By Corrin Bond
Super Bowl Sunday has become a cornerstone of American culture—we have bald eagles, stars and stripes, and a striking penchant for patriotism, but above all else, we have football. While I can only really watch football for ten minutes at a time, I still sit down every year on that one special Sunday—partially out of tradition, but mostly for the commercials. This year, unfortunately, some friends and I defaulted to watching a streamed version online that looped the same five or six commercials between every break. Among the handful we saw was a popular commercial that first began circulating online last year—the Always feminist #LikeAGirl video.
The commercial was aimed at taking back the common insult “like a girl,” and turning it into a positive phrase that builds confidence in young women, rather than a jab that implies they should be ashamed of their gender. I was so excited to see the commercial break free of the internet and have a televised debut that, in a moment of wishful idealism, I completely forgot that no statement in favor of gender equality is free from scrutiny. Within moments of being aired, so-called “Meninists,” members of the millennials’ anti-feminist social media movement, around the country began to protest the commercial’s existence.
If you’re wondering what the central argument of the protest may be, there really isn’t one. On February 2, the Meninists’ Twitter account posted, “#LikeABoy because equality matters.” This vague (but somehow revolutionary) tweet served as the catalyst for the #LikeABoy movement in which people all around the country began to fight… for men’s rights, because a company that sells personal hygiene products to women decided not only to market to women, but also to do it in a way that makes them feel empowered and good about themselves (how dare you, Always). BuzzFeed compiled a list of tweets, ranging from “#LikeABoy because I can actually run and throw” to “Bashed upon for stating my views, for hopefully one day us as men can have equality and treated the same #LikeABoy #Meninist.”
While I consider #LikeABoy to be the Swiss cheese of social movements, my biggest concern is that its creators and supporters are operating under the idea that women haven’t in fact been trivialized, marginalized, and oppressed for centuries. Literally, centuries. #LikeAGirl is in no way trying to support the superiority of women, it is only trying to change the connotation of a long-standing insult in an attempt to move one step closer to true gender equality. The commercial was monumental, in that not only did it not commodify any person in any way, but it encouraged girls to be proud of who they are. That in no way implied boys shouldn’t be proud of themselves, too. There is no need for a #LikeABoy commercial, because from birth society doesn’t assume that boys are not going to be as good, strong, or smart as the other half of the population.
The second commercial which sparked Meninist outrage that day was sponsored by T-Mobile and featured comedians Chelsea Handler and Sarah Silverman. The commercial features a light-hearted battle between the two comedians for the best reception, during which Sarah Silverman, in her underground emergency room, delivers a baby and snarkily comments to the parents, “Sorry, it’s a boy.”
The quip was so quick that I almost didn’t catch it. It made me laugh, and not because I think it’s okay to view the birth of any child as unfortunate, but because of how ludicrous that idea was to me—the idea that someone would view a baby boy as a misfortune is so foreign and absurd that it came off as humorous. While Meninists shifted to tweeting about how horrendously sexist Silverman’s comment was the only thing I could think about was the prevalence of female infanticide in many parts of the world. Son biases and male preferences are so strong in some countries (such as China and India) that thousands of baby girls are being purposefully killed or aborted. There are parents all over the world not only thinking, “Oh no, it’s a girl!” but also actually killing their babies because they believe it is better to be dead than to be a woman.
It makes me wonder: is there a percentage of the American population that just needs something to fight for? Then why not start a Twitter revolution about female infanticide? Be mad about the sex trafficking of young girls and boys. Find passion and a voice for all gender discrimination, everywhere.
As blogger Mama Lion Strong points out, #LikeABoy doesn’t have to be a bad thing. She argues that the hashtag would be beneficial if those behind it stopped trying to prove the marginalization of men and boys and started using it as a means of combating masculine stereotypes. She wants her son to be sensitive and compassionate “like a boy,” because the body into which you are born should not be indicative of the person you are or would like to become.
As the inflammatory antithesis of #LikeAGirl, it serves no purpose, but when promoted correctly #LikeABoy could easily be used as a vehicle for breaking down gender stereotypes and combating traditional ideas of masculinity. Regardless of how one uses it, at the end of the day, fighting for #LikeABoy and #LikeAGirl only perpetuates the gender dichotomy and encourages further division between sexes. Change isn’t initiated by a perpetual stalemate caused by continual clashes, change starts when we are finally willing to look beyond anatomy and begin seeing others #LikeAHuman. Change is when we begin to look beyond our borders, it is when we begin to understand that who we are and what we do as human beings is in no way defined by what is or isn’t between our legs