This may well have passed some of you by but we have just come to the end of Women’s Sport Week. I must admit I wasn’t aware of this phenomenon from the years 1985 to 2015 but my Twitter feed and television was suddenly chock full of it in 2016. I don’t know whether this is as a result of the greater profile that women’s sport is gaining, or (more likely) I am subconsciously looking out for campaigns like this and (most likely) I follow a lot of athletes and sports organisations on Twitter!
Anyway, this popped into my mind when I was at my weightlifting session on Friday (full blog/vlog to come this week on that!) because one of the group of Olympic Weightlifters was a woman, and there were loads involved in the CrossFit group that was on just before. This week has seen a frenzy of initiatives up and down the country and across multiple sports to try and encourage women of all ages into sport. Obviously this is something I completely get on board with, indeed I am trying to do a similar thing myself, but it also makes me wonder: is it not a bit of a shame that we need a specific week dedicated to women in sport?
I had a conversation with the future Mrs W recently which went a little like this:
“Did you enjoy Women’s Sport Week?”
“Did you know it was Women’s Sport Week?”
“Do you have an opinion on Women’s Sport Week?”
Now you may be expecting a similar response to this question, but if you did then you clearly don’t know the future Mrs W…
“It makes me sad that I didn’t know anything about this. It hasn’t been on social media, I haven’t seen anything about it and we didn’t do anything about it at work. Also, I don’t think that we should have to have a ‘women’s sport week’, I think we should be celebrated within the wider community, I just think that it should be ‘all cool sportspeople week’.”
Now, disregarding the fact that ‘all cool sportspeople’ week is a ridiculous title, I think she has a valid point. As does Alex Danson (TeamGB hockey gold medallist) apparently;
Segregation is something that much of society tries to avoid, believing that we are “stronger together”(Clinton, 2015) or “better together” (Scottish referendum, 2015) depending on which recent political campaign you prefer. Also the Manics said that Wales were “Together Stronger” in their Euro 2016 anthem, and it certainly seemed to work for them! So why is it that the Women’s Sport Trust and partners know that they need to separate out the genders for a publicity week such as this? Divide and conquer tactics perhaps?
My personal opinion is that they are right to do this, the facts are there for all to see.
According to Sport England in 2015;
Sports participation in the UK is suffering from a significant gender gap. Research carried out by Sport England reveals that by every measure, fewer women than men play sport regularly. Two million fewer 14- to 40-year-old women take part in sport when compared with men, despite the fact that 75% say they want to be more active.
Obviously there are hundreds of factors that result in this statistic but I just wanted to pick a few out from the Sport England research:
- Women’s Sport receives just 7% of all sports media coverage and only 0.4% of commercial investment in sport
- 36% of the least-active schoolgirls agree that they feel like their body is on show in PE lessons and that makes them like PE less
- Women identify with the fear of not being “good enough” in some way; whether not being skilled enough, fit enough, or the right size
- Ability is also an ingrained concern, with more than a quarter of girls saying they don’t feel they have the skills to do well in sport
- A massive 81% of mothers with children under 15 prioritise spending time with their families over getting fit
- 44% of mums feel guilty if they spend time on themselves.
This results from the research resulted in the launch of the “This Girl Can” campaign, which has been generally well received in the UK and according to independent research done one year on from its’ launch it has encouraged,
“2.8 million women aged 14 to 40 who recognise the campaign say they have done some or more activity as a result.
And 1.6 million of those women say they have started exercising.”
(Sport England, 2016)
This isn’t to say that everyone was completely positive about the campaign, and it came in for criticism in some quarters, especially at the launch, with some observers claiming that sex and objectification still played too much of a role in the literature and symbolism of the campaign.
Any way you slice it, between them #WSW2016 and #thisgirlcan have certainly hit a chord with some women and the way I see it, the more women out there getting involved, getting sweaty and getting fit is huge for society. After all, these women will be mothers and role models to loads of young people and therefore hopefully a positive conduit to get more and more people into physical activity further down the line.
For now I am just going to present to you some of the activity that has been going on this week, in case it really did pass you by, and I would encourage you to have a look at some of it or maybe even share some to continue this fine work beyond the original week and hopefully make women in sport a norm, not a concept in requirement of publicity.
Click on image for the link
Click on image for the link
If you’re intrigued by the research mentioned above then please: