OPINION: An Unscripted Take on #LikeAGirl

To be completely honest, the first time I saw the Always #LikeAGirl commercial in June, I loved it – dare I say, even shed a tear or two.

But when Adobe ranked “LikeAGirl” as the top digital campaign of this year’s Super Bowl, I was more than just slightly perplexed. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind sitting through a touch-feely commercial every once in a while, but as a self-proclaimed ad critic, I couldn’t help but wonder: What were they thinking?

If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Always’ #LikeAGirl commercial, I would highly suggest you check it out before reading any further.

While I will give Always due credit for attempting to launch a “viral cry for empowerment” as Huff Po nicely puts it, it’s the vessel that bothers me: How we can truly boost young girls’ self esteem through a tampon commercial, taking center-stage at a football game? Am I the only one that sees something wrong with this picture?

As the commercial comes to a close, it finally tells us its purpose, beyond puppeteering little girls to smile for the camera, to run, mock throw, to catch “like a girl,” in place, no less. It urges us to break the stereotype, to change the meaning of a colloquial phrase, to make “#LikeAGirl mean amazing things.”

I say it already does.

Since when did we need Always, a feminine product company, to tell us what we can say and what we can’t?

Journalist Charlotte Allen shares my feelings. In a guest post she penned for the LA Times, Allen shares a golden nugget of truth: “The problem with portraying a stereotype – even when your aim is to debunk it – is that stereotypes usually…contain a substantial kernel of truth.”

The truth is, thanks to biology, girls run like girls and boys run like boys. Our body chemistry demands it, because we’re just different. And different isn’t bad. Even if the #LikeAGirl campaign empowers girls to change the way they think, it can’t change the way they run. It just can’t. Girls will still run like girls. We’re built differently and wired differently, and that’s ok.

Body chemistry aside, let’s get back to the main point of the commercial: Always wants us to reverse the stereotypical meaning of a culturally-embraced phrase.

When did we decide that simply adjusting the meaning of “like a girl” was the way to “champion girls’ confidence,” urged to do so by a brand making billions off of a woman’s biological function that generally undermines her confidence every 28 days?

Changing the conversation might start with an ad, but it can’t end there. If we really want to start the process of reversing these stereotypes we have to understand that we can’t change biology. We can’t change how we run, how we throw, or how we catch – and why should we? Championing a girl’s confidence doesn’t start with calling out the difference in how to do something “like a girl” or “like a boy.” It starts by accepting our differences for what they are, for owning them and encouraging everyone else around us to do the same.

Predictably, the masses took to social media, making #LikeAGirl a trending topic on Twitter:

Near the end of the commercial, one of the actresses calls out something that really stuck with me: “I kick like a girl, I wake up in the morning like a girl, because I am a girl.”

Guess what: I’m a girl and I’m proud of it.


5 replies »

  1. Great integration of outside sources Hanna! The hyperlinks were well placed and helped to contextualize your point. I also really liked your use of Twitter excerpts and video. Well done!


  2. For argument’s sake, I’ll concede that this statement you made is true: “thanks to biology, girls run like girls and boys run like boys. Our body chemistry demands it.”

    Assuming that’s true, this ad isn’t about biology. It’s about social construction of gender. The important part (somewhat ironically) isn’t that people are different biologically, it’s about showing that “like a girl” has a negative social connotation. If you ask any of the people in the video about whether or not boys and girls are biologically the same, I doubt any one would say that we are the same, not even the younger girls. You’re right, girls are different than boys.

    But since when does running like a girl mean to be insulting? Since society said so. It has said so for a long time. You said that difference isn’t bad and I agree with you. But our society tells us that it is. You’re right to say that even if this ad changes our way of thinking, it can’t change biology. The point of this ad isn’t to change biology; it’s point is to change our thinking. It’s attacking something social not something biological. After all, you said it yourself, Always has been making money off of our biology.

    Now I’m not going to concede to your statement. While biology might affect a few things (center of gravity, for example), it is not the determinate of how we run. It’s not the determinate of most sports. Training, practice, motivation, etc. have much more influence on how we run or how we swim or how we swim or how we play. All those are far more social than biological. If you’ve been running track for a few years, you’re going to be better than someone who just learned to run, boy or girl.

    As to using Always to give up this message: Why not? From an economic standpoint, Always has been making money off of the biological functions of women, but they haven’t been making money off of the social construction of women. So… why not? You said, “Changing the conversation might start with an ad, but it can’t end there.” I agree with you; at least Always started the conversation.

    The reason I chose on comment on this was because I really dislike the continued use of this difference-exists-but-isnt-bad talk, not because it isn’t true, but because statements like this have been used constantly throughout history to tell maintain and justify injustice. “Women should stay home. It’s not a worse thing, it’s just different.” “Racial minorities don’t normally live in certain places. It’s not worse, it’s just different.” For every person like you saying it’s not worse, there is someone using that statement to force someone to continue in a state of oppression.

    Well written article, even though we didn’t entirely agree.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This piece is profound.
    THIS is what Feminism looks like and feels like.
    Not hairy, angry chicks running around and burning bras……..ha ha ha

    Thank you for the time, thought, and effort that you put into this piece. wowzers.


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