The Stigma That Comes With “Like A Girl”

Always, a manufacturing company for feminine hygiene products, has recently created an eye-opening commercial about gender roles that has been sweeping the nation via YouTube.1 This advertisement has become viral with nearly 38 million views in the three weeks. The director, Lauren Greenfield, wanted to expose the ways society looks at gender roles and how the phrase “like a girl” has been damaging to adolescent females’ self-esteem.2 During this small experiment, Greenfield first asks both males and females, ranging from teen to adult, to perform simple tasks, such as “run like a girl” or “throw like a girl.” As expected, the performers ran and threw the weakest they could and even whined and fixed their hair during the tasks. Later, Greenfield brought in girls of pre-teen age (seven to ten years of age) and asked them to do the same actions. Though, this time, nobody fixed their hair or dropped the imaginary baseball while simulating these tasks. Each young girl ran as fast as they could and threw as far as they could. So where did the change in mindset occur?

Another example of gender double-standards in the media recently is the Verizon 2014 commercial titled “Inspire Her Mind.” The majority of young girls have been told from the beginning of their lives to act like girls. They’ve been encouraged to dress up and put on makeup and throw tea parties; which is acceptable. However, many who have found a love in science or math have been discouraged due to the idea of what a girl should be like. As stated in the commercial, 66% of fourth grade girls surveyed said that they were interested in the maths and sciences, however only 18% of females entered under a major in those engineering. Though there are many factors that may affect that, telling our teen girls to “leave that to the boys” decrease their confidence in something they could succeed in.

Multiple studies show that a girl’s self-confidence declines progressively throughout her years as a teen, starting in about middle school. About eight in ten girls have a negative emotional reaction to puberty. One survey shows that only 72% of girls feel confident in themselves during their sixth grade year and only 55% in their sophomore year of high school.3 Many of these issues of self-doubt stem from the famous phrase “like a girl” or “because you’re a girl.” Only 19% of women believe that “like a girl” has a positive connotation. According to Lauren Greenfield’s social experiment, this change in meaning occurs around the time puberty begins. Girls are the most vulnerable at this time due to biological, hormonal, and psychological reasons.4

Due to gender, many girls are ridiculed for not achieving a task that “only boys should be good at.” During the teen years, these events happen to nearly every girl. Sadly, many girls will choose to hide from ridicule and try to become the least noticed, depriving themselves of life-changing opportunities in fear of being humiliated. Many who could’ve achieved so much will now use excuses that they’ve been told all their lives: “I can’t because I’m a girl.” This derogatory term and terms like it have been reinforced and allowed in our society, chipping away at the already fragile armor of the teen girl.There are ways that girls can tackle the jeering phrases that cause self-doubt. Women can push for a positive change and empower women of all ages to partake in a battle worth fighting for. The words of the ignorant can be restyled and we can make “like a girl” a phrase that girls can be proud to describe themselves with. Being “like a girl” shouldn’t be words used to ridicule, but words of inspire and motivate to become the best we can become.

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Donee Chin is a Senior at Palm Desert High School. She aspires to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and study Cognitive Sciences.

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