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“Like a girl” and “Not sorry”

“Like a girl” and “Not sorry”

Two recent videos with product ties challenge culture norms:

Lauren Greenfield directed a short video commissioned by Always. “Like a Girl” was seen as a social experiment: and Greenfield wrote about it in The Telegraph.

When we asked more than 250 people what it meant to do things “like a girl”, the results were surprisingly consistent. Women, men and boys were quite happy to lark about – running or fighting “like a girl”, in a silly or deprecating way, as my elder son had. It wasn’t until I asked them, still on camera, if their impression was insulting in any way, that the penny dropped. Some got emotional, and expressed disappointment and regret over their interpretation. Some said it applied to most girls, but not to them (or their sister). Some knew better. One older woman, who did an exaggerated impression that made girls look ridiculous, subsequently revealed that her daughter was a college baseball player on an otherwise all-boys team.

That moment of realisation – when the women and men in our film suddenly understood that they had been sucked into this cultural cliché – is magical to witness, because the viewer also gets to experience it at the same time. It is not judgmental, but collegiate – a moment we share that is simple and yet instantly empowering and illuminating. When these moments of realisation occurred in real time, we knew something profound was happening in front of the cameras. Both I and some of the women on set were moved to tears.

Laura Maw wrote “Addressing Apology Culture” in The Style Con after seeing Pantene’s new “Not sorry” spot:

Although women reportedly apologise more frequently than men, scientists attribute this tendency to the fact that men have a higher threshold for what they deem offensive behaviour.Why? The explanation for this seems relatively simple: we live in a society which conditions women to be kinder, quieter and more polite, fuelling this apology culture when we don’t fit nicely into these categories. Pantene highlights this with painful accuracy: women apologise more often simply because we’re taught to apologise for entering situations in the same manner as men: with confidence and assertiveness. As Meghan Murphy describes, “We smile when we’re harassed on the street or hit on by jerks. We laugh at sexist jokes. We learn that when we have strong opinions, we’ll be called bitches and that if we get angry, we’ll be called hysterical. When we say what we want, we’re called pushy or aggressive.” So we learn to apologise for normal emotional reactions, before stating our opinions – and even after things that weren’t our fault.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I say sorry on a regular basis – and whether or not this is a product of my instinctively polite nature or that I feel compelled to apologise, I shall never know. And yes, Pantene’s argument isn’t exactly a new one, but it is relevant. It’s no surprise that women are taught to apologise more frequently than men: apology culture fuels male entitlement. If we feel compelled to say sorry for being assertive, this allows more space for male assertiveness. If we’re sorry for taking up space in conversation by stating our opinions, this conveniently allows more space for male opinion. How many times have you heard the words ‘sorry for the rant’ or ‘rant over’ after a female friend has been speaking about something important to her?


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Thoughtful article…when my children (3 girls, 1 boy) were growing up I worked hard to push against the gender issues so that my daughters would grow into strong confidant women. It went well until their teenage years…I thought culture would win out over parenting. But when I see them now as adults I know it was the right thing. The number of times my daughters have faced gender bias they have met it head on with assertive power that comes from within. I tell my son that he is going to make a great partner someday when he decides to marry. He has three good role models. But at times it seems the media etc seem to keep the bias going. When women are valued for their intellect and character over physical attractiveness we will know we have come to a good place.

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