Why Can’t “Run Like A Girl” Mean “Win the Race”

What does it mean to be a girl? That is the opening question presented in Always’ new “Run Like A Girl” campaign. According to the subjects in the commercial, to run or throw like a girl is an insult; it is a sign of weaknesses or inferiority. But when the directors asked girls who had not yet reached puberty what it meant to run like a girl, these young girls ran and threw invisible balls like any normal human being would: with all of their strength and effort available.

Somewhere along the years, the overtly sexual and male-dominant media saturates the minds of young boys and girls with images teaching them that boys need to be powerful and better than girls. Thus, as a culture, young girls are raised to be insecure. “…like a girl” has now become a means of humiliating another person rather than representing a gender’s capabilities.

In the documentary Miss Representation, the filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom explores how the media’s obsession with women’s appearances and the lack of strong female role models in media has affected girls today. Some of the adolescent girls interviewed for the film expounded upon their own stories of their struggle with body image, showing how this shift to harmful media has damaged the young female psyche. The film also explains how if you were to ask boys and girls who had not yet gone through puberty if they would like to be president, most would raise their hand. But by the age of 15, there becomes a large gap between the number of boys and the number of girls who wish to run the country one day.

The media exploits the female body in sexual, demeaning, or violent manners in order sell products with little thought of how this alters the mind of children. The media sources claim that these actions are done to please the public’s wants, which is a complete fallacy. They are satisfying the needs of other media and advertisement companies in exchange for dollar signs six-figure salaries. All the while, this is done at the expense of our young girls’ confidence.

Media and film outlets have attempted to lift this burden of off girls before with films such as Million Dollar Baby or A League of Their Own, presenting how women can do just as well as men, can be just a tough, powerful, and in-control as men. However, these films are drowned out by advertisements of stick-thin scantily-clad girls being pinned down by husky male models and by television shows that glorify the female body over the mind (i.e. Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars). And don’t forget about the video games that portray women as objects rather than subjects- when you play Tomb Raider or Mortal Combat you don’t naturally project yourself into the character’s shoes, you feel as though you play alongside Lara Croft and need to protect her.

So what does this mean for young girls today? It means that they’ve become the universal punch-line of boys’ locker rooms and sports fields alike. By teaching young people today that physicality is a trait of masculinity, the media is reserving those actions for the male demographic, reducing the role of women in another category. What young and old alike need now is to become consciously aware of this so as to not pass these notions on to future generations and teach them to be aware of the control of media.

Image: Always #LikeAGirl

One comment

  • I agree that we need to become more aware of the media’s influence and work to teach future generations to be aware of it as well but I also think we should try to have more dialogue about issues such as this. While I think that Always’ campaign is a wonderful idea, it seems to me that anything involved with empowering women, lately, is tied to a product of some sort i.e. Dove, Pantene (and I can’t think of any others). The problem with that is, these companies are using their messages to help sell their product. If they weren’t, we’d see them taking their message on the road and trying to empower women and young girls outside of their product. I could be wrong about that but I think we should try to distance ourselves away from the media as much as we can.

    For example, I’m a huge fan of the show Pretty Little Liars but when I first started watching it as a teen, I didn’t let it influence me because I had role models in real life to look up to and I knew that television portrayals of girls/women weren’t exactly realistic. Now I know not a lot of people think about those things when they turn on the tv, which is ultimately why it affects people in a negative way but I think if more discussions were had about loving who you are and not trying to emulate or be jealous of what they see on tv, then we’d start to see a positive change in the confidence of young girls.

    So, yes the media is selling a brand but I think it’s our job, as well as parents and educators and anyone else who comes in contact with women and young girls on a daily basis to teach them not to BUY into that brand. Because while the media has influence, we can’t blame it for influencing us completely. We all have the power to see beyond what we are given and we all have the power to help future generations see it too.

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