SuperBowl Sunday has come and gone. Great game, wasn't it? Even if you were trying to read your book between the ads, it was hard not to get sucked into the gridiron action. Whichever side you were on, or even if you were in it mostly for the nachos, it was a nail-biter.
What stuck with me long after the obligatory Gatorade dump, however, had less to do with hashmarks than hashtags. Or, rather, a particular hashtag: #LikeAGirl. It was promoted in an Always ad (yeah, I know) which you can see here. They asked "What does it mean to do something like a girl?" The boys mimicked girls running spastically and fighting as if swatting mosquitoes. The young girls in the ad exhibited strength, speed and confidence which, tragically, will largely disappear when they hit puberty. #LikeAGirl usurps the phrase from those who undermine the ability of girls and young women to dream, to compete, and to achieve.
My father was a ski instructor, tennis pro, and mountaineer. He was also something of a feminist. Although my sister, my brother and I were raised in the 60s and 70s, the sports fields were, at least in my father's eye, level. We played all the sports all the time, and were expected to compete, no whining or excuse-making allowed.
That's my brother, Ricky, on the left, and my big sister, Helga, getting ready for a race, and me, on the right. She was a tough act to follow!
And here's me, a few years later, demonstrating the awkard form that would be the hallmark of my racing career, such as it was.
But nevermind. It wasn't about winning (although we were all competitive). It was about feeling I had the right to be on the slope, or on the court, or a member of the team. My father once told me, laughing, that I ran like a duck, but he never once said I did anything like a girl. It wasn't plausible as an insult, as his girls, and the countless ones he taught sports to, were not deficient as a class.
I don't like competing in sports anymore, although I'm an absolute terror at board games. I push myself hard, though, and am not afraid to try new activities, whether of the body or of the mind. I have my father to thank for that, a man forty years ahead of his time.
Here he is flying off a backyard ski jump!
When I had daughters of my own, I vowed to give them the same gift. #LikeAGirl would be a compliment in our house. I let them choose their sports, as long as the activity was aerobic and didn't require smiling. They trained and competed in all sorts of sports and, I hope, felt empowered by them. It was good to be tough. It was okay to be sweaty. It was noble to compete.
(It's possible I wrote this post just so I could show you my fabulous daughters. Sorrynotsorry.)
As I said, I was fortunate my father had my back. And my girls are, I'm sure, glad to have benefited from his legacy. But many girls were not so lucky, certainly not forty years ago and, more importantly, many are still not today.
So, in support of those girls who don't know that behaving #LikeAGirl is wonderful and powerful, I'm going to use the hashtag whenever I can. Join me!
Run, fight, compete #LikeAGirl. Do science, math #LikeAGirl. Write #LikeAGirl. Paint, act, create #LikeAGirl.
And, most of all, Dream #LikeAGirl.