In the past week, both Always and Verizon released videos intended to address self-esteem issues among young girls and women. Always sought to reclaim the phrase “like a girl,” while Verizon went the route of “inspire her mind.”
To elicit a response, these videos use a lethal combination of big “aha” moments, Pinterest-board-ready slogans, and gender-gap statistics. It’s a manipulative formula, and because most of us are not robots, it does end up eliciting something — maybe even igniting some “man, this is powerful” conversations. But, especially after the past week’s double serving, it’s safe to say we’ve reached peak corporate-sponsored empowerment.
Between Dove and now a sanitary-napkin company and a phone service provider, I feel like someone is always asking me to cry and then emphatically pump my fist. Is anyone else growing weary of this model? Is it even doing anything? If big corporations want to help inspire a new generation of girls to feel confident in sports or math or themselves, perhaps a better idea is to stop telling girls what to feel (and buy) and start showing them what they can do.
The New York Times has this great mini-documentary featuring the three 6-year-old girls who make up Encinitas Park skateboarding gang the Pink Helmet Posse. Without cloying emotional overtures or heavy-handed (ineffective) conversations about feelings, the documentarians behind the eight-minute video seek to encourage girls and young women simply by showing them what they are capable of — in this case, shredding on the same half-pipe as their big brothers and dreaming of X Games glory.
One day spent getting skateboarding lessons from the three of them would probably teach me more about self-esteem than a lifetime of Dove campaigns. And, bonus: They have great taste in nail polish.