By Emily Ndiokho ’18
I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me more animated than being forced to act in a certain way in order to satisfy social norms. In particular, feminine gender norms scream to me that women are supposed to be pretty faces with absent minds, a stereotype I thought would be less prevalent at Andover. Unfortunately, the seemingly small microaggression, “…for a girl,” continues to reinforce unfair standards of femininity on our campus. “…For a girl,” used in any context, portrays those who identify as females as others rather than the human beings that we are.
Many of us have used microaggressions such as “…like a girl” and “…for a girl” to make both girls and boys feel ashamed of themselves by objectifying the female gender. “…For a girl” indicates that whenever girls demonstrate a traditionally masculine trait such as confidence, intelligence, or strength, it is perceived as an oddity. This girl does not fit her stereotypical gender role, and “…for a girl” is used to justify the perceived anomaly. However, the microaggression asserts that girls have a lower standard to meet for often positive traits, and thus, are lesser than boys. “…For a girl” teaches girls that their gender and whatever tasks they accomplish are subordinate compared to the male counterparts.
I first heard this phrase on campus while kidding around with one of my male friends. I punched his arm, which led to him saying; “Ouch! That hurt, you’re really strong, for a girl.” I paused and laughed it off. Although he had intended to compliment me, instead, my friend had conveyed that I was not a strong human being; I was simply strong for a girl. Despite his intentions, this comment my friend made proved to be problematic because the phrase “for a girl” limits the extent of my abilities to that of a skewed and outdated stereotype.
I was even more taken aback when my female friend told me that “[I’m] so confident, for a girl!” My friend viewed my confidence as a trait so exceptional in women that it deserved comment and pride. I was both disheartened and angered by this, and when I asked why my confidence was so impressive “for a girl,” she dismissed my inquiry with a carefree “You know what I mean.”
Andover claims to house some of the brightest female minds of our generation. Phrases such as these microaggressions portray women with a vulnerability that leaves a lasting impression on everyone in our community. Hearing the microaggression “…for a girl” from a fellow female made me recognize the reality that sexism continues to affect girls on campus.
We at Andover aim to pursue a quality education, and it is time for us to learn to see each other as equals. Small actions, like getting rid of the use of gendered microaggressions, can help stop us from unintentionally placing girls in a negative light. Microaggressions manifest a passive oppression of the female students on campus. Andover should be a community that sees all of its students as potential leaders, not just its male population. The use of the microaggression “for a girl” on campus makes students who identify as female seem less valuable than their male counterparts when in reality, girls are just as intelligent, strong, funny, and capable of success.