This article from The Huffington Post explores the very strong public reaction on Twitter to Always’ #LikeAGirl commercial that was aired during the Superbowl. I’d actually already seen the commercial, in its full length, online several weeks prior to the Superbowl. After watching it I was, at first moved, and then couldn’t help but wonder somewhat about the sensationalization and appropriation of young women’s voices in order to sell tampons and “feminine napkins”. However taking the spirit of the commercial for what it is, while simultaneously ignoring the efforts at financial gain, the commercial is a charming and moving reminder that the term “like a girl” shouldn’t be derogatory. In fact, it should be celebratory.
The reaction to the ad, as documented by Huffington Post, is an interesting one. Ranging from humorous comments, to tweets that were meant to be funny but fall flat on feminist ears, to just outright vitriol. This reminds me of the GamerGate blowout last fall – remember when all those angry male gamers started sending death and rape threats to female game developers and critics (most notably Anita Sarkeesian)? Stripping away the death and rape threats, what was exposed during that incredible outpouring of hate was the selfishness and anger directed towards women enjoying and having a voice in what is traditionally considered to be male-dominated past times.
What I find so incredibly interesting about these events is the make-up of audiences for both the video game and the football industry. For example, it’s estimated that 52% of the video game industry’s audience and 45% of the NFL’s audience are female. When the incredible Ray Rice scandal broke in the fall, in response to much of the victim-blaming that broke out these numbers started to surface and I was surprised. I’d never considered that so many women wold be so interested in football. Especially when one considers that the highest intake for women’s shelters and at hospitals for battered partners is… you guessed it, Superbowl Sunday. Ouch… and again, interesting. Maybe the number of female viewers is so high because of the tight pants those players wear? Or maybe it’s because women are just as game to enjoy the same past times as the male sex.
I am baffled. I actually don’t understand, or maybe my brain simply can’t comprehend, the kind of vitriol that inspires such territorial ownership of these industries. And I especially don’t understand why these industries don’t court women more. Think about the potential revenue boom if, in the instance of the video game industry, there was more of an emphasis on interesting female stories; or stories where women weren’t used as sexual objects but were instead complex characters central to the narrative experience (Ellie in Last of Us for example). I’m not at all sure how this would work for the NFL, but certainly there has to be a better way to include women in the sport than Covergirl’s line of “team colours”.
Ultimately, I think that some of the tweets below sum up my feelings quite well on the topic, chiefly these ideas: it’s a male-dominated sport in every fashion, why not draw girls and women into the game as well… and give them the space to be celebrated and not discriminated against while enjoying it and growing into their own.
The Reaction To #LikeAGirl Is Exactly Why It’s So Important
Posted: 02/03/2015 11:50 am EST Updated: 02/04/2015 1:59 pm EST
Out of all the controversial ads that aired during the Super Bowl, the one that may have spurred the most vocal backlash was the one that promoted gender equality.
The original “Like A Girl” spot, which first aired in June 2014, featured people being asked to throw, run and fight “like a girl.” Instead of simply doing these actions, each person weakly reenacted them, by accidentally dropping the ball or slapping instead of punching. But when the same questions were asked of young girls, they threw, ran and fought aggressively — like anyone would. The implication: To do something “like a girl” is to do it badly, but that negative connotation is something that is only learned over time. Therefore, it’s something we can change.
The campaign received a lot of positive attention when it originally aired, but it wasn’t until Sunday’s shortened Super Bowl ad, which approximately 115 million people watched, that the Internet’s resident haters really found their voices.
After the commercial aired during Sunday night’s Super Bowl, women took to Twitter to describe what they did “like a girl” and how their gender doesn’t stop them from being strong and powerful. #LikeAGirl started trending on Twitter in no time with tweets like these:
— maya j (@mayaahutchh) February 2, 2015
It wasn’t long before a new hashtag cropped up — #LikeABoy. In the past 24 hours, #LikeABoy started trending on Twitter as critics and self-proclaimed “meninists” discussed how unfair it was that the Always commercial only pertained to women. (Reminder: Always sells menstrual products.)
Many people were rightfully upset that a 60-second commercial devoted to building up young girls’ self-esteem caused such a loud and hateful uproar. It doesn’t seem too much to ask that one minute out of a four-hour event — an event that primarily focuses on men — be solely devoted to addressing women.
People up in arms over #LikeAGirl commercial.What’s so wrong with telling little girls they can do anything regardless of what society says?
— king shans (@Shansdoe) February 2, 2015
To all the “meninists” and people supporting them, let’s be very clear: There are commercials that focus on female empowerment because females need to be empowered. Yes, it seems crazy that women — a group of people that make up over half of the world’s population — are somehow underrepresented and oppressed. (Don’t believe us? See here, here and here for examples.) The focus on women cannot possibly compromise gender equality as the “meninists” claim, because gender equality simply does not exist yet. The phrase “like a girl” is similar to saying something is “gay” — both are used in a derogatory manner. The terms “gay” and “girl” are not synonymous with being weak or stupid, these are identities. So when someone uses these identifiers — whether it’s sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender — as an insult, it becomes very problematic. Using the phrase “like a girl” as an insult is proof that sexism is still very much a part of our everyday culture. #LikeAGirl is so important because it shines a much-needed light on this sexism and reminds everyone that being “like a girl” means being badass and fierce. To drive that point home, here are a few of our favorite #LikeAGirl tweets:
— Rick Ramsey (@OldManRamsey) February 2, 2015
— Leah Majeski (@BamaGirl9er) February 2, 2015
the #LikeAGirl commercial was meant to bring girls up, not put boys down. it’s about equality between genders, not females being superior
— jules (@endupheres) February 2, 2015
— D L F (@DLF_2012) February 2, 2015
Pretty sure the idea behind the #LikeAGirl campaign wasn’t to divide, but to bring everyone closer together… Let’s not argue.
— Alexander William (@AlexAllTimeLow) February 2, 2015
— Jennifer Fenton (@jenfen7) February 2, 2015
People also started jumping on the #LikeABoy trend to show just how absurd it is for “meninists” to be complaining about the “Like A Girl” ad.
the difference between like a boy and like a girl is that “#LikeABoy” has never been used as a generalized insult against men.
— mcsteamy (@idkjae) February 2, 2015
— Michael Moccio (@MiMoccio) February 2, 2015
— Charles Clymer (@cmclymer) February 2, 2015
#LikeABoy is proof that a mans ego is so fragile that when we try to encourage young girls to be confident it intensely bothers them
— brenny b raps (@corndognugget) February 2, 2015
So, to sum it up:
To boys making fun of the #LikeAGirl commercial: I hope God blesses you with a baby girl and I wanna see you tell her what shes incapable of
— laur (@laurrlaurrrrr) February 2, 2015