Proud To Do Things “Like a Girl”


Welcome to Super Bowl Monday, everybody! For those of you who hoped Super Bowl shenanigans ended strictly at the stroke of midnight and whatever team/players/coaches you didn’t care for would turn into pumpkins…I’m sorry.

You will undoubtedly overhear people discussing every facet of the game, every commercial, and every second of the halftime show all throughout the day – and this blog post is no exception. Put that glass slipper back on, because we’re not done with this dance!

During and after the game, I read a lot of posts by people expressing disappointment with this year’s batch of Super Bowl commercials on various social media outlets. I don’t share their disappointment as several made me chuckle, one or two made me cry, and some even made me uncomfortable (I’m looking at you, Nationwide.).

But for me, one commercial, in particular, stood out from the rest: the Like A Girl commercial.

If you didn’t catch it, it features someone off-camera asking each individual standing in front of the camera to run, fight, and throw “like a girl.” The adults (male and female) and a young boy do their best mocking “like a girl” impressions. They run with their hands and arms flailing about, concerned about the state of their hair…they fight with slappy hands and dainty steps…they throw an imaginary ball limply, pitifully and without any gusto.

Later, the off-camera person asks young girls to do the same, with very different results. They run hard with determined looks on their faces…they throw like they are launching a ball fifty yards…they put a ton of oomph behind their punches. The off-camera voice chimes back in, asking one young girl what it means to “run like a girl” and without missing a beat she responds with, “It means run as fast as you can.”

And the poor young lad, the only young boy in the commercial, is asked after doing his best “like a girl” impressions whether or not he just insulted his sister by doing so. Poor guy…he never saw it coming. He answers “No. I mean, yeah, I insulted girls, but not my sister.”

(Before I go on, I will say I think the ad could be improved by including the response of one of the female adults when asked whether or not they were insulting themselves or others. Fair is fair.)

To the young boy who insulted girls but not his sister, unfortunately, you can’t look at it that way.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this ad really got to me. Aside from me being a woman who wants girls to grow up knowing they are strong and capable and awesome, I think it’s because I very recently witnessed a “like a girl” insult being casually thrown out and it ruffled my feathers enough to re-tell the story to friends and co-workers in the days that followed.

A couple of weeks ago I started taking a kickboxing class. On day one, the instructor, a grizzled boxer man with gray hair and big biceps had us doing jump rope. One of the gentlemen in the back of the class was apparently not up to snuff so the instructor called him out by saying, “You’re jumping like a girl!”

My concentration was broken, which threw off my rhythm. As I tried to soothe the sting in my shins from whipping myself with the jump rope and calm my panting breaths enough to deliver a retort or call out the instructor, another woman in the class beat me to it. She made it clear to the instructor that those kinds of comments would not be tolerated and he changed his tune. Sort of.

His new insult: “You’re jumping like a nine year old!”

Not much better, guy. Firstly, nine year olds are often far better at jumping rope than most of the adults I know, so that doesn’t even make sense. Secondly, my instructor’s delivery of that statement implied the sentence was really meant to say “You’re jumping like a nine year old girl!” Still not cool but since he didn’t actually say it like that, we had to let it go.

When I re-told the story afterwards, I made allowances for my instructor. When asked about my class I said something like “Well, the class was a great workout but the instructor was kind of a jerk.” Then I’d explain the part about the insult and say “but he’s just an old guy set in his ways.”

I shouldn’t dismiss his behavior by saying he’s “set in his ways.” I can’t make allowances for him if I’m not willing to let the young boy in the commercial get away with differentiating between between girls in general and his sister.

I applaud an ad that makes people think about the way a simple phrase can have such an impact on self-esteem. Girls have enough to deal with growing up in a world where advertisements are coming at them from every angle and shaping their thoughts on body image and self-worth. Confidence and positive self-esteem are key to everyone’s development. They impact decision-making and goal-setting and we need to be mindful of what we say and do to insure all girls know there are infinite possibilities when it comes to what they can accomplish…

So get out there and be proud to act like a girl!

Mackenzie Wiley is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Bravo Mackenzie! That commercial resonated with me as well. We need to turn “like a girl” around to be something we can all aspire to. I rebelled against “girl labels” — I refused to wear pink from 8 yrs old until I was in my 30’s– and faced a constant challenge in my chosen careers — 21.5 years in the US Army; now a systems/network engineer — based not on my abilities but assumptions based on my sex. My first name — most people still assume it is a man’s name –helped open doors that would have been closed had my name been more “like a girl’s.” I know this because of the reactions and comments I got once I walked through that door as well as what happened when other women attempted to go through the doors. I also learned that I had to be twice as good as the guys next to me, and even then, there were times it wasn’t enough. Even today, despite having performed and proven myself time and again, I still find there is a tendency to assume a male will be more qualified — despite no evidence to support it — than I am, be it in technology, management, etc.. On the other hand, if you are detail-oriented, then by golly, you “clearly are admin assistant material,” and are told to take on the admin tasks and leave the technical stuff to the men…

Amy DeWolf

I loved that commercial as well! And kudos to you and the other woman in your class for actually saying something! So often we let things like that – things that sort of bug us – roll off our backs without saying anything. But how can we expect change if we don’t call it out in real-time?