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#LikeAGirl, International Women's Day and The Struggle For Equality

Limits of my language means limits of my world

-Ludwig Wittgenstein

If our language is riddled with sexism, so too, is our world.

National Women’s day dawned on Sunday the 8th of March this year, heralding the Hashtag Make It Happen. Hand in hand with Always’ #LikeaGirl campaign, the phrase has seared its way through social media and the Web, leaving thousands-if not millions-of supporters in its wake.


storify.com

The Always brand, in their #LikeAGirl campaign has put forward to reclaim a prime example of inherently sexist language, with the aim to give meaning (both literal and positive) to the once demeaning expression.  

Always drew the eyes of no less than 114.4 million people, unleashing their movement during the Super Bowl ad breaks. Although their promotion of positive phrasing has become a separate, evolving entity, we must not forget the business brains of those behind their marketing strategy. Whilst the ad’s primary focus is clearly set on sexual equality, it’s hard to miss the secondary theme; Girls being active and unhindered all year round. This is strongly in-keeping with most Menstrual marketing, focusing on subtlety and offering that secret period you've Always wanted. It is easy to forget that these companies profit massively from a product that, in the eyes of the law, is still not deemed a necessity. If women are not granted time off from work for their periods, but also not allowed to bleed freely on their office chairs, then in what world are tampons and sanitary towels unnecessary, and in what world should people profit from this? Brand awareness may be the wind in their sails, but their accomplishments do undoubtedly serve the greater good.

The campaign’s march of progress heads towards sex and gender balance and, therefore, an inevitable neutrality. But, highlighting a phrase’s negativity in promoting its reverse is only the first step towards gender equality. Ultimately, through progressive thought, phrases such as ‘…like a girl!’ and ‘Man up!’ will be treated as the nonsensical observations they are.

It is news to no one that women have been severely wronged throughout our history. Patriarchal oppression haunts almost every corner of modern society, but where still prevalent is generally, and justly, uncovered as unacceptable
Hannah Goldberg writes for Time online magazine: ‘Acting “like a girl” should not be an insult’.  I wholly agree, but want to go a step further. My argument is that “acting like a girl” should not even be considered an inferable sentence, at least outside of the strictly empirical.

Bringing to life this year’s Woman’s day theme Make It Happen, the #LikeAGirl campaign confronts the roots of an emerging equality, in the pursuit of untangling a language deeply ingrained with the influence of an overtly sexist, fathering society.


telegraph.co.uk

The acquisition of language is a process that takes place so early on in our lives that it is easy to leave the way we speak unquestioned, lost in the mist of foggy memories. But without thorough examination we can easily remain ignorant of the implications our words and phrases carry. Sometimes these mistakes can be harmless, yet, in other cases, what we say may have sinister and potentially damaging, consequences.

Language evolves at a seemingly slower pace than that of ideas and actions. The birth of a new generation can bring revolution and evolution alike. However, we are hindered. We find ourselves struggling through a society brimming with striving ‘Equalists’ equipped with a language that betrays them at every unexamined corner. All involved in change are learned in a language unwittingly inherited from the same culture that caused or continued the imbalances we seek to settle. 

In the utopia we wish to walk toward arm in arm, we would hope that use of gender metaphors become objective, if not obsolete. By this, I mean that to follow the words ‘Like a…’ with a sex, race or gender, will be understood to be a completely meaningless statement; because all females run in various ways, none of which exclusive to their sex, to say ‘runs like a girl’ provides no metaphoric example from which to draw likeness.

Once we dismiss stereotypes born from some form of oppression, ‘runs like a girl’ could mean an infinite number of things, rendering it worthless as any meaningful point of comparison. It makes as much sense to say something is the same colour as a flower, as it does to say something is done ‘Like a girl’ (or a boy for that matter!). Flowers are all different colours, Girls are all different runners.
Now there is a seemingly pragmatic response on the tips of the tongues of those thick skinned, (well meaning?) optimists:

 “…Well for one thing; it could be a hell of a lot worse considering the way women used to be treated back in the day like. But when people say ‘throw like a girl’, for example, well, it’s not sexist, is it! If you got all the women in the world, and all the men in the world, the men would probably throw better. That’s just a fact, objective, not sexist...

The problem with these stereotypes is that their existence is born from oppression. It is clear to see that when in the proper environment to excel in these generic examples (running, throwing), women’s competencies vary in the same way as men’s.

This highlights another common issue. When a women does excel in an area ‘traditionally’ masculine, she may be complemented “She throws like a man!” or “She’s faster than most men!”, but, however well-meaning, this only exemplifies our society’s inadequacies. What these ‘complements’ mean in real terms are that she throws, or runs, as if she had the same opportunities as most men. This only highlights the way we conversationally accept huge injustices ever present in society.


ibitimes.com

Our present day is subject to the suffering of so many of humanity’s sub-categories, women obviously included. There are so many areas that must be re-calibrated to equality, so, in doing so one must be very careful in the ways of striking balance.

Because the power of men has outweighed that of Women for so, so many years, there is a necessary haste in finding balance. Every day we live before the age of equality is one riddled with injustice. Yet we know that, although quick, an eye for an eye is blindingly ineffective strategy. Without revolution, we must evolve, keeping the goal in mind: Equality.
 And remember this is not forged with hate, but born through love.

Why Purple?"

From 1908, the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in Great Britain adopted the colour scheme of purple, white and green to symbolise the plight of the Suffragettes. Purple symbolised justice and dignity - two values strongly associated with women's equality. The three colours were used for banners, flags, rosettes and badges to show solidarity.” 

Leo Donnelly

Ever wondered what would happen if you gave a half-crazed, semi-concussed, unstoppable maverick a platform to write about social media? Follow him @LeoAtSMF

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#LikeAGirl, International Women's Day and The Struggle For Equality Reviewed by Leo Donnelly on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 Rating: 5
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