#LikeAGirl: Why Feminism Has Nothing to do With Hating Men

Always’ new campaign “Unstoppable” aims to defeat gender barriers that suggest women cannot be strong, confident and brave. The campaign is designed to empower women, but it’s already been criticized for ignoring the struggles of men. TWC investigates what this tells us about modern interpretations of Feminism…

The first #LikeAGirl video was launched in June last year. The ad called on women and girls all over the world to reclaim the phrase “Like a Girl” as a positive description of an individual who can run, throw, kick – who can live with strength and vigour.

Always ‘Like a Girl’ Campaign Highlights Shocking Views of Women in Sport

The ad has had 58 million views and inspired women all over the world. It has, however, also received the obligatory criticism of any campaign aimed at empowering women.

“Menists” were offended by the airing of the ad during a Super Bowl game (AH! You said “PERIOD” during SUPER BOWL), sparking the creation of a #LikeABoy hashtag. The reactionary hashtag built up comments such as:

The defensive reaction seems odd – since there isn’t any instance during the commercial where men are actually insulted.

No one is stating “THE PATRIARCHY IS AT FAULT – DOWN WITH MEN” – simply that there is some nasty seed ingrained in society that dictates that girls can’t run, kick, throw, or generally kick ass.

In this country, women weren’t able to vote in equal numbers to men until 1928,  men STILL earn nearly 20% more than women for doing the same jobs, we’ve STILL only ever had one female prime minister, and it’s STILL normal for a woman to get £14,000 less for winning a bicycle race. 

All of that sucks, but we’re not actually blaming men for it. Who cares who set up “the system” – we just want rid.

Who cares who set up “the system” – we just want rid.

As of this week, Always are back – with #LikeAGirl, Unstoppable, which launched on Tuesday. The video investigates the barriers placed on girls from an early age – ideas that girls should be quiet, nice, and good – never bolshy, brash, loud, or – let’s face it – confident.

The premise is fairly simple: The young girls and women write down the words which define their barriers on large white building blocks. Tumbling, smashing, and general destruction ensues.

The video has already collected over 4 million views, and hundreds of comments. The high majority are inspired, invigorated, and have nothing but praise for the short film.

However, likewise to the initial campaign and its #LikeABoy reaction, there are already some who seem offended by the focus on women, without sympathy for men.

For example, ‘Sally D’ says: “Boys have limits put on them as well: You can’t play with ‘girly’ toys/ watch ‘girly’ programs, etc because it’s for girls, you can do ballet because it’s for girls.”

Liz says: “The sad thing is males are EXPECTED to do sports or go to the military, and if you don’t there’s something wrong with you.”

These comments are entirely fair. Men are expected, from an early age, to be strong, to be “rescuers”, never to be weak. We know that men have problems too. Indeed, men are reportedly four times more likely to commit suicide than women. In 2013, 78% of the 6,000 plus UK suicides were men.

So yes, whilst a frighteningly low number of women occupy roles deemed as challenging (women make up only 20% of the board members at FTSE 100 companies) men are out there working on the board and topping themselves when it all gets too much. Neither sex is doing very well out of gender ideals, and we know this.

However, it’s worth noting that the video produced by Always doesn’t have a lot to do with men. The ad has been created by a company who make sanitary towels, so the interest is always going to be towards people who menstruate – let’s be honest, they buy more sanitary towels.

Empowering women, and fighting for women to be “allowed” to be strong, fast, and loud, does not automatically mean belittling men.

Jumping to the conclusion that an ad which aims to send a positive message to women automatically sends a negative one to men demonstrates that there is still something very wrong with our understanding of equality. In other words, there is something wrong with how we view feminism.

It is far from the first time feminism has been equated to man hating. “Anti-feminsim” even has its own Wikipedia entry, which states: “Antifeminism may be motivated by general hostility towards women’s rights, the belief… that feminism as a movement encourages misandry and seeks to harm or oppress men.”

There’s even a “Women Against Feminism” Tumblr page. It’s painful enough that men can’t stand the idea of identifying with a term that means equality for the sexes. When women are stating that they won’t stand for the cause of equality because of the connotations of the word “feminist” – we’ve got problems.

As Emma Watson explained to the United Nations: “Fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop… For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”

Any person who identifies with a belief that men and women should be equal is a feminist. That doesn’t mean they hate men or don’t care for their causes.

Being a feminist means believing women have as much right to wear as little or as much clothing as they like without being abused. As do men.

It means holding the door open, and having the door held open – really depending upon who is holding the most baggage. It means paying half the bill, unless someone has every intention of treating you (and you’re just as welcome to treat them right back).

It means earning the same amount of money for doing the same job. It means doing the ironing if you’re better at doing the ironing, or fixing the car if you’re better at fixing the car – as long as the share is broadly equal. It means a man being just as welcome to be a stay at home dad as a woman is to be a stay at home mum.

This distorted view that feminism means slamming men has really got to stop, because it’s giving equality a bad name. Men and women deserve 50% of the pie, 50% of the share of work – it’s up to individuals to decide who is best working where.

Women should not be told they can’t be strong, and men should not be told they can’t be weak. Always have got the first half covered – good on them.

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