One of my favorite kid movies growing up was the Sandlot. There is nary a harsh word I could say about this universally beloved film about baseball, childhood scares, adolescence and team bonding. A movie filled with dramatic rises, one of the epic, drop-the-mic moments occurs when the sandlot crew engages with a rival baseball team. A smack talk battle ensues between the rival star and Hamilton ‘Ham’ Porter, as shown here (jump to 0:59)
The shouting match culminates in the Ham’s game changing insult telling to the rival, “you play ball like a girl!” Silence covers both teams as the claim is perceived as the ultimate insult, resulting in disbelief and a challenge on the diamond the next day. The fact that this insult, “like a girl”, was used as the device to shift the narrative forward never seemed to bother me, or something that I thought about too much. However, something troubled me after I watched this video:
The video, released this summer by the female care brand Always, is a part of their #LikeAGirl advertising campaign. It is part of a rising trend in what is called femvertising, where ads focus on female empowerment. While seemingly bold, femvertising allows companies like Always to double down on both sending a powerful message and positive marketing, receiving millions of views on YouTube.
In this video, adolescent and adult males and females are asked to interpret what it means to be “like a girl” such as in the act of throwing ball. Both genders laugh at themselves, having fun imitating the throwing motion they perceive to be like a girl’s. The throwing motions of the participants is depicted unanimously as weak, ditzy and non-athletic.
The camera crew then shifts to a younger group of female girls who we are led to assume have not formed the notion of what to be like a girl is. When asked to interpet actions like a girl, the contrast from the older group is stark. Gone are the timid throwing motions and uncoordinated running motions, the lackadaisical punches. The throws are clean, forceful motions, their runs are explosive, their punches fully extended like they were taking a martial arts class. The message is clear: people don’t understand how to throw “like a girl” until greater society tells them. This video challenges what “like a girl” really means.
Although public opinion and cultural shifts among the younger generations has certainly influenced the rise of femvertising, it has seemingly struck a chord with women of all ages. SheKnows Media conducted a femvertising survey with over 600 women, with results showing 91% of those surveyed believing that “how women are portrayed in advertising has a direct impact on girls’ self-esteem.” The study indicated a bevy of other percentage stats, including:
- “51% of women like pro-female ads because they believe they break down gender-equality barriers.
- 81% said ads that positively portray women are important for younger generations to see.
- 71% of respondents think brands should be responsible for using advertising to promote positive messages to women and girls.
- 62% think any brand can enter the pro-female advertising space.
- 94% believe portraying women as sex symbols in advertisements is harmful.
- Just over half of those who responded said they have bought a product because they liked how the brand and their advertising portrays women.
- 46% have followed a brand in social media because they like what the company stands for.”
After watching this video and coming to understand the rise of femvertisement, it’s hard not to look back at The Sandlot and that defining insult differently, no matter how cherished the movie will always be in my childhood memory. That moment both highlights the cultural acceptance at the time of a girl’s perceived weakness, as well as the ongoing gender equality issue we deal with today. Perceiving women on even footing with men is a powerful change this #likeagirl conversation is seeking. Should this completely ruin your fondness for nostalgic movies like The Sandlot? No it shouldn’t. However, the next time you hear or are about to say something along the lines of “like a girl”, it should give you something to think about, what that really means, what you or someone else are really saying about women.