What my 5-year-old son thinks of female empowerment ads

Brands can teach children equality

Image source: Getty
Image source: Getty

Movements such as #MeToo remind me that, as a parent of a 5-year-old son, Generation Alpha boys don’t have to be alpha males. It’s important for boys to learn to see women as equals from a young age.

Brands have entered this conversation with empowering spots showcasing real stories of inspirational women. I tried an experiment to see what my son thought of these ads without prompting.

I started with CoverGirl’s #GirlsCan: Women Empowerment ad. The spot starts with Queen Latifah and Ellen DeGeneres talking about how girls are often told they can’t be strong or funny. They then share how they turned "can’t" into "can."

My son’s reaction: "That was funny, because they kept saying ‘girls can’t.’"

I moved onto Always’ #LikeAGirl, which features children. He said, "I learned nothing." I asked whether he thinks it’s a good thing to be a girl. He said, "Yes." However, his main takeaway from the video was that it, too, was funny.

The next spot was Barbie’s Dads Who Play Barbie, which shows real fathers playing Barbie with their daughters. My son said it "didn’t seem totally normal" because "boys are not into Barbies."

I told him the video proved the opposite and shared a story about how my own dad used to play Barbie with me. My son responded, "Dads can play with their daughters, but not all the time because they have to work." I asked him again if boys can play with dolls, and he said, "Yes, because it’s just about imagination."

Next was GE’s Meet Molly, the Kid Who Never Stops Inventing. He watched with amazement and kept asking, "Is that girl the inventor?" He thought she was smart.

This spot had the biggest impact on my son because he could relate to it. He said, "I make [inventions] all the time."

Finding female empowerment ads for my son’s age group, and aimed at boys, is a challenge. Brands are re-educating adults about equality, but their target audience should be children as young as my son, who is just starting to notice the differences between boys and girls.

It’s up to parents to delve into this conversation with their children, but brands can play a role, too.

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