This is a small sampling of what you get if you Google “bad names to call a girl.” I’m leaving out the abundance of swear words and anything with the word “ride” as part of it. Yikes. In the wake of Miley Cyrus’ twerky escapades, I’m curious about how insults for girls have evolved since I was a kid.
Turns out, not much. I remember the first time I got called “fugly.” I was in 4th grade. It was my first boy/girl party. There was volleyball. BBQ. And Matt. The guy I had a crush on and wondered if he liked me. When I sent a friend on over to find out (it would be decades before I understood the benefits of direct communication) she came over to inform me that Matt did not like me back. Nope. In fact, he said “Tell her she’s fugly.” I had no idea what that even meant, but the meaning came to me as I shrugged my shoulders and acted like it was no big deal. At 9 years old, it was a big deal. I definitely spent some time crying in the bathroom before telling everybody what a total jerk this guy was.
This name-calling was painful, but private. Now we’ve got Amanda Bynes tweeting that Miley Cyrus is ugly to thousands of followers. Labels for girls get blasted over Facebook and featured on Instagram. I know, I know- this is old news. Guys call women horrible names. Boys call girls bad things. Teenage girls say unbelievably hurtful things to themselves and other girls. The media makes it all visible, concrete and longer lasting…what’s my point?
My point is that yesterday, I experienced something different. I was walking on campus at Glenview Elementary School in Oakland and something beautiful happened. Right there in the middle of the blacktop at morning recess, with kids running all around, a loud voice called out above the mayhem and yelled to me, “Hey Go Girl!” And I turned. I knew this woman was talking to me.
For a brief moment, I knew she was talking to me because I swam under a waterfall this summer, because I crafted homegrown plums into chutney last week, because I performed in a one-woman show that terrified me years ago. I knew to turn my head because the energy behind that label was loving. Powerful. It evoked joy. I wanted to be associated with that word. “Go Girl” is the opposite of fugly. Or skank. It resonates as truly, actually me. So I listened. I turned around and accepted this label gladly.
A parent told me that her 4th grade daughter was called “bitch” during her first week of school. Apparently, she came home to talk about it and said, “The girl who called me that really needs Go Girls! Camp.” I agree.