Last 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.
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.