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2/2/15blog post

the Super Bowl and gender stereotypes

Another Super Bowl is in the record books. I knew I would write something about it before the game even started, but there were so many different potential topics that I wasn’t sure where to begin. Numerous players had injuries. There’s the deflategate scandal, and sportsmanship is always a hot topic. But sometimes, the opportunity presents itself in the advertisements.

It’s not every day that we see a feminine products ad during a football game, but Always did just that with their #likeagirl campaign. It received mixed reviews by seeking to destroy the stereotype that “like a girl” is somehow inferior or inadequate. Supporters applauded their effort to change the stereotype. Critics say that this effort drew attention to the stereotype unnecessarily. Whatever your thoughts, it is making people talk and touching a nerve. This is the sign of a successful ad, and a sensitive topic. See the commercial below in case you missed it.

At the end, the commercial states that a girl’s self-esteem drops during puberty. Unfortunately, this is true for many girls. However, research shows that regular participation in sports has a positive impact and raises self-esteem for most participants, both boys and girls. Participation in sports can teach girls that they are also strong, fast, and successful. It teaches the importance of putting in effort now for reward later. There are plenty of women in sports who destroy the negative “like a girl” label and would make great role models for young athletes. One only needs to look to their local college sports or the Olympics to find them.

The Everlast ad challenged the stereotype that certain sports are for boys and others are for girls. (I don’t want to get into the debate on whether or not children should be boxing – that’s for another time). So why do we still say things like “male cheerleader” or “female wrestler?” Under Amour demonstrated in their ad how society can put athletes into certain boxes based on not only gender but age, race and body type.

It would be foolish for me to say that boys and girls are the same, and would go against a lot of my medical training. Physically, they are not the same. But they have the same hopes and fears, the same desires to succeed, the same need for love and acceptance, and the same passion to excel at something.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could help meet their needs, regardless of which route they used to do it? I have to admit that I might cringe a little if my son wanted to sign up for a “girl” sport. Instead of cringing, I should think of all the positive things it would teach him. Breaking down gender stereotypes is just one of them.

These ads emphasize the fact that gender stereotypes are still strong in sports and in the perception of athletic ability. We can all help by letting our children explore any sport they choose without passing on the stereotypes. And regardless of sport or gender, we should celebrate the positive things that sports participation teaches them – physically, mentally, and emotionally. This sets them up for a healthy adulthood. And really, isn’t that one of our primary jobs as parents?