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Sunday, July 6, 2014

#LikeAGirl - A Response to "Always" Campaign

Recently “Always”, a company that sells feminine product’s, released a video advertisement discussing the saying “like a girl”. The emphasis was to show that people use the term “like a girl” offensively such as, “you throw like a girl” or “you run like a girl” (Video attached below). By the end of the video they flipped over the idea making “like a girl” mean strong, powerful, and winner instead of weak, incapable, and frilly. I’ve found this ad completely refreshing, necessary, and the beginning of a great change in our society.

For a long time people have been trying to challenge the use of the statement “that’s so gay,” which is typically referring to something ridiculous or silly instead of someone who is actually gay. Side note: I will say I have heard people say to others, “wow you are so gay!” which is actually referring to someone’s characteristics (whether they identify as gay or not) as being actually gay. In any case, all of this comes off as gay being a negative thing. In the times I have challenged someone who has used this language they replied with “I don’t have a problem with gay people” and “it’s just a saying”. But it’s not! And neither is saying someone is acting “like a girl”! Because if you are a girl, or identify as gay, then what you actually hear is “who I am is wrong and I need to change”. I can tell you, after years of trying, you can’t change who you are. You just are. Love it or hate it, you are exactly you. Period. End of story.

For people who don’t identify as gay or are girls, challenging these statements seems crazy and meticulous! They’ll bring up the whole “there are more important issues in the world to discuss then silly words,” forgetting that degrading who a person is limits them from reaching their full potential and decreases their ability to bring about a better world. And while we are on the matter, if there are more important issues, then why are you even using such degrading words? Shouldn’t your vocabulary be a bit more expansive? But I’m not here to give a vocabulary lesson, what I am here to discuss is how important our words are and the impact they can have on people and this world.

When we are born we don’t know hate. We have not yet learned reasons to ignore people based on skin color, religion, weight, height, interests, or economic standing. Instead we just want to play, in any form that may take. As we grow up we become very receptive to the words, actions, and choices of others around us. We question everything and we learn. This learning can be from the TV, our parents, teachers, school-mates, or even other strangers on the streets. As a child we don’t realize that not everything we learn is right, not all statements are true, and sometimes adults are wrong. Like dry sponges ready to absorb water and become useful, as children we are blank canvasses ready to take up as much knowledge from the world around us and become important. 

Whether we like it or not, whether kids realize it or not, this is the most vulnerable of ages. No one, from age born to age death-bed, wants to feel left out, or incompetent. When a kid hits puberty however, they’re aware of their surroundings enough to want to get involved and help out, and yet, for an assortment of reasons, they mostly receive slammed doors in their faces. Like the kid who just wants to ride the roller-coaster with his friends but gets told he can’t because he is too short, being told no to a kid is a low blow and feels like a personal attack. Now, you can explain all you want to a kid why the answer is no, but you better believe they are going to try everything they can to grow tall enough, become fast enough, speak loud enough, and draw well enough, to do what they’ve been told they can’t. Yes, this is a great motivator and surely going to build the kid up for a strong and victorious future! However, what if the reason the door is slamming in their face is because of something they are and are incapable of changing? 

Let’s take a step back in time for a moment to just before the Civil Rights movement. During this time there were separate lines for people based on their skin color. If you were Black you couldn’t sit in the front of the bus, couldn’t eat in every restaurant, and certainly couldn’t play in the same parks. To a lot of people back then, this seemed completely natural and normal. “Just the way God intended it”. Flash forward to current times, this seems, to most people, completely absurd (though, shocker, it still happens). But during the Civil Right movement people had to stand up, make a change, show that despite the color of a person’s skin they are still a person and deserve being treated as one. Because, let’s face it, they couldn’t change their skin color to societies ideals, so they had to change society. (And thank God they didn’t, life would be far too boring if everyone looked the same). 

In current times, society still needs changing, but a kid hasn’t learned enough to know this and instead focuses on themselves. When kid hears the words, “you can’t play with us, you’re a girl,” or, “you’re so gay,” you might as well stab a needle in their eyes, because the way they see it, they are a completely useless and unimportant human being. Now this may sound dramatic, but let’s be honest, this is the most dramatic age for a kid, as every negative is the end of their world, and every positive is the rebirth of creation, all of which can happen in less than 30 seconds. But just because it’s a dramatic period doesn’t mean these events don’t have lasting consequences, they do. Telling a kid they can’t play because they are a girl, or because they are gay, or a certain skin color, or WHATEVER that they are, is telling them they, as the person they were born as and have no choice over, are not good enough. This effects people for a long, long time.

Being told who you are isn’t good enough leads to years of trying to change yourself and continuous frustration and disappointment as you learn you can’t change who you are. Reality is, people develop eating disorders, drug addictions, depression, and even killed themselves over this. No, this isn’t an exaggeration. No, these aren’t “weak” people. Humans are created to be social being. We want to be liked, we want to fit in. When we are told that we are not good enough for things we cannot change about ourselves it leads to horrible consequences that effect not only the individual’s, but their families, friends, and children. It starts a long legacy of destruction, and harm. When this becomes your life it’s hard to focus on the “more important issues in the world”. 

So let me end it here by saying this: if you want a better world, think before you speak. People do hear what you say and what you say does have an impact, whether you mean them to or not. Kids don’t naturally think “girls don’t play football”, or “being gay is gross”, parents, adults, and the media teach these things. So let the girl try out for football. If she really can’t play well, she’ll realize and try harder. Preferring the same sex isn’t an infection, it won’t hurt you, quit being ignorant and let people be who they choose to be. It’s time for us to quit making people change to society’s handicapping ideals, and instead change society. And it all starts with you and what you say. 

If you want to know more about this campaign and how to get involved follow the links below to some great resources and affiliates:

Follow the link below for another great resource to get kids involved and active in their own communities:

What are some statements you've been told that you wish to change?