The message of the #LikeAGirl campaign struck a chord with Boston Blades forward and U.S. Olympian Hilary Knight the moment she saw the commercial during the Super Bowl.
In the minute-long spot, a voice from behind the camera asks men and women, young and old, to mime tasks, “like a girl.” In the first half, the men and women mimic someone barely capable of accomplishing athletic feats like running, throwing and fighting. In the latter half, young women show exactly how they do those same tasks, running furiously on the spot and fighting with all their might. That’s what struck Knight most.
“The commercial actually changed the way that I saw the phrase previously,” Knight said following her three-goal, five-point game to lead the Blades to the Clarkson Cup final. “Being in the sport that I am, I’ve heard, ‘Oh, you shoot like a girl.’ That implied that you didn’t shoot well enough to be on the ice.”
It wasn’t only Knight who had her views impacted. Before the commercial aired a survey showed only 19 percent of those polled found the phrase offensive, Knight says. After seeing the spot, 72 percent understood the impact those three little words can have.
“That’s what’s special about the Always #LikeAGirl campaign,” said Knight. “It’s very positive. A lot of people see this commercial or see the ‘Stronger Together’ video say, ‘Wow.’ It’s life changing. And I think that speaks volumes when you can put something out there that gains traction and becomes a movement for the better.”
Knight has been a part of campaigns like this before. In October, as part of World Girls’ Ice Hockey Week, she skated with the Anaheim Ducks to help promote the women’s game and try to grow the sport. Initiatives like #LikeAGirl and those that help show young women they can play alongside the men are something Knight says she’s always looking for, especially because she understands how the women before her paved the way.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for people like Billie Jean King or the famous (1999 U.S.) women’s World Cup soccer team,” Knight said. “If I look at hockey specifically – yes, I’m a professional hockey player, but I see so much opportunity for potential growth. Supporting and being proud of who I am and where I come from, and innately being a female and being a woman in sports, that’s sort of my dream goal to continue to push women’s sports.”
There may be no greater measure of how much Knight has helped change the perspective of women’s hockey than that she says she has received a number of offers to play men’s hockey in Europe. She didn’t accept any of the offers, though, because she believes she has work to do in North America. Namely, she wants to make sure women’s hockey isn’t just, “discovered every four years.”
Getting to this point in her career – becoming an Olympic athlete, a CWHL leading scorer and sought after player by European men’s squads – hasn’t been easy, though. Knight tells a story of the time she was five or six years old, watching the Olympics with her mother and grandmother. She pointed to the men’s hockey game on TV, saying she would one day play in the tournament. Her grandmother said girls don’t play hockey, to which Knight’s mother replied, simply put, that her daughter does. But even with her mom at her side, Knight’s climb had its difficulties.
“I was bullied by a lot of the opposing team parents and opposing team, so I cut my hair short just to fit in,” Knight says. “It was definitely a hard process, and it’s not like women’s hockey was back then what it is now.”
Now one of the brightest stars in hockey, Knight hopes she can help prove to other young women that doing things like a girl, as the campaign suggests, means doing them with passion and determination, not any differently than their male counterparts. That message, and being part of this campaign and others like it, has made Knight a role model for young female athletes, a responsibility she gladly accepts.
“Things like this are in my DNA,” said Knight. “I always want to change the world and impact people’s lives in a positive way.”
Her impact has been positive. She says she hasn’t heard a word of negativity about the campaign, and it’s clear just how much young female players adore her.
In the ‘Stronger Together’ video, Knight unloads a slapshot and tells the camera she shoots like a girl. But it’s not about her shooting like a girl, scoring like a girl or skating like a girl, all things she does with many times the ability of thousands upon thousands of men, but rather that she has the passion and determination to get involved with campaigns that can help level the playing field for the generation of women that follows.
No matter where the #LikeAGirl campaign takes her, she’s going to keep working to make sure women’s sports continue to grow and young women battle against those who think there are things women can’t do.
“Don’t be deterred or ashamed of what your dreams and passions are and don’t give up,” Knight says. “There are going to be a lot of people who are going to tell you no. But if you’re passionate about it and have the will to want it and the will to win it, you’ll succeed.”