This past Sunday, while Americans were being distracted from their marathon commercial extravaganza by occasional bouts of football, the company Always slipped in what turned out to be a firestarter. And they did it #likeagirl.
Always, a maker of feminine hygiene products, released a commercial in which the derogatory phrase “like a girl” – fight like a girl, hit like a girl, throw like a girl – was called out for what it was: a phrase demeaning to women. The company sought to encourage the empowerment of women – our daughters, our sisters, our wives, our mothers – by making the phrase mean something new and to encourage women to not give away the power that is their natural right. Apparently that was too much for some, as a sudden burst of activity on Twitter would attest.
Shortly after the commercial appeared, a small but vocal (Twittal?) segment of butthurt male society decided that anything that encouraged feminine power had to do so at their expense and they started demanding some form of tire-pumping and started making use of the #likeaboy hashtag. “Wait! They’re not looking at me! Boo hoo!”
Give me a break boys.
I guess this shouldn’t be surprising. Anytime those in power start to see their privileged position threatened they fight back. Whether it be whites defending themselves against those uppity blacks, straights against the “gay incursion”, Christians against, well, most any other repressed group, and, as it has been for quite some time, males against females, there will be a pushback. Heck, it’s change and no one really wants to give up the power they currently wield. Society, however, demands it.
Look, I’m a middle-aged, white male. I know that I have it easier than a lot of people. It’s not something I’m going to apologize for, as my biology is not my fault. I am not, however, going to stand against the societal push for equality for all people. I’m actually going to encourage it, despite the fact I may lose some modicum of privilege. You know why? Because it’s the right thing to do. Because society will be better off for it. Because I want my value in life to be based on what I do and not what my genes made me look like.
What pride should there be in being born with a penis? It isn’t something I earned and, if my success only comes from my ownership of a Y chromosome, how do I justify my success as being anything I can own? The answer is, I can’t.
Guys, listen. Encouraging women to define their own lives does not diminish you in any way. In fact, it strengthens you. You are not judged on what you keep but on what you give away. Handing back your privilege and saying, “No thanks, I don’t need this. I can do it on my own,” takes an act of courage and a belief in your own self-worth. And maybe that’s a lesson we need to teach our boys.
If you’ve seen the Twitter posts demanding equal time for boys, you’ll likely recognize the sentiments as being quite juvenile. I’m guessing most of the tweets were from young males rather than middle-aged guys like me (although online it’s tough to tell). We do need to question why these boys are feeling so threatened. What lessons are we failing to teach them? Why are they unable to stand on their own 2 feet without the backing of their male privilege to keep them upright?
Look, boys and girls are different and trying to raise them as if they’re not simply sets them up for a world of hurt. We haven’t, however, really defined what a male role is supposed to be in an equal society. How do we integrate biological imperative and a testosterone-fueled psyche into the future we’re hoping for? Ignoring it or dismissing it as “males suck” doesn’t help. The species requires both genders and the chemical effects of our biology are real. What’s needed is a way to recognize the value of our biology and find ways to encourage it in a positive way. Just as physical strength can be channeled into either building a skyscraper or pummeling another human into submission, we need to find ways to let individuals find the strength of themselves and direct it in ways which are positive for society.
Some day I hope we won’t need any pumping up of any particular segment of society because we’ll be truly equal – of opportunity, if not ability. To get there, though, we’ve got to give those people who have been subject to repression and discouragement the power to take control of their future and demand the equality they were born to. And standing up to do it that way is doing it #likeaboy. And #likeagirl.
Steve is the founder of Straight Talk Entertainment and currently produces and writes for the audio drama Aural Traditions, recently voted Charleston City Paper’s Best Local Podcast. He’s also an Information Security professional and avid shark tooth hunter.