Ladies, what can’t we do? According to society, media and ourselves, a lot.
The ideas, “you can’t,” “I can’t” and “we can’t,” are phrases often said to and by women. This happens because the world values twerking over teaching, and thigh gaps over wage gaps. And we’re (partly) to blame.
The “I can’t do (math, humor, sports)" phenomenon has held women back for generations, and even in post-second-wave feminism, we’re still slotting ourselves into stereotypical roles. Of course, there are the “impossibly” rare exceptions (Malala Yousafzai, Amy Poehler and Serena Williams, to name a few).
But, many of us are not helping ourselves as much as we possibly could.
This generation needs to say f*ck it to putting ourselves down, and instead, we must join forces. We need to believe we actually can do whatever we damn well please because it’s the f*cking truth.
For all you skeptics who think, “But, maybe we actually can’t even,” here are three “women can’t” myths debunked:
1. Women CAN’T be funny.
Short answer: Women can be funny.
Long answer: Women are just as funny as men, but we’re all too damn biased to believe it.
Why so much bias? Humor is aggressive and generally opposite of anything considered to be lady-like. As children, the “class clowns” tend to be the boys because it would be rude and outlandish for a young lady to fool around.
In fact, a study by JSTOR showed that by age 6, the number of jokes girls make decreases, and it never evens out again. This puts them at a big disadvantage for wordplay and more advanced humor. So, sadly, it takes a lot more courage and effort for funny ladies to practice their humor.
In one study by UCSD, participants were asked to rank humor in various cartoon captions, written by equal numbers of men and women. When the captions remained anonymous, the participants judged them to be almost equally funny.
Yet, when asked which gender participants they believed wrote the funny caption, participants almost always assumed the writers were male. And, 90 percent of the participants went along with the stereotype that men are funnier.
Oh, and it only gets worse: Even after the participants learned the authors of the captions, after a short period of time, they misattributed the funny captions to men. So, basically, participants were so biased they assumed men wrote the funny stuff.
We all know there are funny women out there, but please don’t believe they’re testosterone-induced, lab-rat freaks. They aren’t at all; we’re just trained to believe so.
2. Women CAN’T do math.
Lies, all lies!
So many women (including me) have pulled the “I can’t do numbers” façade for far too long; it needs to end here. Like, right now. Like, at the end of this sentence.
Yes, math never came naturally to me, but like so many of the other girls in my class, I gave up on it way too easily. Since I believed I wasn’t “innately talented,” even if I got a B in math, it wasn’t good enough.
Although, ironically, most boys in my class who considered themselves to be “good” at math also got B's. Math professor Jordan Ellenberg calls it the “Cult of Genius,” his point being that math is (incorrectly) seen as an innate intelligence with which you’re born. If you don't have it innately, there's not point in trying. Well, this mentality is wrong.
And, it turns out I’m not alone with my dumb “nothing but an A in math” belief. According to a report by the American Association of University Women, girls often think they’re bad at math if they get B's. Boys, on the other hand, think they are good at math when earning the same grade.
I gave up on math too easily. When high school came around, I had such a phobia of math that I avoided studying altogether, focusing on subjects in which I knew I could do well, instead.
It’s a sad, vicious cycle that needs to end. Let’s all get over this “innate math ability” bullsh*t and accept that women and men have an equal chance of understanding it. Then, we can dance and sing and solve math equations together, okay?
3. Women CAN’T play sports.
It doesn’t help that we view strength as a masculine trait, which discourages little girls from playing sports that develop their motor skills and strengths. This means many women never achieve their full athletic potential.
A study by William P. Ebben debunks some of the “frail women” myths. He writes that women possess about two thirds of the strength of men. However, if we go by just strength (which we almost always do), we make false conclusions regarding women's strength, how they see themselves and the way they exercise.
Because, as it turns out, there are athletic benefits of a woman’s body, which men DON’T have.
Ebben writes that the two sexes have equally fast and slow twitch muscle abilities, but women are able to use a GREATER portion of stored elastic energy than men. (As in, women can better unlock reflexes, faster countermovement jumps, etc.).
And, based on strength-to-lean-body-mass ratio, women are equal in strength and, sometimes, stronger. It’s all relative; we just need to believe it.
It’s time to break away from the stereotypes, people. Women have potential we haven’t yet been able to unlock. All we need is belief and the support of two little words: “I can.”
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It