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‘#LikeABoy’ Twitter Reaction To #LikeAGirl Verifies Ad’s Societal Relevance

The negative, “meninist” response that quickly followed the Super Bowl’s airing of Always’ one-minute, #LikeAGirl commercial proves the initiative’s utter gravity.

  • “Play in the Super Bowl #likeaboy”
  • “#LikeABoy because I can actually run and throw”
  • “Stop Feminizing American Boys or they won’t be the tough Men when we need them to be #likeagirl #likeaboy”
  • “Sometimes I don’t listen to a word my girlfriend says when the tv is on #likeaboy”
  • “Everyone’s self esteem drops during puberty. It’s called puberty #SuperBowlIXLIX #LikeABoy”
  • “There’s no commercial to support boys when we hit puberty. Yall think wet dreams are fun? #LikeABoy”
  • “Make a sandwich #LikeAGirl”

The aforementioned quotations comprise only a very small sampling of the #LikeABoy Twitter trend that shocked the Internet in the immediate wake of Always’ #LikeAGirl commercial that aired during Super Bowl XLIX—an instantaneous uproar from what antithetical “meninists” considered a controversial, sexist endorsement. And (in my opinion), the tweets only substantiate the irrefutable necessity of the one-minute advertisement in the first place.

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For the few constituents of Patriots Nation who, unfortunately, could not witness the Super Bowl this year—or for those of you who boycotted the game for other reasons, cough, stillcan’tbelievethePackerslost, cough, notbitter, cough—the Always commercial, which originally debuted in June of 2014, first features adolescent girls and boys being asked to run, throw, and fight “like a girl”—actions each individual weakly and passively reenacts—before asking the same of younger girls, who, rather than echo the feeble behavior, instead execute each task aggressively. Text then spans the screen: “A girl’s confidence plummets during puberty. But it doesn’t have to. Let’s make #LikeAGirl mean amazing things.”

Yes, it’s 2015, but that does not mean that sexism—or any other “ism,” for that matter—has magically disappeared. The #LikeABoy response to the #LikeAGirl movement proves that increased education and conversation surrounding sexism is not only necessary, but also imperative. As Huffington Post blogger Alanna Vagianos said in an article published on Feb. 3, qualifying an action as having been executed “like a girl” is similar to characterizing an idea, phenomenon, activity, or individual as “gay”—in both instances, individuals who employ the descriptions assign pejorative, offensive connotations to identities. “So when someone uses these identifiers—whether it’s sexual orientation, ethnicity, or gender—as an insult, it becomes very problematic,” Vagianos noted. “Using the phrase ‘like a girl’ as an insult is proof that sexism is still very much a part of our everyday culture.”

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Sexual assault and rape; the wage gap; female genital mutilation; the commercial sex trade; discrimination in the workplace; underrepresentation in the corporate sphere and public office; adolescent bullying and insecurity; misogyny; widely descending confidence levels; sexual harassment; anorexia, bulimia, and eating disorders otherwise not specified; hostility regarding, resistance toward, and lacking access to female education; the objectification of women in the media and popular culture; the restriction of female bodily integrity and autonomy; the commercial beauty industry; domestic and gender violence.

Wait, I’m sorry—it’s not completely transparent to me: Why, exactly, do young women desperately require empowerment? Tell me again what is so horribly offensive or erroneous about the promotion of global gender equality?

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Within the 21st-century society, patriarchal precepts largely predominate, still arbitrarily dictating the course of history in many aspects of life. The Super Bowl—one of the biggest yearly events in American advertisement for which all of the players, coaches, refs, and announcers are male—is a glaring manifestation of this, representing the seeming epitome of masculinity itself, and the Always marketing team was obviously cognizant of that fact. The discrepancy between expressions like “man up” or “be a man” and “[action] like a girl” underscores pervasive societal sexism. Masculinity accompanies positive, valiant, assertive, confident, virile implications, while femininity, as indicated by the commercial, often signifies the opposite: passivity, weakness, fragility, diffidence, and submission. There is a reason that characterizations like “whipped” and “mama’s boy” have such negative connotations: the world in which we live teaches young boys and men to consider themselves superior to and dominant over women—willingness to defer to or negotiate equally with women is comparable to emasculation.

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While masculinity is coveted, urged, and excused, femininity is discouraged, frowned upon. Yet, there’s no denying that these past couple years for the NFL and NCAA haven’t been great in terms of negative media coverage—e.g. Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Jameis Winston, Cory Batey, and Brandon Vandenburg. Recurrent domestic violence and sexual assault cases have painted an increasingly negative portrait of domineering masculinity and the detrimental effects of promoting excuses such as “boys will be boys.” Therefore, the fact that #LikeAGirl aired during the Super Bowl is particularly prudent, given the 114.4 million avid sports fans who witnessed it—and, the controversial responses only confirm this. I am by no means, however, suggesting that doing something #LikeABoy should be used as an insult. But the difference remains that #LikeAGirl does have that degrading component, and it is imperative that this ends.

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Although throughout the 1900s and 2000s alone women have already made significant leaps and bounds in terms of obtaining basic rights and freedoms, that there is a long road ahead is indisputable. Movements promoting “The Girl Effect,” human rights advocacy for female education, and “HeForShe” are hugely beneficial in terms of reshaping the perception of women and, ultimately, changing the course of their history. Empowering women is not synonymous with disempowering men. Rather than being threatened by feminism, perpetuating stereotypical gender roles, and provoking division with responses such as #LikeABoy, individuals must unite behind the cause for gender equality.

But, boys will be boys, right? Now, go make me a sandwich.

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February 9, 2015

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “‘#LikeABoy’ Twitter Reaction To #LikeAGirl Verifies Ad’s Societal Relevance”

  1. I really appreciate seeing this neglected issue being discussed in an environment that doesn’t talk about gender equality nearly as much as it should. I distinctly remember watching that commercial on Superbowl sunday and witnessing the mockery and insults from my male peers immediately following the ad. My initial reaction to the ad was similar to my thoughts when viewing this column, “Right on!” however it was shortlived as I was quickly filled with disappointment to hear the insults and backlash from the “meninists” in the room. I believe that harsh response to the #likeagirl ad reveals the primordial problem that impedes the progress of feminism. This problem is that a large portion of the population holds the mindset that perceives feminism as an attack on men. They feel that feminism is all about hating and shaming men, with its main purpose being to suppress men and assert the dominance of women. There is so much misunderstanding about feminism due to the negative propaganda from our patriarchal society and it’s even causing people who believe in and support specific measures aimed at achieving gender equality to say they are not in favor of feminism, nor do they support feminists. This mass amount of confusion that is intentionally created around feminism serves as the movement’s greatest obstacle as it attempts to raise awareness on gender equality. If the media accurately portrayed feminism and people only knew that the movement isn’t composed of a fringe group that’s calling for the suppression of all males, then I know that the response to the #likeagirl ad wouldn’t have been so hostile. I think there needs to be a lot more discussion on this matter, particularly on the BC campus, so that people realize that the empowerment of women doesn’t mean that men have to be pulled down, but instead women are raised up to an equal playing field. That is gender equality, and that is what I hope we continue to move towards.