The #LikeAGirl, a movement brought about by Always, aims to redefine the blatant insult associated with doing something “like a girl”. This video, orchestrated by the company that designs sanitary towels, displays the varying opinions that doing something “like a girl” entails, specifically comparing the answers of young, prepubescent girls with those of young women. A very strong message portrayed by the advertisement is that the girls whose self-esteems have not yet been affected by growing up have much greater confidence in their abilities than the girls that are that bit older. The New York Times reports that, in a study conducted by the American Association of University Women, 60% of girls in elementary school are confident in themselves. This figure drops to a mere 29% by the time they reach high school. Why the massive decrease in self-assurance?
Adolescence is a time when girls become women. They develop breasts, menstruate for the first time, and grow hair in places they were previously bald. This period of great change (excuse the pun) can be very distressing for young women and they end up looking to others for acceptance. The unfortunate aspect of this is that the characteristics that are approved of by society are often those traditionally attributed to men. If society is only going to value the male characteristics then of course to do something “like a girl” would be taken as an insult every time.
The insult is usually directed at a boy who has, by some misogynistic standard, acted in a feminine manner or carried out some manly task poorly. For example, the boy in the playground who cries after falling over is told to “stop crying like a little girl” or the boy at practice that is shamed by his coach for “throwing like a girl”. One thing that bothers me about these non-chalant insults is that they are not directed at those to whom they are said. They are, instead, directed toward all females. Young girls are growing up in an atmosphere where they are taught that to behave “like a girl” is wrong and something of which they are to be ashamed.
While on the topic of throwing like a girl I would like to touch on this light-hearted Mythbusters episode where they tackle the same subject. They carry out a number of experiments studying the way in which boys and their female counterparts throw a number of balls at a target. The conclusion of these trials demonstrated that overall the girls performed no more poorly than the boys!
I believe the Always campaign to alter the meaning of what it is to do something “like a girl” is exactly the kind of education for which society is begging. There are almost 7 billion people in this world, 50% of whom are females, 50% of whom are talented human beings, fully capable of achieving equally with their male counterparts, 50% of whom are doing things “like a girl”.