Always has released a follow-up to last year’s phenomenally popular mini-documentary Like A Girl, this time addressing the limitations that young women face. But it is another feel-good smash, or the ‘difficult second album’?
Like A Girl has racked up well over 50 million views on YouTube in the year since it was launched and is the most successful example of a recent trend in advertising for work that aims to empower women and girls. Created by documentary maker Lauren Greenfield, its strength lies in the simplicity of its message, which tackles the innate negativity within the phrase ‘like a girl’.
Always has returned to Greenfield for this new film, above, and its style is very similar to its predecessor though its premise is more nebulous. Whereas our familiarity with the expression ‘like a girl’ means it requires no further explanation, here we are presented with the broader question of whether we limit girls, which is then backed up by a statistic – always beware the use of statistics in ads – from a survey conducted by Always which states that “72% of girls feels society limits them”.
As in Like A Girl, the film is well cast and includes a number of moving testimonies about the way that women have felt suppressed by their gender – one girl’s remark that she can’t rescue anybody as it’s always boys that do the rescuing in stories is particularly poignant. But to tackle this repression, Greenfield then tasks the participants to write down their experiences on a set of white cardboard boxes and then beat them up, and the emotional impact is rather lost along the way.
It’s difficult to really complain about Always’ message though – after all, the idea that girls are hemmed in by their gender will be familiar to any parent who has searched around for non-princessy options for their daughters. And it was always going to be hard to come up with another concept as strong as Like A Girl. But I can’t help wishing then that the brand had left it at that, rather than feeling the need to earnestly reiterate its message in this second film.
Commercialism and gender issues are an uneasy mix – on the one hand, a powerful, important message can be transmitted to a wide audience, yet on the other, tagging empowerment to a brand can make it all seem a bit throwaway, as if this year’s feminism could easily be replaced with a new endline. And as each new iteration of a brand’s message appears, its core strength can get slowly eroded – just look at the recent backlash over Dove’s advertising if you need an example of how a message of support and empowerment can turn into one that is viewed as patronising and insulting. Always is still in safe territory with this film, but I have a sense of foreboding for where it will go next, and what will be the future issues for women and girls that the brand will want to change, via a hashtag, of course.