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Being #LikeAGirl is Amazing


As the parent of a 4 year old boy I spend a lot of time in the park, the other day I overheard a parent tell their daughter not to kick the ball 'like a girl'. I thought this was a strange thing to say, firstly because she was a girl, and because I thought she'd actually given that ball a pretty hefty kick. It's not uncommon to hear people saying "don't throw/kick/hit like a girl" – in fact, writing this I realise I've said it to my own child - but this got me wondering when exactly it became ok to use the term as an insult? And more generally, why are we so quick to insult when we could be celebrating?

This led me to a new advert I'd spotted doing the rounds on social media. The new 'Always' advert was being described as being brilliant – I did wonder how a sanitary product ad could be described that way – and it is brilliant. It actually made me cry. It's a thought-provoking campaign and its message is so important.

Four women, a man and a young boy were asked to run or throw 'like a girl' and the result was pretty damning. All six flayed their arms around and moved in a way that reminded me of the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy releases him from his pole, in short, they looked incapable of doing those most basic of tasks effectively.

But when six young girls were asked to do the very same things, they pushed themselves to the limit. Smashing out karate kicks and zooming across the stage as fast as they could and punching out with real aggression on their faces. The young girls show why 'like a girl' shouldn't mean pathetic and rubbish. But it also shows how we all develop a sexist attitude at some young stage without even realising it. You only have to search for the everydaysexism hashtag to see it's everywhere.

When asked what she thought 'like a girl' meant, one of the young girls said: 'I actually don't know if it is a bad thing or a good thing. It sounds like a bad thing. It sounds like you are trying to humiliate someone.' How terrible is that? Why is it acceptable to let little girls, and boys, think like this? Boys and girls are told different things growing up, but the overriding message is clear; acting 'like a girl' is to be avoided at all costs or you face ridicule.

A Bayer Corporation survey in 2010 revealed that forty percent of female scientists were, at some stage in their lives, discouraged from pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics because they were for boys, not girls. Imagine what discoveries may have been missed because one of those girls dropped out? What if she'd had the cure for a rare form of cancer hidden inside her? Shocking.

When confronted with their accidental sexism, the adults and boy in the Always video noted that their response had been like telling women they are 'weak and not as good'. 'I think it definitely drops their self-confidence,' one of the participants added. Some were then given another chance to act 'like a girl', pushing themselves to run as fast as they could and hit as hard as they could. Just the way it should be.

The Always quest to boost girls' confidence during puberty is incredibly important in a society which criticises and undervalues young women about everything from the natural state of their bodies to their career aspirations. Their message is clear: the phrases 'like a girl' and 'man up' are no longer relevant: it's time to avoid their long-term psychological effects on developing young children and scrap them from our vocabulary. It's time to remember that being a girl is amazing - and so is being a boy. We need to work harder on positive communication and building positive relationships, so why not be nice and turn towards each other?



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