After seeing the new Always commercial floating around YouTube and various social media sites, the wheels in my head have really been turning.
You know, "like a girl...."
(Note: I watched it about a week ago, and have been somewhat contemplative about the subject ever since).
We see it every day, the way that doing something "like a girl" is considered to be a negative, somehow less than the masculine form. We're told that there are things that men do better, and we're told that being feminine is frowned upon somehow.
Yes, I'm good-natured enough to laugh along when my friends make the occasional "women in the kitchen" joke. And yes, I'm feisty and passionate enough that I do get a bit of rage when someone claims that women basketball players aren't really playing a sport. Yes, I'm a woman and can proudly turn on a dime, so both scenarios can go back-to-back. But, the fact of the matter is that, we are all subjected to the pre-conceived public notion of what a woman "should be," or in some cases what a woman is.
There are many varying opinions of what a woman is. For the most part, (at least if you asked most men—and even some women), women are moody, indecisive, and volatile. To some degree, all of that is true. But, at a deeper level, there is the internalized part (the part that plagues many women internally). This is the part that suggests that being a woman makes us weak, makes us less intelligent, or makes us less-than somehow.
It's the Mad Men moment, if you will. We were put here to serve, to be a ditzy sidekick, to be whatever is needed. We were put here to be the right hand of some high-powered man. While I've never claimed to be a "feminist," hold with me, if you will for a moment.
I've always been somewhat unsure of the feminist movement as it is typically explained, due to the simple fact that it typically claims that we are no different than men. The simple truth is that I believe we are quite different from men. It is in this fact that we draw our feminine strength (something I feel all women should be encouraged and even empowered by). Am I suggesting that there are things that men can do that women cannot? Absolutely not. I think these are the gender stereotypes that can lead to the negative connotation. I believe that every woman is fully equipped to take on and succeed in any role in which she takes on; just as I believe that societal norms and preconceived notions can skew incorrectly suppressing some women in a lot of ways. However, I think that our differences are where we find our strength.
As women, we attain the ability to have several emotions at one time. Are we happy, sad, strong, amused, intrigued, or confused? Whatever we are, as women, we can experience them all at once. We may be sad something is ending but happy it occurred—all at the same time. We may have an emotional response to something but be able to note that we have a physical need such as drowsiness or hunger at the same time—and actually be able to process the two as separate entities. While men are complex beings as well (and I'm certainly not trying to create a reverse stereotype in the process), many feel what they feel at one point and time and focus on that solely.
As women, we are typically more analytic in our approach to situations. Do we sometimes operate by pure instinct? Yes, of course. We are human. We still have access to our innermost basic instincts, but often, we consider the outcomes. We analyze. We even tend to overthink (cue that emotions running wild thing, if you want). But, we look at all sides of the coin. Who will be affected? What will happen if I react a certain way? While we sometimes act irrationally or emotionally, we have often thought the process through. We are thinkers. We are dreamers. More often than not, we have considered all possible outcomes and become okay with the risks involved before asking or acting. On the flipside, most men I have encountered operate by instinct, by the “what’s the worst that could happen?” mentality. It’s a brave one, I’ll give that to the boys, but it’s also one that is alarming—perplexing, even—to us women. Nonetheless, it’s part of what makes us different.
While those are two simple differences, I think it’s a basic call to the fact that we are different—and that that’s okay. It’s perfectly fine to us to have something that is “like a girl,” as long as it’s not perceived as a negative connotation by society as a whole—and that’s the true shame in the whole thing. It’s the part that makes young girls question their identity, the same part that makes women mold themselves into shocking and alarming standards of beauty and conformity that defy who they were meant to be.
Truthfully, there is nothing shameful about being “a girl.” There is nothing that women should question or conform to, regardless of what society tells us. We are strong. We are empowered. In many cases, we call the shots. How many times have we heard it said that someone is “whipped?” How many times have we seen someone attempt to change to woo a girl? How many times have we seen an empowered female completely take charge?
We are strong. And, we are such in our femininity. We don’t have to embrace masculine attributes, "toughen up," change our interests if we like typically "non-girly" things, suppress our emotions, change our looks, or even adopt harsh outlooks on life. Instead, we can embrace who we are. So what if we’re moody, indecisive, and volatile? We’re experiencing complex emotions, considering all possible outcomes, and reacting whenever the world throws us a curveball stereotype of what they think women should be. We’re reacting with strength, intelligence, and all the complexity that makes us great—that makes us strong and unique and female.
We may have once been perceived as the weaker sex, but with each outspoken and empowered woman, we are truly making a difference in the public persona. I commend Always for making a statement and for making us all question what we perceive “like a girl” to mean, just as I commend every woman boldly living her life “as a girl.”
For me, personally, I have always been surrounded by strong women who encouraged me to take pride in what it means to be a woman. I'm incredibly grateful for this influence in my life. Most of my role models and mentors were women. I was raised by a mother who could accomplish anything she set her mind to and whose stubborn determination to get a job done right is still something that serves as a strong reminder of who I am and who I can be. I had grandmothers who didn’t take “no” from anyone, and who fought tooth-and-nail for their place in this world. In my adult life, I have seen far stronger women than I ever imagined. Currently, I work at a woman-owned company, where I see the strength and intelligence of women displayed daily. In our society, I see many places where women dominate a market or an industry.
I am fortunate, but many are not. Many are oppressed, held down by society’s downcast look at all that is feminine, and I am disheartened by the fact that such a view still exists. Being a girl is not something to disregard. Being a girl is empowering. May we all embrace our identity as girls—as female—and may we all be strengthened by the fact that, while we may be different from men (as I believe we are), we are strong in all that we are, in all that is unique. And, may we all be strong enough—confident enough—examples of womanhood to inspire young girls to embrace who they are. We are all complex, just as we are all ever-changing and ever-growing. We are all bold, and we can all be an example of just how empowering, how exuberant, it is to be “like a girl.”
I have played sports, graduated as valedictorian, earned a college degree, climbed the career ladder, faced heartache and recovered, overcome adversity, grown personally, and achieved many dreams....all "like a girl," and I'm proud to have done so. I am a girl and am proud of the fact. It's my hope that we can all be an example of feminine strength, living proudly as such, as an unspoken or out loud example to young girls across the globe. Each girl needs a mentor, a teacher, a coach, an aunt, a mother, an example. Be that example of what it means to be "like a girl," and remind each young girl that she can do anything she sets her mind to, regardless of what society says.