A 13-year-old girl, Mo’ne Davis, can throw a ball up to 70 mph. She’s made it onto the cover of Sports Illustrated, has been interviewed by nearly every major television network and is the sensation of the Little League Baseball world. It’s not Davis’s record breaking pitch that’s making the headlines, but her gender, according to time.com.
The New York Times attributes, “throwing like a girl” as derogatory, insulting and embarrassing. To throw like a girl meant you were weak and fragile. Davis is proving that throwing like a girl is something to be proud of.
Proctor and Gamble’s company, Always, is aiming to change the meaning of “like a girl.” With a three minute video, the company takes viewers through the evolving stereotype of “like a girl.” A group of high school-aged students are asked to throw like a girl, run like a girl and fight like a girl. Unanimously, all the students attempt each task with little strength or effort. The same was asked of a group of elementary school-aged students. All of these students performed each task with all of their strength, trying their very best.
With the 32 million viewed “Like a Girl” video and Davis’s softball feat, people began to wonder why throwing like a girl seemed so negative, wrote adage.com. It was something to be embarrassed of, something meant as an insult.
The consensus is advertising and media, according to krytyka.org. The stereotype of being like a girl has been exaggerated and enforced through ad campaigns, social media and television.
“It’s called classical conditioning,” psychology teacher Nick Paris said. “What you do is you put people in the same situations and you throw the same ad at them. Eventually the repetition of the ad becomes associated in their minds.”
The repetition of advertisements often associates girls as being fragile: staying at home, playing dress up and having a tea party Paris said. Instead today’s advertisers are asking, why not think of girls playing soccer, putting on their cleats and shin guards and getting involved in society?
“When the women were asked to do things ‘like a girl’ in the video, they did it in a way that seemed lame because that’s what they’ve been taught,” sophomore Natalie Roth said. “I think the younger girls were put in to show that girls don’t have this mentality naturally. We don’t think we’re the lesser gender, we’ve been taught this by other people.”
The goal of the video is to change the meaning of being a girl. To tear down the walls of gender stereotypes and rebuild a place where the image of a girl is strong and powerful.
“I have two granddaughters, one in tenth grade and one in fifth grade, and they’re not talking about marriage, husbands or anything like that.” Paris said. “They’re talking about what they’re going to do when they grow up. My older one is kind of interested in journalism and my younger one is thinking she might like engineering. Even 25 years ago that would not have been coming out of girls that are 16 and 11.”
Society has come a long way in accepting women, according to Paris. He says women no longer aim to be homemakers, but aim to have careers and advertisements need to reflect this society.
“It’s simply like a holding up a mirror. Advertising will only go as far as society has gone,” marketing consultant at Eller College, Edward Ackerly said.
In a world where a Slim Jim commercial advertises its products with two girls fighting over the name brand Slim Jim and a Pepsi commercial directs its products as “for men”, society still has a long way left to go, expressed Roth.
According to Ackerly, there was an effort in the 1970s and 1980s to move away from targeting specific genders in advertisements, but this effort has since been lost. That’s why people are stepping up and attempting to change the way stereotypes are portrayed, via 13-year-old softball players or major corporations.
“One of my favorite movies is Legally Blonde 2”, Paris said. “She’s in the car and she looks at The White House at the end of the film and then winks at the camera. This basically sends a message to all girls that you can think of doing anything, even being president of the U.S.”
This is how girls should be portrayed in media, believes Paris. They should be seen as people who can accomplish anything, and deserve the same treatment as men.
“I saw a commercial where a girl is working on her science project and someone says to her ‘Just have your brother do it for you’,” Roth said. “It’s things as simple as science projects that degrade girls in the media.”
This is what the Like a Girl movement is aiming to change. The campaign wants being a girl to mean you can be independent, you can be powerful and you can achieve anything a boy can.
“Why can’t running like a girl also mean winning the race?” a teenage girl in the “Like a Girl” video said.
Whether it’s a big box movie or an advertising campaign, gender stereotypes exist in all elements of life. What the media does with these stereotypes is what will transform society, and transform the meaning of being a girl.