When discussing the term “girlhood”, many people connotate it with weakness and being submissive. For years, a phrase going around has been to do something ‘like a girl’ which typically has a connotation of doing something half-heartedly or weakly. The company Always released a campaign showing these stereotypes portrayed by teens but additionally showed a counter when young girls gave a completely different answer to the same questions the teens were asked. Both the Keywords essay for “girlhood” and Always’ campaign #LikeAGirl focuses on a toxic view of girlhood, but #LikeAGirl disputes the stereotype by showing that young girls reject this view and have a much more positive outlook on girlhood and the strength of girls.
The association of girlhood with being second-rate and innocent has been in place for hundreds of years. In the “Girlhood” excerpt from Keywords for Children’s Literature, author Jacqueline Reid-Walsh included a quote from 1762 by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau which shows his view of girls. Rousseau observes a girl playing and says “look at the little girl, busy with her doll all day long… She is absorbed in the doll and her coquetry is expressed through it” (Reid-Walsh 2011). By referencing a girl’s flirtatiousness and wording it to seem like it is an innate quality of girls, this can lead an audience to believe that a girl just worries about her looks and has limited unique qualities.
This then ties to the #LikeAGirl campaign. When the older boys and girls were asked to demonstrate what it means to, for example, run and throw like a girl, they performed the actions half-heartedly, mimed fixing their hair, and talked in high pitched voices. All the qualities they displayed imitated negative stereotypes of girls and continued the narrative of girls being weak and unable to perform active tasks like running and throwing a ball. The ad then flips the narrative and asks young girls to perform the same tasks ‘like a girl’ and they performed them with as much effort and toughness as they could muster. The ad sought to show us that not everyone falls back onto these stereotypes and hints that this stereotype could change in the future if a young generation views girlhood as something that is strong and rejects the current stereotypes.
Reid-Walsh, J. (2011). Girlhood. In Keywords for Children’s Literature (pp. 92-95). Retrieved February 14, 2019.