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What's wrong with a 'girlie man?'

By Carol Costello
updated 5:03 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Carol Costello says Olympic skater Ashley Wagner calls herself a strong, athletic woman
  • Costello: She's refreshing in light of remarks like "girlie man" and "feminization of culture"
  • What's wrong with feminine? The GOP should beware of comments like this, she says
  • Costello: In 2005, ski jumping was not "appropriate for ladies"; finally they're competing

Editor's note: Carol Costello anchors the 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET edition of CNN's "Newsroom" each weekday.

(CNN) -- Like millions of Americans, I was glued to the Olympic Games over the weekend. I loved, simply loved, Ashley Wagner's strong, athletic performance on ice to one of my favorite songs from Pink Floyd.

Truth told, I loved her pre-competition comments more. She told NBC, "People see figure skaters as these pretty little porcelain dolls that you put up on a shelf. But I am not a soft skater, and I don't want to be. I am strong; I'm powerful; I'm athletic. Most importantly to me I feel like I'm a woman out on the ice."

Powerful. Athletic. A woman.

Beautiful words in a world that denigrates female power by using phrases like, "man up," "girlie men" and the "feminization of our culture." And, I might add: What is wrong with that anyway? Last time I checked, roughly half our culture was already as such.

I simply don't equate "feminine" or "girly" with "weakness." But, plenty of others -- men and women -- do.

Conservative Fox News analyst Britt Hume recently blamed a "sort of feminized atmosphere" for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's woes.

Norway\'s Maren Lundby trains at Sochi. This is the first Olympics to allow women to compete in ski jumping.\n
Norway's Maren Lundby trains at Sochi. This is the first Olympics to allow women to compete in ski jumping.

It seems, in Hume's mind, our overly sensitive culture can no long abide a "masculine, muscular" guy like Christie.

Arnold Schwarzenegger urged the crowd at the Republican National Convention in 2004 to support free enterprise and to not be "economic girlie men." Yes, he was capitalizing on his Hollywood image, but the phrase drew a standing ovation.

Even strong women inadvertently slam female strength. Sarah Palin urged the GOP to "man up" in 2010 and support Tea Party candidates. Why didn't Palin shout, "woman up?"

I know, I know. I've used the "man up" slam too. It's fun, cutting and effective. But, upon further reflection, is it?

I love my friend Kelly's story about "girlie men." Nine months pregnant, and standing in line at Dunkin' Donuts behind two male construction workers, she overheard one of them say to the other, "You're such a girl." Kelly, exhausted from getting up at 2:30 a.m. to arrive at work on time snapped, "Then I'm sure he's stronger than you."

Women ski jump into Olympics' history
Canadian speed skater Hamelin takes gold

I don't mean to pick on Republicans, but perhaps the use of "man up," "girlie men" and "the feminization of our culture" are hurting them needlessly.

According to a new CNN/ORC poll, a majority of Americans, and women in particular, do not believe the Republican Party understands the problems and concerns of women today.

As Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told CNN: "When you look at our position on issues, a lot of times (a) majority of Americans agree with our positions. But it's the way that we talk about it that doesn't resonate, and we have to do a better job. I think it's fair to say there have been some comments which are offensive and they're not representative of the entire Republican Party."

Which brings me back to the Olympics. For the first time ever, women will compete in ski jumping. They've been petitioning to compete in the Games since 1998.

If you're wondering why it's taken 16 years, a hint: According to The New York Times, the president of the International Ski Federation, Gian-Franco Kasper, told NPR in 2005 that ski jumping "seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.

Silly manly man.

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The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Carol Costello.

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