Have you seen the new Always ad that’s been circulating around Facebook? It’s actually quite good. Their #LikeAGirl campaign has gone viral, and I believe it’s for good reason. Here’s a link to the ad:
For too long has “like a girl” been exclaimed with negative connotations. “You run like a girl”, “You throw like a girl”, “Stop crying like a girl” are a few common phrases that have become so natural to say and so ingrained in our culture as just another figure of speech that we don’t often stop to think of the negative consequences they create in the young female mind. Since when is doing something like a girl bad? When Florence Nightingale founded modern nursing as we know it, we didn’t say “pfft…she might be a nurse, but she’s a girl so who cares”. When Annie Oakley showed the world her sharpshooter skills, we didn’t say “Yeah whatever. She shoots like a girl”. When Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic Ocean, I doubt people said “Yeah, but it doesn’t count cause she’s a girl”. When Rosa Parks stood her ground and refused to give up her seat, we didn’t discredit her bravery and tenacity because of her gender. We didn’t say her efforts weren’t as important because “she’s a girl”.
Why is being a girl something to overcome? Why in this day and age, do we still exacerbate these negative gender stereotypes? It isn’t just men who do it. I’ve heard many female friends, co-workers and acquaintances make excuses for their shortcomings based on gender. “Oops I’m having a blonde girl moment”, or “Uggh I don’t want to go to Biology class. What will I ever need that for? Let’s go get our nails done!”. I’ve even heard someone say “Let him look after the math portion of the project. Us girls might be better suited for the social aspect”. When we discredit ourselves, we open up the door for others to discredit us as well. When we downplay our abilities to look “cute”, we are only doing a disservice to ourselves. We unknowingly give permission for others to play up those stereotypes when we give into them ourselves.
Why would we do that? Why is that okay?
I’m not usually one to really like advertisements, but this one I loved. It made both men and women themselves realize what they were doing. It makes you realize that there is a distinct shift, right around the age of puberty where women lose confidence in themselves, their abilities, and their worth. It made women realize that doing things “like a girl” isn’t a bad thing. It can be a truly amazing thing. Women in history have accomplished a great deal through strength, perseverance, confidence and faith in their abilities. There’s a huge list of women I could pull from. I hope that my daughter can emulate one of these courageous, intelligent and tenacious women some day.
This is the main reason I try to not only focus on my daughter’s beauty. While she is indeed beautiful, she is so many other wonderful things. She’s smart as a whip, has a memory that baffles both her father and I, she’s musical, imaginative, and curious about how things work. I’m proud to be marrying a man who when my daughter at age 2.5 asked if she could help Daddy re-assemble our computer, said “Sure sweetie, can you turn that piece right there really tight?” rather than “No sweetie, why don’t you go play with your doll”. She loves pressing buttons and taking things apart and putting them back together. She’s hilarious, stubborn and amazing. None of these qualities are gender specific. None of these qualities make her any more or less of a girl.
I often find myself saying things to her like “do you know how smart you are?” or “look how well you did that! Mommy is so proud of you!”. I’ll also tell her that she looks pretty in her new dress, because I don’t want her growing up feeling negative about her looks, but that isn’t our only focus. Why should it be? She’s so much more than her physical appearance.
Which is why the other day when I said “Oh L, you’re Mommy’s little princess” I couldn’t have been more proud that she stood up, planted her feet, lifted her head up high and said with more confidence than I could ever muster:
“Mommy. I’m not a Princess. I’m a girl!!!!”.