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“LikeAGirl” Super Bowl ad: The girls still run like girls even after they’re “empowered”

February 6, 2015

My latest blog post for the Los Angeles Times:

And what product did you say was being advertised?

Call me the lone dissident, but I maintain that the over-hyped, over-praised, and over-cheerleaded — but mostly tediously didactic — feminist “Like a Girl” commercial that aired during the Super Bowl was notgroundbreaking” (the Huffington Post’s breathless word). It actually threatened to set back the cause of taking women seriously, as athletes or as anything else.

Maybe that’s because the 17-year-old son of a friend who’d come over to our house to watch the game along with his dad blurted out, “Yup, she’s running like a girl,” as a character called “Erin” in the commercial jogged daintily in place while flailing her legs. Then, when a character named “Dakota” jogged in place in the commercial, except more energetically in order to show that the phrase “like a girl” could have a positive meaning, the 17-year-old jeered, “She’s still running like a girl!”

(Hint to future feminist commercial-makers: Running in place will always make you look as though you’re running like a girl. That’s because it’s not really running. It’s telling your audience, “Look at me, running!” — which is a girl thing to do. Same with “throw like a girl” and “fight like a girl” in that commercial. Unless a female is doing the real thing — sprinting across a finish line like Florence Griffith Joyner — her body language will inform you that she is putting on a performance in order to show you how cute she looks. Female humans are natural exhibitionists.)

***

The problem with portraying a stereotype — even when your aim is to debunk it — is that stereotypes usually (although granted, not always) contain a substantial kernel of truth. Math really is hard for most women because of differences between most men and most women in their brains’ facility for mentally rotating three-dimensional objects, and thus for abstract thinking. Women really are generally worse drivers than men, studies have shown: They have fewer spectacularly destructive road accidents than men but more minor ones per mile driven.

And women generally lack the degree of upper-body-strength — and physical strength in general, thanks to the difference between estrogen and testosterone — to compete athletically with men. The reason there are no female pitchers in Major League Baseball is that women in general “throw like girls.”

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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2 Comments
  1. This reminds of one of possibly the only argument I’ve ever won with a feminist. A neighbor who was taking tennis lessons got huffy when I said I didn’t think it’d work for us to play each other.

    “You’re just afraid I’d beat you,” she said to an admiring audience.

    “Pam,” I said. “I normally split sets with Linda S., the number one-ranked women’s player in the state. So if you could beat me, I’d already know who you were.”

    True story, although Linda probably beat me about 60% of the time.

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