By Kara Chyung
At PBG, we tend to talk more about the negative events happening in the world and with feminism; sexual assault, objectifying advertisements, and Photoshop are among the most common themes. This is understandable; since our goal is to promote the power of women, we try to address all of the negative portrayals of women that exist in our daily lives.
However, it seems that a lot has changed since I first joined PBG. Many more companies have adopted the mindset of the Dove Real Beauty Campaign, which was launched in 2004. With Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches and Aerie’s Real Beauty Campaign, I am seeing more media campaigns that seek to portray real, unedited women than I was even one year ago. While these campaigns aren’t necessarily flawless (e.g. what exactly is “real beauty” anyway?), they do demonstrate a lot of positive change in the amount of respect women receive from the media.
The latest in this new stream of ads is Covergirl’s “Girls Can” advertisement, featuring Ellen DeGeneres, Katy Perry, Sofia Vergara, Janelle Monae, Pink, Queen Latifah, and ice-hockey player Natalie Wiebe. The one-minute video begins with the words “Girls can’t.” Each of the women then lists something she’s been told that she couldn’t do because she was female (“girls can’t be funny,” “girls can’t rap,” “girls can’t be strong”), and then says how she decided to ignore what others said to achieve her goals.
Toward the beginning of the ad, Ellen says, “Girls can’t. Sometimes you hear it, but more often you feel it.” I think that this summarizes perfectly the struggle with confidence and self-esteem that most girls face. While you still hear blatantly sexist language, it is usually the little things that are the biggest discouragements, like a flawless photo of your favorite celebrity in a magazine or being the only girl on your quiz bowl team. But the message of the video is that we cannot allow these obstacles to control who we are and the decisions that we make. Even though it is absolutely true, “be yourself” is a such a cliché, and what those words actually mean can sometimes unclear. But I interpret it to mean that you can be whatever you choose to be, and that being a girl should certainly not going to stop you from doing so. The world is not always a friendly environment for women, and it only will be if we have the courage to change it.