Like a Girl

Jul 15, 2015 by

“I tried to behave [the way] other people want me to behave, and then I found that works horrible.”

– A girl, Always #LikeAGirl

 

          When I arrived at the office yesterday morning, I opened my laptop and typed a song into YouTube to stream on repeat while working, like I usually do. An ad began playing that I was just about to skip until some of its words caught my attention: “Do we limit girls? We asked them.” The advertisement, by Always, brought attention to the statistic that 72 percent of girls feel that society limits them. The girls featured in the ad attested to feeling limited because people have told them that they can’t do certain things or that they should adhere to a certain image because they’re girls. For example, one commented, “People think that girls are supposed to be all happy and la-di-da. You know?” Another said, “I can’t really, like, rescue anybody. Like, it’s always, like, the boys who rescue the girls in the stories.” I don’t know which was more intense as I watched: my hatred for how negatively impactful societal expectations can be or my love for Always for pointing it out. I was going back and forth between rage and pride – rage toward society and pride toward people who see the problem with promoting conformity to particular personas or behaviours based on gender.

          The problem isn’t only a problem for girls. It’s a boys’ issue too. Like girls are expected to act female as society defines it, guys have been raised to act a specific way because they are male. Stereotypical gender roles force expectations on people from the moment they are born. It starts as basic as dressing girls in pink and dressing boys in blue. Needless to say, because I hate society’s impact on the way people think, I love this campaign for promoting the dismissal of gender-role implications.

          In the ad, which I’ve included below for you to watch, girls were told to write their limitations on boxes. Here are some of the things they wrote:

 
          “Girls should be perfect.”

          “Weak.”

          “Girls aren’t strong.”

          “Can’t be brave.”

          “Girls can’t rescue.”

          “Girls ‘can’t’ play basketball.”

          “Girls wear makeup.”

          “Emotional.”

 
          Some of the girls quit activities they enjoyed or avoided them in the first place because they believed other people who told them they couldn’t do them. That’s the biggest problem with repeated messaging: it’s easy to believe. It’s easy to internalize things that aren’t true when heard over and over.

          In the end, the girls kicked, knocked over, or stood atop the boxes, metaphorically dominating the limitations they felt society placed on them. I was happy to hear that one of the girls had already dismissed the idea of not being good enough because she’s a girl on her own accord:

 
          “I . . . I . . . I told myself that I should stop if I’m not good,” she said.

          “And did you quit?” the interviewer asked.

          “For a week,” she laughed.

          “And then what happened?”

          “I proved them wrong by trying harder to get better.”

 
          You don’t have to do whatever people say you can’t do just to prove a point. Although I’m the type of person who can’t be stopped by what other people think of what I want to do, I won’t go out of my way to prove someone wrong based on principle. Take hockey, for example. If someone told me I couldn’t play hockey, I wouldn’t play hockey to show that person otherwise. For one, I don’t know how to skate and don’t care to learn because I hate the cold. Two, I don’t like hockey. Why would I put myself through that just to be right? But, if I did like hockey, you’re damn right that no one else’s lack of faith in my ability to play would ever stop me from doing so. I encourage the same tenacity in you. Try everything you want to try and do everything that you love, whether you’re a boy or a girl, whether other people believe you can do it or not. Gender is a social construct. It’s made up.

Happiness Tip: Don’t behave as expected.

 

 
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