Let's deal with that sexist 'like a girl' comment in a different way

Sep 1, 2015 at 10:04 a.m. ET
Image: WENN.com

Commentator Daley Thompson didn’t think before he spoke while covering the athletics World Championships in Beijing for the BBC.

The former decathlete found himself in the bad books of his fellow presenters, Gabby Logan and Paula Radcliffe, after accusing heptathlon star Katarina Johnson-Thompson of throwing "like a girl."

Thompson, 57, clearly had an inkling that what he was saying could cause offence as he preceded his comment with, "It's not meant to be derogatory but…"

Gabby was quick to pull him up on his remark, saying: "That is derogatory, Daley." Marathon world-record holder Paula snapped: "You run like a decathlete."

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Social media users didn't waste time in backing up Thompson's co-anchors, taking to Twitter to express their disgust.

"How dare you! Good comeback Paula!" one tweeted, while another praised Gabby for "pulling up" the former track and field star on his "appallingly sexist remarks."

Many others have weighed in such as Women's SportsNet director Paul Reynolds, who deemed the remarks "unacceptable" and said Thompson showed a "general disregard for sportswomen." He added: "It is not acceptable for someone in his position to be so accusative."

Reynolds told Express.co.uk that sexist comments directed at women in sport were often a sign of "nervous, frightened" men who were against the very idea of females competing.

Peter Leckie of Parity, an organisation that seeks equality for men and women, suggested that Thompson apologise and said he should be "sent on a diversity course." However, he added that the Olympian shouldn't lose his job but instead should "take a break for a month."

"He has done so much for this country — a slip-up in a TV studio should be seen for what it is, compared to his endeavours over the years," he said. "Plenty of women, for example Jessica Ennis-Hill, can prove his comments as silly — and oddly men are routinely denigrated in other areas, but there seems not a jot of concern for them."

Reynolds agreed that Thompson should remain in his job, provided he acknowledged the comments were offensive and made an apology.

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OK, so it sucks that Daley Thompson used the phrase "like a girl" as a derogatory comment about a fellow athlete.

But, instead of banging on about how sexist he is, let's take this chance to continue to redefine that phrase. Because if we carry on taking offence when people highlight typically female traits, or the very state of being a woman (or a girl), in a negative way aren't we only reinforcing that negativity?

Last year's #LikeAGirl campaign by Always tried to redefine "like a girl," turning it from a negative phrase that implied weakness into something strong and powerful. From an insult into a compliment.

The most recent #LikeAGirl video aims to empower girls everywhere by "encouraging them to smash limitations and be unstoppable." Perhaps a good starting point for Daley Thompson would be to watch it.


Video credit: Always/YouTube

Katarina Johnson-Thompson is a girl. Hopefully she's proud to be a girl. And she does throw like a girl. A strong, capable, talented, awesome girl.

Let's own "like a girl" instead of stamping it out.

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