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Gender equity in sports may still be lacking, but it’s more important than ever that girls and women be seen as athletic role models, and the term ‘Like A Girl’ be seen as powerful rather than derogatory. The #LikeAGirl campaign makes viewers acutely aware of the way society views women, particularly activities that are stereotypically “girly”.

Boys should never  question why girls play, or how hard they play. And girls should always have the confidence to be strong and powerful.

I love that there is a movement trying to move #LikeAGirl from an insult to a compliment. It just seems so obvious.   What is wrong with being a girl? Shame on us for letting it become a put-down. Girls should never feel “less than” because of their femininity.

February and March are important months for women. National Girls and Women in Sports Day(NGWSD) takes place the first week of February and March hosts International Women’s Day (this year March 8). Both serve as reminders that as far as we have come for gender equity, there is no finish line in sight.

The “Like A Girl” ad,  unveiled during the Super Bowl, launched a direct hit at the derogatory phrase that stereotypes girls and their strength, or lack thereof. In a shorter take of a video that went viral last summer, adults and a young boy are asked to run, fight and throw “like a girl.” Not surprisingly, they perform these tasks in the wimpiest way possible.

When a group of girls, unfamiliar with the negative stereotype,  are asked to do the same thing, they give it all they got; they run as fast as they can, and throw and punch with force.

The ad, produced by Always sanitary napkins, debuted during the biggest all-male televised sporting event of the year. On a day that glorifies masculine athleticism, Procter & Gamble made viewers consider female strength as well. There’s no mention of Always’ products in the ad: Instead, it’s more of a PSA for women. Overt or not,  feminine hygiene products getting the attention of 114 million television viewers was a power play for gender equity.

From the Always site, the brand explains their positioning:

Using #LikeAGirl as an insult is a hard knock against any adolescent girl. And since the rest of puberty’s really no picnic either, it’s easy to see what a huge impact it can have on a girl’s self-confidence.
We’re kicking off an epic battle to make sure that girls everywhere keep their confidence throughout puberty and beyond, and making a start by showing them that doing it #LikeAGirl is an awesome thing.

Always also conducted a survey study that unveiled some worrying statistics, including:

  • More than half of girls (about 1 out of 2 or 56%) claimed to experience a drop in confidence at puberty.
  • The majority (89%) of females aged 16-24 agree that words can be harmful, especially to girls.
  • Only 19% of girls have a positive association toward the phrase “like a girl.”

Lauren Greenfield, the filmmaker and director of the #LikeAGirl video, says that in her work as a documentarian, she has witnessed the confidence crisis among girls and the negative impact of stereotypes. As her video and data demonstrate, by the time many girls hit puberty, they start to be conditioned to think doing something “like a girl” means doing something badly.

At Pretty Tough, we’ve been advocating for girls to embrace their strength and power for nearly a decade. Wanting to be pretty and tough are not mutually exclusive and there is no need for girls to compartmentalize their lives. Research proves over and over again that being physically active – especially for girls – is beneficial on a myriad of levels.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation,  girls and women who participate in sports have better body image, more confidence, suffer less from depression, and experience higher states of well-being. Also, girls who participate in high school sports are more likely to avoid unintended pregnancies, earn higher grades, and made it to graduation more often then those who don’t play sport.

When it comes to getting girls into sports, parents should encourage girls early and serve as role models. Even if mom and dad are not athletes or physically active, there are lots of opportunities at local parks and gyms to get involved. And for parents who are more spectators than participants, sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement to get them out on the field. So turn the tables and push them out of their comfort zone. Playing sports can be a lifetime activity that is fun for the whole family.

 

Hopefully, the “Like a Girl” video (with 55 million + views) and sites like ours will remind people that doing something “like a girl” is not an insult.  Bravo to all the awesome organizations contributing to this important dialogue. Join us in championing girls’ confidence and shining a spotlight on girls who are strong, physically active and not afraid to show a bit of badassery.

#LikeAGirl #PrettyTough

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