I recently took a complimentary personal training session at the fanciest gym in Chicago. Have you seen Broad City? Let’s just call this gym “Soulstice”, and my trainer “Trey”. In my training session Trey put me through a planned workout that was, frankly, very easy for me. He smirked and haughtily said things like, “Oh, someone is really starting work now! Look who’s starting to sweat!” I would breathe heavily and half-heartedly mumble, “Yeah, it’s tough,” while actually thinking, “I can lift heavier and go longer, but I don’t want to make him feel like he isn’t challenging me.” Why wasn’t I honest with him? It’s like I didn’t want to hurt the man’s dignity by telling him that he couldn’t make a girl sweat. Trey charges upwards of $150 per training session, and he deserved some honest feedback: his workout was too easy for this girl.
In 2014, Always released a video to kickstart a new campaign called #Likeagirl. In the video young girls and adult women are asked to demonstrate a variety of actions such as running or throwing, “like a girl.” The differences between the way these actions are performed by the girls and adults is alarming. The young girls flex and do the most dramatic actions possible while the adult women flail their arms and look silly intentionally.
This video has helped create important conversation about the dangerous connotation of the phrase, “like a girl.” At the end of the video, there is a message that says, “Let’s make ‘like a girl’ mean something amazing.” Always created the campaign and video to draw attention to the way girls’ self-esteem and confidence can be negatively impacted during puberty.
Because this campaign was created by Always, a giant corporation, I do question whether the true intent of this campaign was to start conversation or a clever marketing tactic. Regardless of the intent, I do believe the portrayal of women and girls, old and young, is a sign of progress. A gigantic corporation’s commercial has effectively addressed one issue of sexism and how it affects girls going through puberty, without ever actually mentioning the hygiene products being sold.
I work out regularly as part of a boot camp composed of mostly female members lead by badass female instructors. It takes place at a large gym where we have to go into what’s commonly referred to as the “men’s section” to get the heavy weights to use in our workouts. Every day I am inspired and impressed by the women I exercise with, each capable of lifting heavier weights and fitting in more reps than they could the month before. Some of us have been busting our asses together for an entire year now and I am constantly amazed by all of us, including myself. Yet, the other day in the locker room before class, I took off my pink floral headband because I thought it made me look too “girly.” I like to look tough when I am at the gym and hate to be underestimated when it comes to working out. Even I (and I like to think of myself as a tough girl, impervious to the thoughts of others at the gym,) succumbed to the idea that it’s a bad thing to appear girly in a “manly” environment. But, why should it matter if I look like a girl? I am a girl. I like flowers and I also like crushing my workouts.
Upon further investigation into the Always campaign via their website, I was pleased to discover resources for girls to learn more about puberty and women’s health, articles about feminine hygiene, and a partnership with UNESCO to support girls’ education and empower women in sub-Saharan Africa. There was also a link to BanBossy.com, another campaign meant to empower young girls by abolishing the negative connotation of the word “bossy” when used against them. This campaign, as far as I can tell, is not sponsored by any major corporation.
I hope that whatever, or despite, the true aims of the “Like a Girl” campaign, it will have a positive impact on all women, especially girls going through puberty. I hope it inspires a young girl to pursue her passion for soccer, and not hide her interest or skills for fear of being called out for being too girly. I hope I never again take off my floral headband, especially if it matches my outfit, because my wispy baby hairs drive me bonkers during my workout if they aren’t pulled back.I’m not ashamed of being a girl inside or outside the gm and want to make sure my actions reflect that.