Wednesday, January 20, 2016

#LikeAGirl Doesn't Have to be a Bad Thing

The phrase “like a girl” has developed such a negative connotation in our male-dominated society. During the most vulnerable times in their lives, young girls are told what they should or shouldn’t do and how they should act. This behavior is toxic for developing self worth and identity. Always is a brand for women that sells feminine products for menstruation, because the brand has a strong female connection, they designed a campaign that set out to reverse this reputation of the phrase. The campaign is called #LikeAGirl and the first of the videos was released during the Super Bowl in 2015. 

Most other advertisements that are targeted towards women like to push an ideal image for physical beauty. Always took a different approach by interviewing young girls and boys, varying in the range of 8-16 years of age, about their life experiences as a girl. All older interviewees admitted that they have been stereotyped and degraded in some type of way based on their gender which impaired their self-worth. Instead of showing footage of girls ballet dancing or playing tennis while on their period, the ad asked them to demonstrate different activities from running, throwing and fighting but in the manner of “like a girl”. Each of the older females/males were shown demonstrated these activities in a weak manner including over-exaggerated hip movements that portrayed the meaning of “like a girl” to be something derogatory and weak. Next was shown a segment of young girls who, when asked to run like a girl, began to run in place with power and determination and executed all other commands in the same manner. When asked how they would run “like a girl” next time, they said that they would run like themselves.

In a second video, the question "Why do we limit girls?" was asked. Always had girls  to write something they have been told that they are not good at or shouldn’t do because of their sex on a large white cube. Each girl wrote words like “weak” or “not good enough” and shared how it made them feel. One young girl shared that she was told that she shouldn’t play the trumpet because she was a girl and wasn’t good and took that to heart and gave up…for a week. She wanted to prove the people who told her she couldn’t wrong so she practiced and practiced until she could. All participants then shared that all of these obstacles that were written on the boxes made them feel weak and did not accurately define them. Then they were told to knock down the boxes, kick them, do anything to break free of them. You can see the look of relief on their faces when they realized that these words were not who they were.This second advertisement had a similar message to the first, but instead focused on encouraging girls to be themselves and be whatever they wanted to be. The word 'Unstoppable' is used in order to reinforce their message of instilling confidence in their audience and not allowing anything to hold them back anymore.
"I mean, yes! I kick like a girl, and I swim like a girl, and I walk like a girl, and I wake up in the morning like a girl and that is not something that I should be ashamed of, so I'm going to do it anyway"

                         -#LikeAGirl Campaign 
The campaign was impressively executed and had an overwhelming response with more than 54 million views on YouTube and around 30 million more times from other various sites. One reason for this campaign being so successful was because it resonated with its audience based on a strong emotional appeal. I can’t speak for all women, but I know myself and innumerable other women and young girls can relate to the experiences that were shared. The campaign presented a problem, which was that a girl’s confidence can tumble during puberty and then provided a solution by saying “it doesn’t have to”. It became engaging at the end of the video with a single sentence; “Let’s make #LikeAGirl mean amazing things”. Rather than presenting their products in an advertisement where the goal is to increase sales/promotion, Always chose a message that chose to empower and instill confidence in women in a way that had never been done before. 

Super Bowl Sunday has the highest rates for television viewership out of the entire year. The commercials during this game are known to be the best of the best in advertising, the majority of them relying on humor to capture the audience. From my own personal experience with the advertisement, the #LikeAGirl campaign stood out compared to all of the others because after it aired, the room was quiet. Unlike typical advertisements for feminine products that are targeted specifically to women, I don’t think the campaign was geared toward any specific target audience because it resonated with every person in the room regardless of age or gender. 

Theory wise, the campaign contained elements of the Cognitive Dissonance Theory which explains that people tend to only seek out messages that are consistent with their attitudes and will ignore others that are not in alignment with their opinions or beliefs. There are only two males featured in the interview segment, one young and one a young man. The younger of the boys who demonstrated the phrase “like a girl” to mean something weak and derogatory. After, he was asked if he thought that he had insulted his sister. Initially his response was a hard and quick no, but then he admitted that yes, he did think that he had insulted girls. I thought that his feature in the ad was interesting because it demonstrated a disconnect between the belief that girls aren’t weak, but their actions showed differently. Most of the time messages that are dissonant are either ignored or changed in order to agree with beliefs, which are both defense mechanisms. However, in this case Always was successfully able to change the interpretation of the phrase and according to studies that were done to evaluate the success of the campaign, cause people to rethink using “like a girl” as an insult. 

No one would have thought that an advertisement for pads and tampons would have stolen the show during the Super Bowl commercials, but the reaction was significant. The video was being shared on Facebook, linked on twitter as well as other social medias making the hashtag #LikeAGirl trend worldwide sharing their stories and what it meant to be #LikeAGirl. What I like about this campaign and what made it so impressive is that they did not use the product as a solution to the proposed problem. In fact, there was no mention or use of any Always products. They are a brand that sells products for women and therefor created this campaign in order to strengthen and empower females of all ages.

I am no feminist myself, however I did find myself to be very drawn to this campaign because I think it was enlightening and inspiring. 


No comments:

Post a Comment