Always championing girls’ wallets

BY SRI PONNADA | JULY 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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After watching the new Always commercial, I’m not sure if I’ve witnessed an advertisement for tampons and pads or some poorly filmed documentary about sexism.

The three-minute video, crafted by award-winning director Lauren Greenfield, hopes to challenge the notion that doing something “like a girl” means doing a poor job, that it’s an insult. Anyone who lives in America knows that.

The ad starts off with men and women of various ages who are supposedly auditioning for a commercial. The director (who we know is a woman from her voice) instructs the people auditioning to “run like a girl” or “fight like a girl,” and the actors do these actions in the most needlessly silly and stereotypical ways possible. Inadequacy. Then, the commercial switches to show us a couple of young girls who do the same actions, “like girls” — except they are running and fighting all fast and furious. The ad asks the audience, “When did doing something ‘like a girl’ become an insult?”
I don’t know? I don’t understand why I’m being asked this. Isn’t the ad supposed to sell me a tampon? Whatever happened to period ads with girls kicking and swimming and riding bikes and all that good stuff with a few lines about the product?

Obviously, the popular notion of femaleness being something that’s shameful or inadequate is very troubling. Stereotypes about femininity and the decrease in self-confidence among women as they mature — which is also addressed in the ad later on by a tall, slim blonde with blue-green eyes who gives a spiel about how hard it is for girls to hear “like a girl” as an insult — are real problems.

However, I don’t think that Always — a brand of feminine-hygiene products owned by the multinational corporation Procter & Gamble — is the chosen one to “champion girls’ confidence” as the ad promises.

It’s all a bunch of bull-hokey.

Well, I mean, it’s great that there’s all this concern in society about women’s issues. But take a minute from all the positive, empowering feelings that the commercial is supposed to invoke (there must be something wrong with me, because I just got angry when I saw it), and you’ll see it for what it really is — a shameless exploitation of emotions in an effort to get women to buy pads and tampons. This campaign is just part of a booming new advertising trend in feminine-care products. It’s just like Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign.

What the hell does deodorant have to do with being beautiful? Nothing. Just like Always has nothing to do with girls’ confidence.

If Always and other companies that make products marketed to women are so concerned about women’s issues, why not invest some money into actually solving them? They could donate some of their advertising budget to women’s organizations or set up more scholarships for women in pursuit of higher education. They could even fund decent documentaries made by women, such as “Miss Representation,” since female directors and characters are still so underrepresented in American cinema. Stereotypes and other issues affecting women aren’t going to change because a dramatic tampon commercial says they should.

These companies could at least advertise their products in an appealing way, since that’s their end goal anyway — selling products to make money. There is nothing self-righteous and philosophical about periods. Ads should be informative and entertaining, not pseudo-concerned and abusive of emotions and social issues for the sake of making a buck.

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