Category Archives: feminism

“Superwomen” and what’s wrong with sport

September 22, 2013

So the other day a friend of mine posted some coverage of his school which, while great for his school and all, got my blood absolutely boiling. I thought about replying and then thought, well I don’t want to be that person that turns something genial and nice into raging grimness, so no, let’s step away.

And I hadn’t thought about it again until this morning. When reading the Times, I spy and advert on the periphery of yet another article about political sniping for The 100 Richest Sportsmen. Let’s just re-read that a second. The 100 Richest SportsMEN. “Is there an equivalent 100 richest sportsWOMEN?” I don’t hear anyone cry. No. Actually. There is a ‘Wealthiest Young Sportsmen‘ list, just in case we weren’t sure which part of the sports industry this country likes to vomit money at. That would be Men and Young Men, then.

The article, by the way, that spawned this whole post was around a lack of ”accessible” role models for young girls in sport. I take a little issue with that, because I don’t feel that Jessica Ennis – being pretty much the only female sports persona we get to hear about once the Olympics has finished – is an ‘inaccessible’ role model, I just think she’s a bloody lonely one. Also, in terms of money, and despite having been a serious competitor in athletics since 2006…or even before if you count her teens, Jessica Ennis was reportedly only worth around £300,000 before her Olympic win meant a ‘potential explosion in commercial appeal’ and therefore more sponsorship deals. Funnily enough, I think I’ve seen less of her now after she pulled off an amazing victory than before. When she and Ellie Simmonds were like, pretty much the only women papers focused on in the run up to the Olympics. It’s not like we have many, many…many more making up Team GB or anything.

Frankly, screw condescending local paper articles about how female role models just aren’t accessible enough. Surely, SURELY you have to have some female role models in the public eye before we can even argue about how accessible they are. “The role models are the elite of the elite, almost superwomen, who may intimidate girls so they don’t even bother”, came the quote from Christine Ohuruogu (Olympic gold medalist, no less). I’d argue it’s not that we’re put off by Jess Ennis’ Heptathalon feats and demi-god abs, more that there’s just no choice. Personally, amongst the sports I love are (in no particular order) basketball, football, netball, rowing, horse riding, hockey, ice hockey, figure skating, gymnastics and tennis. I can think of one out of that list that I get to see televised female competitors (in a prime TV slot on an accessible channel) more than just once every four years at the Olympics. If we want more girls taking part in sport, it’s about time we started taking our women more seriously.

What I See

September 3, 2013

When you look in the mirror what do you see? What mix of expectations and personas and your actual self are you in that moment? Or are you just grabbing the toothpaste, and you’re in a hurry, and you really aren’t looking all that hard?

Well, most days, that’s the case.

But then you might be asked to take part in a great initiative called the What I See project and you actually have to think about that person standing opposite you. For such a tiny barefaced input, the thought spiral it provoked was startling.

See, I remember the days of high school and Avril Lavigne shiny pink ties (oh god oh god) and baggy jeans and rainbow belts (I’m really not doing myself any favours here am I?) and, yes, that fringe I’ve had forever. But more than that I remember the fact that I didn’t give a crap what anyone thought. Well, not strictly anyone, but the vast majority of people, I could not have cared less about their opinions. I played ‘manly’ sports and I wore tracksuit bottoms a lot, and I never, ever, and I mean, like hardly ever, wore make up. I just. Didn’t. Care.

Just to be clear, there are still many people’s opinions I neither care for nor will actively seek. But the balance has slowly shifted. Now I look in a mirror and see every blemish. Five seconds later I look back in the mirror to see me trying to cover every blemish, especially the imaginary or microscopic ones that I’m fairly certain no-one cares about, when I think about it rationally. And I’m only going to the shop.

But here’s the thing – and one of the reasons why this project is so important – it’s somehow the only socially acceptable way of being an adult female. To do this. To make ourselves look ‘perfect’, to be ‘perfect’. And we’re all, no matter how self-confident we were or are, susceptible. Why? You’re all thinking people, I’m sure I don’t have to enumerate the many reasons. Just go look at a newsagents stand or the Daily Fail side bar of shame and count the number of circled cellulite SHOCK IMAGES WOMAN ON BEACH IN BIKINI IS TOO FAT TOO THIN TOO LUMPY TOO BUMPY. WOMAN HAS BABY. WOMAN HAS BABY WEIGHT! WOMAN HASN’T LOST BABY WEIGHT! OMG, WOMAN IS OLD AND GROSS!

I live in a world where I, and all the other women and all the other girls, are still told this is what their worth amounts to. This and can they produce babies and have careers? (That old chestnut!) Are they not inhumanly evil for wanting both? Or wanting one, but not the other? We’re told in one breath by the Sun that Miley should cover it up, three pages after they’ve splashed a girl with her bare breasts all over their cheap paper and responded to criticism with a ‘basically you’re all ridiculous and this sells newspapers so, no, we’re not taking your concerns on board when we don’t have to’.

We live in a world where three (successful) women can campaign to have another (successful) woman immortalized on our currency, only to be told they look like “blue peter badge winners” standing next to the only important person in the picture: the male Governor of the Bank of England. Online abuse and offline abuse and attitudes so ‘subtle’ and so ‘normalised’ that a lot of people feel they can say feminism isn’t necessary in 2013 in one breath and tell someone they throw like a girl in another.

Well, I miss the Olympics. I miss watching powerful, talented women play their hearts out on pitches and soldier on with broken jaws and put over-paid, diving footballers to shame. But now it’s a year on and all I’m looking at are billboards of these male, over-paid diving footballers, because the season has started and the major TV networks are falling over themselves to show these matches live. And the women’s football team – you know, the one that actually wins? Yeah, they’re working secondary jobs alongside playing for their country because we’re shown that – outside of ‘special’ circumstances – they don’t think we’re worth watching or paying well. It’s shameful. And it makes me angry.

So this is why you need to get involved with What I See. Tell your story. In 3 lines, in 3 minutes of video: however you do it, just do it. Put your voice out there, read about other people that have done the same thing. Maybe share a few stories that hit home the most. At the end of the day, nothing around us will change without you. The tipping point for this particular generation’s particular struggles feels so close, but it takes even more women standing up and saying ‘I am here – you don’t get to discount my voice any longer, and I certainly don’t have to fit in with your preconceived, narrow-minded thoughts on what I should be’. And you can think it’s not a big enough gesture, but you’d be wrong: we can make it better for the next generation of women to come. Bit by bit. It starts here.


Thank you to Melanie at Why Not Change for passing the baton to me. It felt good to have my say, however briefly, and I’m proud to be passing the baton on to Katie at Katie & the Kids. Go reader: enjoy! And don’t forget to go back to the What I See site to watch and read the answers from women all around the world.