Why “like a girl” shouldn’t be an insult

Let’s just pretend that this isn’t a commercial for Always menstrual products and appreciate this heart-warming reminder that girls are confident and joyful before we teach them that being a girl is the absolute worst thing they can be.

The ad was created by documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, and as Amanda says, “It’s a little sad that all of this enthusiasm for women’s stories are leading us directly to a box of maximum protection with wings, while female filmmakers and characters are still so underrepresented at the box office.” But I guess I’ll take it if it makes a few more people more conscious of the subtle but powerful effect their language has.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/franco/ Frank

    There is no insult in that word.

  • http://feministing.com/members/mkarakitsos/ Maria

    What I noticed is that all of the examples that the ad used were sports-related: running, hitting, fighting, racing, winning, swinging. I was left wondering: what’s wrong with running poorly (as a boy OR a girl)? What’s wrong with not fighting well (or not wanting to fight at all…)? What if someone’s version of being a girl (or a boy or a human) means that they cannot hit, run, or “play ball”?…

    And while I truly appreciate the way the ad questions the use of language, the ad still upholds the social supremacy of “masculine” qualities like toughness, sportsmanship, winning, being the best, etc. It seems to argue that a display of “masculine” behaviour (in a girl or a boy) is somehow an indicator of power and identity. Softness, vulnerability and gentleness are still considered weakness and an insult (I mean, the ad is rightly questioning the definition of “girlhood as weakness” – but it is not questioning whether weakness is, in itself, really a bad thing to begin with…).

    What about questioning the way our society insults softness, vulnerability and gentleness? Those qualities are just as valid and valuable as strength, toughness and drive. We all exhibit each of those things to varying degrees in our lives, regardless of sex or gender. I’d like to see an ad that values the diversity and complexity of the human character – not a reification of particular values (whether they be masculine OR feminine).