Empowering Always video redefines what it means to run ‘like a girl’

LOS ANGELES –The latest ad by Always, the maker of sanitary pads, considers why girls lose confidence after puberty and clearly, it has struck a chord; in less than a week, it has more than 17 million views on YouTube.

It’s the latest in what’s becoming a trend of gender empowerment videos and campaigns by consumer products companies. In the past few months, Pantene raised questions about why women apologize, Dove urged women to appreciate their beauty and HelloFlo hilariously showcased a girl pretending to get her first period.

In the Always ad, adolescent girls, older women, boys and men are asked to demonstrate how to “run like a girl,” “fight like a girl” and “throw like a girl.”

They respond with negative stereotypes: arms flailing as they run, awkwardly slapping instead of making powerful punches.

Compare that with how girls 10 and younger answered: They were girls on fire, running as fast, hitting as hard and throwing as far as they could.

To them, running “like a girl” meant running like themselves.

“I started crying about halfway through the video,” said Rachel Hammond, editor of Mom Colored Glasses, an online magazine for moms, and a mom of three in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“It makes me feel so sad for the (older) girls in the video, and so proud of the young girls, and so sad to think about my kids and the possibilities there are for them to lose that self-confidence,” said Hammond, who has two girls, 5 and 9.Critically acclaimed director and photographer Lauren Greenfield, whose past works include the film “THIN” about eating disorders and the book “Girl Culture” on body image, directed the project. It involved interviews with more than 100 people.

“I knew that girls suffered a confidence crisis at puberty but had no idea we would see such strong stereotypes played out and such a dramatic shift at puberty,” said Greenfield, who also directed the documentary “The Queen of Versailles,” about a billionaire and his family before and after the economy tanked in 2008.

“The other surprise was the people who acted out negative stereotypes were able to reflect on their own actions almost immediately,” she said. “It made us realize how deep and ingrained the stereotypes were, but also people’s desire to change them.”

“We’re kicking off an epic battle to make sure that girls everywhere keep their confidence throughout puberty and beyond, and making a start by showing them that doing it #LikeAGirl is an awesome thing,” ‘Always’ wrote on the YouTube page.