Please Don't Tell Me I Run 'Like a Girl' Amanda Killelea Reports on the Viral Video Trying to Stop Gender Stereotyping Destroying Our Teenage Girls' Self-Esteem - and How Parents Can Also Help Them

The Mirror (London, England), July 23, 2014 | Go to article overview

Please Don't Tell Me I Run 'Like a Girl' Amanda Killelea Reports on the Viral Video Trying to Stop Gender Stereotyping Destroying Our Teenage Girls' Self-Esteem - and How Parents Can Also Help Them


It's the global film that parents everywhere are talking about, a must-see for any mother or father trying to raise a young daughter.

Like A Girl is a three-minute video that is challenging our concept of the phrase "like a girl", asking why it's considered an insult.

Today, these words have become a casually sexist put-down suggesting that throwing, running or generally doing anything like a girl must mean one thing - being bad at it.

The film, made by award-winning US documentary maker Lauren Greenfield, has gone viral. It got 31 million views in one week, its #likeagirl hashtag has been tweeted by Chelsea Clinton and it is now being shared on social media by parents.

In the clip, Greenfield challenges a group of young adults to demonstrate what they think it means to "run like a girl". They run slowly, kicking their legs out awkwardly.

She then asks them to "throw like a girl".

They do a half-hearted lob, which wouldn't make a ball travel more than a few feet. "Fight like a girl" elicits squeals and flailing arms.

Then a group of primary school-aged girls are asked the same questions and the response couldn't be more different.

They run like a gang of Sonia O'Sullivans going for gold. They throw as though they have javelins in their small hands and punch like Olympic hero Katie Taylor.

The film, commissioned by Always, the sanitary towel company, begins in a jokey way but then soon becomes as serious as its message - that our teen girls are in crisis.

There has been a steady rise in the numbers of young women suffering from low self-esteem over their looks, anxiety over exams and little confidence in their abilities or sense of self-worth.

Charities report that rising numbers are coming to them with tales of depression, drink and drugs and, in worst case scenarios, suicidal thoughts as they struggle to cope with the challenges of adolescence.

In 2011-12, 470 12-year-olds contacted Childline about self-harming and this rose to 700 in 2012-13. So what changes between the innocent pre-teen years and adulthood? Why are girls born naturally confident and driven to succeed become suddenly consumed by self-consciousness and crippling self-doubt once they hit puberty? According to Professor Rachel Calam, head of the School of Psychological Sciences and professor of child and family psychology at Manchester University, children - and girls in particular - go through lots of developmental changes as they approach puberty, which may contribute.

"There is a stage of development that young people get to where there is a drop in self-esteem," she says.

"As the teenage years come in, children become much more aware of the views of others as they are finding out about themselves. Also, as girls move into puberty, changes in their body are often a lot more apparent than they are for boys. When children get to the age of about eight or nine, they become more peer-focused and externally focused.

"Instead of their families being the most important source of information, they get information from many different places, and not all of it enforces a positive message."

She adds that society, the media and social media also have a role to play.

"There is so much 'pinkification' of things in the media and strong sex stereotypes. Often there is an absence of strong, positive influences.

"Instead girls see celebrities who present themselves physically or behave in a sexually stereotypical way.

"Girls and boys need to know there are many other ways to achieve - in school, in sport, becoming involved in community projects where they can help others.

"It is very easy to get lost in celebrity with TV shows like The X Factor, which put other people down."

The Like A Girl film highlights the challenges faced by parents trying to steer their daughters through adolescence and turn them into strong adult women. …

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