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Young karate girl punching

Karate Girl at Japanese festival by Vincent Ricco of 500px


You punch like a girl

This is often used as an insult or a joke towards someone who can’t punch. It infers that girls cannot punch and that girls are inferior. The truth is that no one can punch unless they have learnt how.

Boys are more likely to get into fights so tend to learn how to punch from a younger age. Girls are more likely to learn to bite, scratch and pull hair. Girls can’t fight and it’s not something that is acceptable for them to be doing. They internalise their anger (unless they are on their period!). Boys are encouraged to use their anger and violence to solve their problems. Girls are taught to be caring and nurturing. When girls and women use violence it is considered unusual, tittilating or scandalous. When boys and men can’t punch they are considered weak and effeminate. Societal stereotypes from all varieties of media re-enforce these messages. This is all highly generalised and how stereotypes persist. It’s annoyingly hard to change people’s views once they believe a stereotype.

Always has made an attempt to address the problem with this viral video. You’ve probably seen it already it was doing the rounds earlier this summer.

I did actually know a girl at school who ran like the sterotype depicted here. Despite all the girly gesturing she was still one of the fastest girls in school.

One of my all time favourite tv characters Sydney Bristow a CIA double agent in the show Alias does a lot of martial arts. The actress that played her Jennifer Garner did not learn that she might have to throw a punch or kick until the first few days of her audition. Even as Jennifer was cast after several auditions, JJ Abrams, the director revealed that he remained panicked with the thought that she might not be able to pull off the role, especially as, on the first day of shooting, he was told by Jennifer herself, “I don’t think I can do this.” Jennifer later commented,

I was such a girlie-girl then. I didn’t even know how to punch.

With taekwondo lessons she was able to perform many of the action sequences during the series herself, but the dangerous explosions and complex fights were handled by her stunt double, Shauna Duggins. Jennifer was so taken with martial arts that she still practices today and has enrolled all her children in lessons. Because of Alias she was awarded the role of Electra in Daredevil and then her own spin off film Electra.

I used to punch like girl, in fact in all my mannerisms I was very girly. Even now I still apologise or am holding back an apology when I hit someone. It shouldn’t really been seen as an insult, because what it really means is that you don’t want to hurt someone else. At that is a good thing. I still punch like a girl but not in the stereotype way, but because I am a girl in gender, mind and spirit. I suppose I could say I now punch like a woman. I have put together a selection of my punches.

Obviously I am hitting to target here so the punches are not actually going in. I believe my sensei when he says I can hit harder than some of the guys. He should know as he is often used as the club punch bag due to his solid bulk and yielding techniques. Not only that I have been told

You’re so tiny but you hit so hard

If you are still unconvinced that girls and women can hit really hard, check out this video with some slightly dodgy science with Lucia Rijker. This World Champion boxer packs a punch of 922 pounds of force which is 200 pounds more than a male MMA fighter. Sometimes being stronger and more muscle bound can slow you down and even if you can pack a punch by just swinging your arm out, that’s not actually punching. There is a theory that people can learn to punch with 3 times their own body weight. I reckon right now I am using about just over half of my own body weight as I still have some grounding to sort out.

It’s relatively easy to slip into insulting phrases like this, everyone is guilty. Maybe next time you feel tempted to say to someone they punch like a girl and they are male, maybe you should say they punch like a boy. Better yet avoid gender altogether and say

You wouldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding

Which refers to someone so weak that they are incapable of defending against a physical attack. Rice pudding when cooked in the oven has a thin crispy skin on the top. Removing it is a fairly simple affair.


You couldn’t fight your way out of a paper bag

Much more fun and easier to understand. After all kids under 7 are unlikely to understand what “punch like a girl” currently means. Which shows us how ridiculous the phrase is.