Empowerment is the new black. That's right, you're not the only one generously offering a "like" to that inspiring quote splattered on a photo of a women who reached the top of a mountain just as the sun sets on her back. You're doing it, and so are thousands of other people.
Guess who else has caught on to the trend? Marketers.
For quite some time now, we've been seeing everyone from big and small companies to one-man-shows and aspiring YouTube stars create content that is inspiring, empowering, and motivational in hopes of enjoying viral success. If these brands can make their messages appeal to women, even better. After all, we are the all mighty consumer.
Last week, Always released its "Like a Girl" campaign directed by Lauren Greenfield, who won the Sundance Film Festival Directing award for The Queen of Versailles. Already at nearly 14 million views on YouTube (at the time this article was written), the you-go-girl video aims to redefine what it means to take actions like a girl. After interviewing a few young women, a grown man, a boy, and young girls, Greenfield illustrates to the viewer how our perception of what "like a girl" means depends on our age. The young girls heroically show off their speed as they run like a girl, while the older subjects daintily flap their limbs around while flipping their hair.
Viewers have taken their response to the streets of social media, applauding the company for using its platform towards social change. The campaign's hashtag is all over Twitter followed by the tweets of young and old women who finally feel heard and understood -- by a feminine products company, nonetheless.
And while plenty of voices are rushing to praise Always, there are also those calling the brand's bluff. The Daily Beast's Emily Shire writes, "If Always is going to peg a giant message about self-confidence without any actual mention of menstruation in the commercial, it seems somewhat deceptive." While Slate's Amanda Hess shares, "These companies have discovered that women and girls want to see clever, funny, and revelatory stories about themselves on screen, and good for them. But it's a little sad that all of this enthusiasm for women's stories are leading us directly to a box of maximum protection with wings, while female filmmakers and characters are still so underrepresented at the box office."
There's no denying this video's power. It brought tears to my eyes even though I knew, underneath it all, Procter & Gamble is selling me menstrual pads via a really well funded YouTube video. I consider myself a feminist (someone who stands for the equal rights of everyone), and you know what? I'm totally okay with Always peddling me pads by exploiting my emotions.
Sure, it would have been nice if the brand would have started by letting us know, "Hey, by the way, companies like ours are quite responsible for the reason why women have thought for so many years that they need to keep up some perfect image. After all, we've been encouraging you to keep your menstruation on the down-low with our amazingly discrete products."
Yes, that would have been nice. But companies like Procter & Gamble who have shareholders (which by the way might be your mom, your dad, and your mentor) to answer to are completely scared to go any further. After all, if they were to plummet tomorrow and lay off loads of people, we'd all be pissed, too.
Rather than slap them on the wrist for not scoring the A, right off the bat, let's show them the intelligent, compassion group that we are. Let's raise our girls -- and boys, for that matter -- to dig for truth. Let's not wait for the big companies to do it for us. Isn't that the equivalent of waiting for someone to save us when the fact is we have all the power we need inside of us?
We all know these companies want to make their shareholders happy. How do they do this? By making you, the consumer, happy. Tell them how to make you happy. Use your hard-earned dollars to stand up for what you believe in. Do the research. And then show a little girl how you did it.
Messages that can change your life come from the strangest vehicles, some times. And if some adolescent out there resonates with the corporate-funded "Like a Girl" campaign, should we worry that she's going to become a product-binging robot because she saw Always' logo at the end of an inspiring message? Or should we hold the hope that she will become a world-changing activist one day who motivates millions of others to create the change we are yearning for?
I don't know about you, but I'm willing to take the risk. And for the record, I hope she does it like a girl.