We Heart (and Question): New Commercial from Always

a_3x-horizontalLast week, Always released a new commercial that challenges the notion that doing something “like a girl” means anything less than doing it well.

The ad first features people who are supposedly auditioning for a commercial. When the director (who is a woman) tells them to “run like a girl” or “fight like a girl,” the actors make themselves look weak and silly while half-heartedly performing the actions. Then, the commercial changes to show young girls performing the same activities “like a girl”—but they act out running and fighting as fast and as fierce as they can. The commercial asks the audience:

When did doing something ‘like a girl’ become an insult?

The director asks the actors what happens to girls when they are told that behaving like a girl or performing an action like a girl is considered a negative thing, particularly when they are approaching puberty and trying to discover themselves while getting past insecurities. One actor, when asked what advice she would give young girls who are told they do something “like a girl,” says:

Keep doing it, ’cause it’s working. If somebody else says that running like a girl, or kicking like a girl, or shooting like a girl is something that you shouldn’t be doing, that’s their problem. Because if you’re still scoring, and you’re still getting to the ball on time, and you’re still being first, you’re doing it right. It doesn’t matter what they say. I mean, yes. I kick like a girl, and I swim like a girl, and I walk like a girl, and I get up in the morning like a girl because I am a girl. And that is not something I should be ashamed of, so I’m going to do it anyway. That’s what they should do.

While this message is irresistible and empowering, it is also a little confusing that a company that makes its money based on the idea that periods should be discreet and tightly contained is championing women’s empowerment. As Emily Shire at The Daily Beast wrote:

But the self-righteous tone of Always’ ‘Like a girl’ campaign is irritating, perhaps because the noble message has nothing to do with the product—tampons, panty liners, pads. Yes, I get that Always is attempting to build large, overarching connections between girls getting older and losing self-esteem. But how exactly are the products Always is hawking going to do that? If Always is going to peg a giant message about self-confidence without any actual mention of menstruation in the commercial, it seems somewhat deceptive.

So while the commercial itself challenges a social norm and makes an effort to fight for empowerment and self-esteem, Always is simply attempting to go with the flow (so to speak) of ad campaigns that send a positive message as a way to gain social media followers, draw consumers and start a hashtag trend.

Thank you for the commercial, Always, and thank you to the actual director, acclaimed photographer and documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, but please don’t try to fool us into forgetting what Always is really about.

Screenshot from ad

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Simone Lieban Levine is a rising junior at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and an intern for Ms. Follow her on Twitter: @though_she_be.

Comments

  1. I’m curious, what exactly is Always “really about” that makes this ad disingenuous? Yes, I understand that menstruation still carries many negative connotations of shame, embarrassment, and raging hormones, but I’m not sure how Always promotes that, especially in this case. Any way you slice it, most women prefer using products that prevent them from bleeding on their underwear, pants, skirts, bed sheets, and upholstery. If Always is giving us that product while also encouraging us to embrace our identity as women, then they are still a step ahead of the competition.

    I’m rarely one to defend any major corporation or mainstream product, but I’m also not determined to exploit any weak spot in an otherwise positive effort. What could/should Always (or any company) do to affect real change that would be praised without qualification? I was really impressed by this video, and I’d like to think the next step for Always might just be tackling some of those persistent connotations about menstruation. One can hope, right?!

    • I agree 100%!! You just saved me a ton of keyboarding, lol.

    • Georgie says:

      Thanks Angie, well put, I second Stacey! Kudos to a company that is making an effort, and if anything the journalist is disingenuous – arguing against something for the sake if it, just to be contrary.

  2. the author who seems to question what Always is up to in this message…well..when I was in the 6th grade we girls had to watch a video about having our periods. The film told us we wouldn’t be able to bowl, or ride a horse…or swim. Pretty much not much else other than the biology of menstruation. They may as well of told us we had to go to the red tent once a month. Tying menstruation with empowerment is a much better message than the girls of my era received.

  3. Kristin says:

    Sometimes I’m sorry that these positive messages are brought to us via commerce, but I do use “feminine hygiene” products. It stops things from being messy. Are we to be against those now?

  4. Monique Hamelin says:

    I took it as an empowerment of girls whether or not they have their menstruations!

  5. I am glad that Always hawks tampons and panty liners and pads. I need those. There’s nothing wrong with selling products that women need. I don’t want to bleed all over my clothes when I have my period and they sell products that sop up blood. Is that a bad thing?
    Trying to sell a product is not inherently wrong. Commerce is not inherently wrong. People need things. Businesses try to sell things that people need. Sure, there’s more to it than that and some campaigns and business practices can be bad, but I don’t like the knee-jerk commerce and/or advertising are automatically bad.
    This seems like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation that is being stirred up for them.

  6. This is not nearly as contradictory as the Dove beauty campaign, which tried to get us to accept ourselves while selling us products to make our underarms more attractive. “Women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful, but their armpits aren’t! Buy our stuff.”

    • I agree. It also seems a little strange that Dove’s sister company is Axe, which is probably one of the biggest companies responsible for the need of these empowering campaigns. I love this commercial and considering Always is a company that sells products tailor made for women, I think the connection is evident. Plus, I don’t think “You run like a girl on her mensies” has the same ring to it. Verizon also released a great commercial geared towards girls. Whether you want to call it exploitation or education of an important social topic, if companies are taking the initiative to talk about women’s issues then power to them.

  7. Satu R. says:

    There is nothing wrong with creating a work of art to sell your product. This is what building a brand is all about. I would rather see advertising dollars be put to good use by sending out a positive message like this, than with a cheesy commercial showing a girl doing cartwheels underwater.

  8. Super cheery pictures to start the day. Have a great one.

  9. Allissa Haines says:

    I don’t think that wanting to keep my hygiene issue fairly private negates my feminism. I also don’t need the world to know when I have gas, or an ingrown toenail, or heat rash on my belly. This is not about being ashamed of my body. It’s about being polite in mixed company.

    I’m not afraid to discuss menstruation or say the word ‘vagina’ in context. I don’t need to announce “HEY, MY UTERUS IS SHEDDING” when I walk into a room, either.

    It’s good to critique these campaigns, it’s important that we see the full picture. But there’s no need to make shit up just to be contrary.

  10. LizzieLizLiz says:

    Lots of intelligent debate here, indicating that the author has done good work!
    I like the commercial. Echoing what some others have said here, the ad is a heck of a step forward from previous incarnations of the messages women receive. Previously, the industrial complex has held the stage w a long monologue (and I’m not talking about the Eve Ensler variety of monologue! Quite the opposite, in fact.) This advertisement starts a discussion, and I like that about it.
    So, I’ll throw into the discussion this thought: one thing Always and other companies who provide us with period products could do to make real and lasting change? Give us the option to purchase products that don’t contain baby powder, plastics, and other harmful chemicals designed to mask our natural process, which incidentally (or not) cause cancer and harm our shared planet, as well as hide from us the beauty of our sometimes inconvenient experience of having to go to work, or play, or any number of things that we choose to do while at the same time bleeding like the kind warriors we are!
    In the meantime, if it interests you, it is wildly easy to make a washable cloth pad. They are quite effective, inexpensive, and only mildly annoying to clean (I clean up a lot worse “messes” for other people every single day of the month!)
    All of the thoughts in this commercial, this article, and in the responses to it, comprise a great way to start my day! Thanks! I’m going to go relax like a woman, comfortable in knowing that there are a LOT of us who are watching with our eyes wide open. :)

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