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.