What’s the appropriate age to start telling a young woman to grow a pair of balls?
It's odd how often the phrase “growing a pair” or “do you have the balls?” comes up when talking about courage. Especially in the fields of business, technology and entrepreneurship. Things like 'Do You Have The Balls to Make it?“ or "It takes balls to build the best product ever. Grow a pair” are often the titles of advice we read or hear around us.
The phrase is usually a slang term defined as:
to act with fortitude, strength, determination; “man up”.
-The Online Slang Dictionary
Of course it's figurative. But what strikes me the most about this phrase is how ridiculous it would be for me to say something about changing the color of your skin or the shape of your eyes, in order to achieve a highly desired goal of humanity.
I'd likely get punched in the face (and rightly so) if I stated things like: “You want to be more successful? Change the color of your skin” or “To be a better student, you need to make your eyes more…”
A chunk of society has gone down the path of equating courage with something only a man can posses. Of course, men physiologically produce much more testosterone than women, which is linked to aggression and greater physical strength. But to come up with this phrase, we've gone ahead and confused aggression for courage, and substituted physical strength for strength of character.
Look, I'm not on a pedestal “holier than thou”.
You won't get any death stares or fist a cuffs from me if you mention the phrase.
I'm not pointing any fingers at anyone specific. Just something I found real odd that I observed.
An observation I made when I was considering using the phrase myself in a title to a blog post I was composing about courage and creativity.
I have two very young nieces. This weekend I had the immense pleasure of hanging out for many hours with my 2 year old niece. She's an amazing person. It's eye opening watching her enjoy the world and sponge up every single thing people are doing around her.
I started to think about the important advice I'm already giving her: Here's how you give your uncle a fist bump or Here's how you balance on your legs after uncle's been spinning you around in the air.
I thought about the things I'd share with her as she got older.
It dawned on me there's advice I'd love to share with her one day that comes from places like my blog. These wouldn't be appropriate for a 2 year old, but when she's 16, I wouldn't be embarrassed if she read a post of mine that tells her to:
“Stop fucking around and get back to work.”
There's going to be plenty of times she'll need to stand up to the resistance she'll face in being the best person she can be. Maybe she'll want to be an entrepreneur. Maybe she'll want to be a mom. Maybe she'll want to be President of the United States of America. Whatever she'll want to do, she's going to need courage to persist through the challenges life is going to deal her.
What's the lesson then I set, if she comes across this blog and reads a post of mine telling her she needs to grow a pair of balls?
Lily. Madeline. You'll never need to be more like a man to be courageous. I wish you could understand how strong you already are and what you're teaching me about being brave. Keep placing one foot in front of another. The baby steps you're taking today will be the same ones guiding you to accomplish anything you want to tomorrow. Just Keep Going Forward. And remember. It helps to giggle when you fall.
P.S. I'd be insanely honored if you followed me on Twitter, here.