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Can Someone Please Explain to Me What Girly Means?

Posted Kenzie Kramer on 6/20/2017 |


In my spare time, I work at a yoga studio where I clean, organize things and jam out to music between classes. Last week, while I was folding clean towels, a sweaty man came out of his yoga class and greeted me with a nod. After setting his yoga blocks on the counter, he took a big swig of water and let out an exhausted breath. Putting on my customer service hat, I asked him how his class was. His response: “You know, that class is pretty girly but it is tough!” 

Cue anger. I was mad. Like, talking. with. periods. between. words. mad. The class he had just walked out of was a yoga class that involves weights and cardio in a 100 degree room that has added humidity. It’s tough. Period. No qualifier needed. 

I understand "girly" is an adjective that relates something to young girls. What I don’t understand is why it’s derogatory and used as an insult. Girls are tough - mentally and physically. As a Girls on the Run coach, I’ve seen girls who run until they’re drenched in sweat, girls who spend their time outside of school rock climbing and hustling on the basketball court, girls who work hard to improve their spelling and girls who are starting their own newspaper at their elementary school.

These girls know words matter and they understand that when people use the word "girly", they’re rarely using it in a positive way. Many of these girls also know that it doesn't make sense to correlate "girly" with "lesser than" because they recognize that they are strong and competent. But if we keep using the word "girly" with a negative connotation, what are we telling them?

Looking back, I wish I had used that moment to ask yoga man what he meant by labeling the class that had just caused him to sweat buckets as girly. Instead, I folded another towel, took a deep breath and responded “That’s because girls are tough.”

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