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Women in sport: Warwick girls can, but you wouldn’t have guessed it

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‘Warwick Girls Can’ is a scheme done entirely for the right reasons but not executed in entirely the right way. It is well-documented that far fewer women participate in sport than men. This is why schemes such as these are vital. Warwick Sport are trying to make a difference on campus.

Being well-meaning only goes so far – if it strikes the wrong tone, then it’s already fighting a losing battle

‘This Girl Can’ is one of many national schemes aiming to boost female participation in sport, which says everything about current levels of involvement. Warwick’s version is only one branch, but Warwick Sport is still committed to building on the numbers of 100-plus women who attended last year. An increase in free sessions and extending the scheme throughout the year is a great idea that will surely mean last year’s figure is beaten.

But being well-meaning only goes so far – if it strikes the wrong tone, then it is already fighting a losing battle. Tonight’s ‘Girls Night In’ is a perfect example. Here we have an event that’s trying to encourage girls who don’t regularly play sport to become more active, which should be applauded. Yet it unnecessarily resorts to the promise of “light exercise” and mocktails. When such tired and insulting stereotypes are strung out, the meaning is easily lost.

Why should it matter how they look? All that matters is that they’re being active and enjoying it

One sentence on Warwick Sport’s dedicated ‘Warwick Girls Can’ page encapsulates this:

“Women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it, how they look, how red their faces get or how sweaty they get!”

Why should it matter how they look? All that matters is that they’re being active and enjoying it. The unnecessary importance attached to looking good while exercising is a fundamental reason why participation numbers remain stubbornly low. Everyone gets a little red-faced and/or sweaty when running, jumping or climbing, so why is this an issue? Events like ‘Girls Night In’ feed the mistaken belief that aesthetics are important when playing sport. They aren’t.

This contributes to a chicken and egg scenario

This contributes to a chicken and egg scenario: girls are less likely to participate in sport at an early age; therefore there are fewer famous sporting role models to look up to for the next generation of girls, who are then less inspired to take up sport. How many high profile British sportswomen can you name? I bet its fewer than the number of men you can reel off and it should not be this way.

‘Warwick Girls Can’ has missed an open goal, if you will pardon the pun. This week should have been about showcasing the joys of sport to as many women as possible – that’s what it’s there for, after all.

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Comments (1)

  • Women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it, how they look, how red their faces get or how sweaty they get!”

    I interpreted that as “Stop worrying what people think of you and get red/sweaty/messy.”

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