like a girl is.

I hope the boys, and men who read this are able to gain the same insights. It’s hard to defeat years and years of negative connotations, but I hope this is a start. I want boys to see pictures of girls having qualities and aspirations that maybe they themselves have, and to find common ground. I want them to begin from a young age to see girls as peers, as equals, as friends as leaders, as the same. I want the boys who read this book to never even have the thought that being compared to a girl could be a bad thing.

I hope teachers, and parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, librarians, and community members are able to use this book as the tool it was intended to be. To break down the barriers of gender roles, and to build equality in it’s place. For the sake of all the children. Feminism isn’t just for the girls and women. Misogyny, and hyper-masculinity hurts boys and men too, and those ideas need to be gone. The idea of the binary needs to be replaced, so we can create space in our communities for LGBTQ members. That is why this isn’t just a children’s book about feminism. It’s about intersectionality. The faces aren’t just girls. They are girls of color, girls with different levels of physical ability, girls who fall on different places on the gender or sexuality spectrum, women who broke barriers, women who advanced the world, or their field or their community. Women who protected the planet we all live on.IMG_20150331_142327

This book has made me proud, and I hope that once you read it, it will help you and your family find what it really means to you to be like a girl.

Ariel Shultz

artist, educator, environmentalist, sailor