In a Monday Style section piece, Robin Givhan writes about a new Procter & Gamble ad in which a documentary filmmaker asks adults what it means to do things like run and throw “like a girl.” The results are cringe-inducing. (And, yes, a little heavy handed.) But when the filmmaker asks younger, prepubescent girls to do the same things, they run and throw as they would in real life — unselfconsciously and with all their might. No flailing of arms or hair-fixing cliches here.
“The negative definition of the phrase hasn’t yet registered in their consciousness and they haven’t internalized any accompanying inferiority complex. That ego blow comes, according to a study cited in the advertisement, around puberty,” Givhan writes. The advertising comes with its own hashtag #likeagirl. But the brand itself is barely notable.
“Always aims to take a loftier approach to advertising by selling an explicit philosophical stance — a point-of-view — instead of hard-selling a specific product,” she writes.
As the mother of two young boys, and the aunt of two tween girls, this ad and even the Balenciaga ad that Givhan writes about — in which Gisele Bundchen looks powerful and glam at once, or a “modern day Wonder Woman” — are welcome background in our days.
I don’t need to watch a YouTube clip to know the importance of teaching girls confidence. But it reminds me that I do need to pay attention to the words said in front of my sons so they don’t do what one little boy did in the clip, and “run like a girl” in the most cliched sense.
I play baseball with my 7-year-old as much as I can. In part because I remember very clearly the day when our son was just about 4 years old and he said that dad throws the ball, and mom sits on the side and says yay.
Oof. Look at the one boy in the ad, who said, when asked, that he wasn’t insulting his sister, but then caught himself and said, “Well, girls. But not my sister,” — a lightbulb seems to have gone off for him with just one question.
So as we’re paying attention to the ads that aim to help us help our daughters and nieces and sisters become more confident even as they hit puberty, it’s important to remember that the boys in our lives to hear need the same messages about the girls in their lives. It’s good for them to have a little fuzzy feminism in their days. We don’t want them expecting the girls to just be on the sidelines saying yay. We need them to throw together.
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