Why we never hear, "Girls will be girls."

This past week, one tired old idiom resurfaced to unprecedented attention.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said it when he addressed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

The Atlantic featured it prominently in a recent story.


In an interview, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking into her lap, recalled how she, and “every woman of [her] vintage,” found themselves tyrannized by it.

The Guardian, PBS, CNN, Quartz, Dictionary.com, Merriam Webster, UrbanDictionary.com, Huffington Post, The Weekly Standard, Christian Science Monitor, Psychology Today: all have think pieces or definitions to contribute.

The idiom, of course, is “Boys will be boys.” And all its attendant cultural noise forced me to think: What about its natural, largely unused counterpart: “Girls will be girls?”

Unlike “Boys will be boys,” which crowds my mind with behaviors ranging from rowdiness to rape, “Girls will be girls,” virtually empties it.

When I try to make it mean something, a blank unfolds in my brain—a kind of prolonged end-of-gong silence.  

When I Google "Girls will be girls," the first and most prominent hit is a 2003 drag comedy—a campy romp that mostly mines humor from a time-honored sight gag: men dressed as women. Of ten results on Google’s first page, this minor movie occupies eight. The other two: an online clothing boutique featuring items like ‘Sabrina python mini dress’ and ‘Nicole leopard palazzo jumpsuit,’ and a forgettable pop song by a young artist named Sophie Beem (in the YouTube image, Ms. Beem stands limply—dead-eyed, gape-mouthed—in a midriff-baring school uniform.)

Remarkably, not one result remotely addresses female behavior (whatever that means).

Come-hither schoolgirls, sexy jungle jumpsuits, men in drag: this is still the realm of "Boys will be boys," in service to the male gaze, and, well, the male gays.

So, I narrow my search, add "idiom" to the phrase, and enter a refreshingly nerdy corner of the internet, occupied mostly by grammar forums, where I discover this gem, on stackexchange.com, contributed by an anonymous user:

It seems "Boys will be boys" is a well established idiom and, according to Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed… it is, "something that you say which means it is not surprising when boys or men behave in a noisy, rude, or unpleasant way.

So I began to wonder if "Girls will be girls" is a phrase that begins to take on an idiomatic meaning in English. Is it so?

To which a user responds:

Excellent question but, no, GWBG is only a derivative, jocularly replacing girls for boys, because culturally girls don't act like boys at all. …GWBG does not stand alone in meaning by itself — its meaning depends on its connection with BWBB.

As an expression, “Girls will be girls,” a bit like Pop-Star Sophie, doesn’t stand so well on its own. “Girls will be girls” is the linguistic equivalent of our most powerful gender-related narratives—from Eve to Echo to Galatea—that reinforce our most damaging patriarchal myth: that men exist independently of women, but women require men to exist.

Suddenly, I understood why “Girls will be girls” —as a phrase—made my mind blank. That blankness did not, as I assumed, signify a lack of meaning. The silence, the blankness—was the meaning.

"Girls will be girls" means reducing oneself to a blank upon which "Boys" can more easily project their desires. “Girls will be girls” means calcifying into the silent wife-face who watches her husband from the back of a courtroom, stands beside him as he confesses his affairs, or witnesses him take oath for office. “Girls will be girls” means voiding yourself, transforming yourself into an empty space for "Boys" to invade, occupy, and destroy.

To those, including our shameful President, who doubt, even mock, Dr. Ford’s testimony—to those who believe if she’d truly fled the house in severe distress, someone would have noticed; to those who find it suspect she kept quiet for 36 years, and if she’d truly been assaulted, she’d have reported it: that’s not how this works. Brett Kavanaugh was a "Boy" that night—loud, brutal, self-obsessed—and, in turn, Christine Blasey Ford was a "Girl"—mute, blank, invisible.

This is what women are doing when they bravely speak their truth—when they loudly protest the status quo, clamor for justice in public squares, and corner Senators in elevators: they are refusing to be "Girls." They are annulling their end of a corrupt bargain, in which they are expected to take responsibility for the actions of others, and clap their own hands over their own mouths. Because the accepted patriarchal narrative—about boys existing independently of girls—is wrong. The opposite is true. Without girls who are "Girls"—without that roaring collective silence— boys who are "Boys" will cease to exist.

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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