And not to care if anyone tells them it’s not
It’s not just cycling that has a major gender bias towards men – the same can be seen in a range of sports: fewer women taking part, fewer women consuming media around the sport, and women at the top of the field receiving a tiny percentage of men’s prize funds.
The issue is very much ‘chicken and egg’ in my opinion and #ThisGirlCan are trying to stop the cycle.
Sport England tell us 2 million fewer women regularly participate in exercise than men. With little seeming interest in activity, the media, facilities and sports clubs are geared towards men. So fewer women take part, leading the media, facilities and clubs to become further entrenched in their masculine portrayal of sport. It’s a self-perpetuating negative cycle.
So why do so few women take part?
According to Sport England, 75% of women aged 14-40 want to do more. Focus groups and research led them to identify fear of judgement as one of the most prominent barriers.
Sport England’s CEO Jennie Price said at the launch of #ThisGirlCan: “It’s stuff like ‘I’m too fat to do this’ or ‘I’m not fit enough to go to that class’, or ‘If I get on that treadmill and press that button and fall off, I’m going to look really stupid and everybody is going to stare at me, and I’m certainly not going to wear those clothes to do it’. We are trying to say it’s perfectly normal to feel like that, don’t beat yourself up about it.”
Fear of looking sweaty on a treadmill, silly in workout kit, or slow and unfit, isn’t something that stops all women. Personally, though I still worry about slow, I value sweat and I’d live in lycra if it was socially acceptable. However, it is a major barrier for plenty of women I’ve spoken to.
Fear of a jiggle belly, misbehaving jumping boobs, sweaty hair before work, and coming ‘very last’ and ‘holding people up’ are all concerns I’ve heard. #ThisGirlCan sets out to show women of all kinds that women of all kinds can get active – that normal, healthy bellys jiggle a bit, and that sweaty hair can be the product of an awesome workout that leads to confidence and empowerment.
All about confidence
#ThisGirlCan is clearly not a campaign that seeks to address sport at a high level – it isn’t directly about TV coverage, wages, or women who want to compete – and if it tried to be, it would probably not reach its target – those who are inactive because they feel they aren’t fit enough.
Instead, #ThisGirlCan sets out to show women who feel self-conscious exercising that they don’t have to be fit to get fit, that they can have fun whilst doing it, and that there are many ways to living a more active life.
All of the women featured are real, genuine role models, and their confidence oozes from every scene. The confidence is infectious – and I hope it rubs off – because that is what sport and activity provides: confidence, self assurance, and genuinely so much joy.
Long term, more women enjoying sport means more women demanding equality in coverage, athlete support (check out Nicole Cooke’s The Breakaway for more on that) and competition. However, just as importantly, more women enjoying sport means more women with smiles on their faces, out riding in the lanes, kicking balls around the park, and basically having a damn good time ‘getting their freak on’.
Find out more: http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/