Have you seen the "like a girl" campaign by Always? While I love the message, it also raised some questions for me about how we talk to girls about, well...being girls.
There is no denying it: I am a girl. I run like a girl, throw like a girl and act like a girl. Because...get this: I Am A Girl. I like girly things. I wear dresses and make-up and can birth a baby. I can also be competitive and aggressive and I should be paid the same salary as anyone in the same position. I am smart and I can carry a window a/c unit up three flights of NYC apartment steps and install it myself. (Do I wish my 19 year-old son had been there and could have done it? You betcha.)
I'm not a boy and I don't want to be a boy. Boys run like boys, throw like boys, dress like boys and act like boys. They have different capabilities than I do. I'm proud to be a girl and I believe that I am no less worthy, strong, smart, or anything else because I'm not just like boys. I'm different.
Please note: I said:
DIFFERENT...NOT BETTER OR WORSE...BUT DIFFERENT
Differences should be celebrated and not used to judge, but unfortunately, too often, we use our various differences whether they be racial, socio-economic or gender to discriminate, to diminish or to weaken.
Today, it feels sometimes like we want to whitewash everything and blur all lines. When we say things like "girls can do anything boys can" and vice versa, I wonder if it's possible that we are sending a message that there is something wrong with or less than about being a girl?
Why do girls need to do everything that boys can? Why can't they just be girls? There is no doubt that we should fight hard and forever, if necessary, to be sure girls aren't discriminated against because of their sex, but we shouldn't try to wash away all of the things that make us girls in the effort to become something that we are not.
I don't want to run like a boy. Who said all things "boy" is better? Since when is femininity considered a liability?
Gender neutrality should not be our goal, because being special is our greatest strength. The concept of being special is illustrated very simply by one of my favorite lines from the movie, "The Incredibles." Dash, who is "incredible" due to his speed, is told by his mom that he needs to be "less special" because by beating everyone all the time, he makes others feel badly about themselves. He responds, "But, mom, if everyone is special, than no one is." Ain't that the truth.
So, when I saw the recent commercial "like a girl," this morning on the news, I loved it, but it also made me think about how we empower girls. We need to be sure that we are not sending a message that tells them that it's not ok to be a girl; to be feminine, to accept that we are different; that we have certain abilities and interests that boys don't, and that we may be less capable of some things and more capable at others than boys are.
I believe that the most empowering thing to tell girls is, "There is nothing weak or negative about being a girl. Own your girldom! Never accept being told that you run like a girl, throw like a girl, or act like a girl as a put down. Instead, turn it around and respond, "You're damn right, I throw like a girl, I am a girl!"
Be Dash; full speed ahead! And take no prisoners.
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