Moving America Forward

Why You’ll Never Use ‘Like a Girl’ As An Insult Ever Again

July 1, 2014
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Why You’ll Never Use ‘Like a Girl’ As An Insult Ever Again
Tim Boyle/Newsmakers
This poignant campaign hopes to redefine that classic playground tease.

It’s a seemingly innocent phrase we’ve all heard—or even used—before: “You run like a girl,” “You fight like a girl,” or “You throw like a girl.”

But what does that even mean? In the video below, award-winning filmmaker Lauren Greenfield asked a group of adults to act out those exact commands, and what you see is a whole lot of flailing limbs, bouncing hair and giggling.

If you get an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach after watching it, then that’s the point. Society has ingrained “like a girl” to mean the same as weak, cutesy or clumsy.

MORE: The Small Act That Makes a Big Impact on Young Girls

In the next scene, the director asks prepubescent girls to do the same actions, and what you see is athleticism, strength and power. When Greenfield asks a young subject what it means to “run like a girl,” she responds, “It means run as fast as you can.”

The video is part of the #LikeAGirl campaign from Procter & Gamble brand Always that aims to redefine the phrase, similar to Facebook COO and “Lean In” author Sheryl Sandberg’s quest to #BanBossy.

“In my work as a documentarian, I have witnessed the confidence crisis among girls and the negative impact of stereotypes first-hand,” said Greenfield. “When the words ‘like a girl’ are used to mean something bad, it is profoundly disempowering. I am proud to partner with Always to shed light on how this simple phrase can have a significant and long-lasting impact on girls and women. I am excited to be a part of the movement to redefine ‘like a girl’ into a positive affirmation.”

ALSO: Will Banning the Word “Bossy” Lead to More Women in the Boardroom?

We’ve mentioned before, there are subtle verbal cues that girls often hear from a young age that can sound discouraging. As girls get older, their conception of what it means to be a feminine changes.

“Brand-commissioned research found half of girls report a drop in confidence after their first period. We felt strongly we needed to do something about it,” said Procter’s Amanda Hill.

It seriously just takes a little bit of awareness and education to change the status quo. Case in point: When Greenfield asks the adult subjects to try again, their movements remove the gendered stigma of the phrase. As one woman tells the camera, “I am a girl, and that is not something that I should be ashamed of.”

So what does “like a girl” mean to you? You can use the hastag #LikeAGirl to participate in the conversation.

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