#LikeAGirl's Success is Found in One Kid's Answer

February 2nd 2015

Alicia Lutes

There's a moment in the first half of Always' #LikeAGirl Super Bowl commercial that's truly radical. When asked if his portrayal of running "like a girl" was insulting to his sister, the young boy in the ad says "no...well yeah, insulting to girls. But not to my sister." It may sound like a throwaway comment, but in those few words we see just how quickly people separate themselves from that which relates to us personally. That our personal experiences and relationships are exceptions to the rule. Which is exactly what makes #LikeAGirl so radical — and proves how we need to push ourselves forward in order to actually eradicate sexism.

When it comes to discussing the inherent, insidious nature of sexism, we have to make it personal. I know, I know — we're all tired of having to think about other people's feelings all the time. But guess what? In order to move forward, it's necessary. We can no longer luxuriate in ignorance: the impact and consequences of our jocular thoughts and behaviors is real, and evidenced in how negative the portrayals of what it means to do something "like a girl." Think about it: how often have you seen catcalls and other forms of implied sexist behavior and standards questioned in TV and movies once the woman on the receiving end is contextualized as someone else's sister/mother/girlfriend/etc? Suddenly, a woman who is nothing more than that is made human. And the more we try to separate individuals from the greater human whole, the more we other-ize them and make excuses for inexcusable behavior. It may suck the fun out of a lot of humor out there, but hey: aren't we better and smarter than base-level, stereotype-laden jokes? Sure, people may find it exhausting, tiring, and/or just plain annoying to have to take this into consideration — but guess what? We live in the age of the Internet, and being cognizant of these behaviors' implications outside of their original intention is now a required part of the game. Empathy: it's time to get familiar!

Particularly when it comes to the youth. Statistics show that bullying and low self-esteem among our youth is increasing. As the video posited, adolescent girls are the most impressionable and damaged by words, images, and other things relating to cultivating a healthy self-esteem. No one likes to be the comedic killjoy, but as we all become more interconnected and exposed, we must remember that children and young adults don't always have the capacity or tools to understand something to be a "harmless joke." Particularly when said jokes are rooted in the idea that something inherent in someone's being (like, say, being born a girl) is worth joking about. These things trickle down whether you intend for them to or not. Just think about how many of your own behaviors are learned, intentionally so or otherwise.

So while #LikeAGirl is a great start, it's just the beginning. We have to go farther. We must constantly hold the mirror up to ourselves and question the merits of our actions and words. In order to work better as an outward society, we have to look inward and reflect on how seemingly innocuous generalizations and behaviors do more harm than good. The well-being of our young kids are worth a heck of a lot more than a few lowbrow chuckles, don't you think?