The Like a Girl advert has been all over social media this week: another example of thought-provoking gender-aware marketing (even if it IS by Proctor and Gamble). It mirrors the recent Dove, Pantene and No.7 adverts, but with the crucial difference that Always aren’t pretending that women’s empowerment is based entirely on looking good. It’s also reminiscent of the Ban Bossy campaign; challenging the many acceptable ways of talking about women negatively.
I’ve always been a feminist, but my beliefs and feelings have clarified since I had a daughter: and my feelings are pretty much disbelief and anger. There are so many disturbing, seemingly unstoppable trends – whether it’s insidious cultural noise or more serious complicity with abuse.
Last month I found out that my niece (aged 9) now refuses to wear shorts and dresses… she has stopped doing sport where she needs to show her legs, because apparently they are “too hairy”. She has already got the message that it’s more important for her to look a certain way than to run fast, to be free. Unless she can get over this, is there any chance at all now that she’ll be a runner, or a swimmer or just a lover of jumping around in the sun? What else is going to be squeezed out of her enjoyment in life over the next 7 years?
And then… The combination of that grim-sounding Magaluf sex video, Rolf Harris’ conviction, the fact that so many women are abused by their exes by the publication of sexually explicit images online…
…And that this latter action is not currently illegal.
How is this possible? How is it possible for someone to take a private photo or video of me and put it up for men to laugh at or wank over, and this isn’t a violation of my human rights and protected by law? Our laws are not keeping up with the tidalwave of bullying and woman-hating in new media. We need a speedier solution than years of dragging bills through parliament.
It may be the hair-dye talking, but I feel that the time for a revolution has arrived. Having skirted round the edge of direct action for a number of years, it seems that words no longer make change happen: it’s all about the action. And if you can film that action and not get prosecuted, so much the better.
As a teenager I wished I was a man. It seemed to be the only way to have a fulfilled, free life and to be the person I wanted to be. But I think differently now. I want to be a woman – but a woman in a society that behaves radically differently from how ours does. And I for one am ready to be part of that revolution.
This post is dedicated to Gloria Steinem – “Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself”