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SportsColumnistsBarbara Barker

Isn't it time we stopped using the word 'girl' in a derogatory manner?

PGA of America President Ted Bishop speaks next

PGA of America President Ted Bishop speaks next to the Presidents Cup trophy at a news conference at City Hall in San Francisco on July 2, 2014 Photo Credit: AP / Jeff Chiu

So what's wrong with being a girl?

Why do we tell the slow boy he runs like a girl? Or the awkward pitcher that he throws like one? Why, in this day and age, is it OK to tell someone that a girl is the last thing he/she would want to be?

Well, increasingly, it's not OK, as we have seen during the past two weeks. Two seemingly disconnected figures -- Little League pitcher Mo'ne Davis and now-former PGA president Ted Bishop -- have us taking a good, long look at a negative and damaging stereotype.

Davis, a 13-year-old girl from Philadelphia, stood the stereotype on its head in a Chevrolet advertisement that debuted during the World Series. Davis, as she hurls the ball, declares: "I throw 70 miles per hour. That's throwing like a girl!"

Two days later, Bishop decided to post what he deemed an insult at English golfer Ian Poulter, calling him a "lil girl" on Twitter. Having just hosted a conference on diversity, the PGA took only a day to fire Bishop, who also had posted on his Facebook page that Poulter sounded like "a little school girl squealing during recess."

Golf has a long, dark legacy of exclusionary behavior, but that is changing. Augusta National Golf Club finally accepted its first female member in 2012. St. Andrews, the most famous golf course in the world, voted just this past September to start accepting women as members. Golf, it seemed, was realizing that Neanderthal think not only is wrong, it's not good business.

And then we get the "lil girl" tweet.

Bishop's daughter, Ambry, who is the women's golf coach at St. John's, said the punishment was harsh for someone who has been a big supporter of women in golf and is not a sexist. She said her father always has been an advocate of women's golf and that he feels awful that many people will see him as having the opposite view.

"I can always know that he had a big part in that," she said, "and that it was near and dear to his heart."

Either way, the whole incident is worth examining simply because his word choice says volumes about sports and the lack of value it places on girlhood.

"I think people are seeing that for a man of his age to use the word 'girl' as a supreme put-down, especially of another man, is not OK," said Mary Jo Kane, director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. "A few years ago, that would have been OK. We're starting to put sexist comments in the circle of bigotry that will not be tolerated."

Mary Anne Trasciatti, an associate professor of rhetoric at Hofstra, says it is an issue that transcends sports.

"It really says something about our culture when it's an insult to call someone a girl," said Trasciatti, whose class titled "Sports, Media and Society" has examined such issues. "It's not just about sports -- it's about our culture and the lack of value we put on femininity and girls in general."

Trasciatti said that at the start of her class, she polled the students to see how many had been called a tomboy while growing up. A number of girls raised their hands. She then asked how many boys had been called "girlie.'' The room was still.

"There are just all kinds of penalties for being perceived as feminine," she said. "To be associated with being a girl is considered bad. This is not just a problem for girls but a problem for boys. That's why it's important that we call attention to these high-profile incidents."

In the sporting world, it is an incident that still happens all too frequently.

As a sportswriter, I have heard countless players, coaches and even other sportswriters joke about someone shooting or running like a girl.

As a mother of a girl and boy who play sports, I also have heard the same from seemingly dedicated, well-intentioned coaches, people who make their living as teachers working with young people.

I, like many, used to just roll my eyes and ignore it, but that is getting tougher to do. It shouldn't be OK to demean 50 percent of the population.

This is something that corporate America finally is figuring out. For years, companies such as Chevrolet used lycra-clad auto-show models to sell their product. Now they're also using positive female role models such as Davis.

It's about time.

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