Women in sport: Warwick girls can?

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By now many of us have hopefully heard of the “This Girl Can” campaign and its aim to empower women to participate in sport no matter what the stereotype. Personally though I wasn’t aware of the smaller, university branches of this campaign until very recently. However my first awareness of “Warwick Girls Can” wasn’t for the best of reasons.

Recently I noticed that there was a free event at the Warwick Sport Centre which was just for women. The event – entitled “Girls Night In” – piqued my interest insomuch that I lack money and I enjoy a workout every so often.

Contrary to my usual habits of automatically booking my place, I chose to read the brief description of the event first. I’m glad I did as the whole itinerary for the night is soaked in sexist, stereotypical condescension.

The whole itinerary for the night is soaked in sexist, stereotypical condescension

Apparently when women go to the gym what they really want is not only a room of “light exercise classes” but also another with cake, crafts and mocktails. Quite frankly, I could engage in cake and craft at home. At least then I could put alcohol in my drinks.

This is an event which, at this point, has attracted a significant amount interest. Perhaps if I hadn’t been anticipating a free workout I may have even been excited. However, to target an event solely at women and assume that you have to offer them chocolate to come through the door is laughable.

To target an event solely at women and assume that you have to offer them chocolate to come through the door is laughable

General attitudes regarding women in the gym aren’t always fantastic anyway. It is still a commonly held belief that women simply can’t be as strong or as physically able as men. Events like this only act to reinforce the idea that women don’t want to bench press or participate in anything other than aerobics.

If the Bridget-Jones-esque farcical nature of this event wasn’t poor choice enough, it is also put beneath the well-respected “This Girl Can” logo. The campaign itself is supposed to be a “celebration of active women” so the idea of getting women together for cake and a casual yoga pose seems in poor taste.

It is still a commonly held belief that women simply can’t be as strong or as physically able as men

I will not critique the women who choose to go to this event – it does sound like it could be an enjoyable enough night under the right circumstances. Rather, I’m questioning the thought process that went into organising the evening. “This Girl Can” is about challenging the stereotype – not getting women together in a scenario which simply enforces it.

I can’t exactly see this event as empowering, nor can I imagine would any female Olympian or athlete. While women only account for 18% of qualified coaches and 9% of senior coaches in the UK, it is poor show to squander an opportunity to empower women on a university campus.

“This Girl Can” is about challenging the stereotype, not getting women together in a scenario which simply enforces it

Rather, women should be encouraged to believe that they are just as strong as male counterparts. We should be taught that we can achieve more in the world of sport than just what constitutes “classic girlie fun”.

Thankfully, in an act which redeems my opinion of the Warwick campaign group, they have also arranged events via sports clubs on campus including judo and squash. These do appear to be more sport-centric and less about cake.

We should be taught that we can achieve more in the world of sport than just what constitutes “classic girlie fun”

It’s a difficult line to walk, certainly. We still want to be allowed to present as our own definitions of “feminine” whilst sweating in the gym, and we want equal representation, pay and acclaim in the world of sport.

“Warwick Girls Can” could do so much across campus to encourage this move, but at this point I’m not entirely convinced that they have the best plan. Until I can be offered more than cake and “girlie fun”, I think I’ll carry on organising my own workouts.

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Comments (1)

  • Fiona Buckner

    I enjoyed it actually; I ventured into the sports centre where I wouldn’t usually have done before and I’ve talked myself into trying some of the classes there because they look fun.

    The event was nothing short of what it said it was going to be from the description. Other events ran this week that were all about empowerment but I don’t think this week is all about that, solely. There was a lifting class, boxing fitness and other activities that all sound a bit more competitive but the Girls’ Night In appealed to me personally where I would have been put off by something more serious – and I ended up having a positive experience.

    I don’t think the campaign has missed the point, I think you have. This week seemed to me like an attempt to put as much of a variety of activities as possible to appeal to as broad a range of interests as possible. If feeling empowered is your motivation then you missed out on a good Box-Skip-Fit event – if, like me, you’re put off by olympic bars and boxing gloves then the Girls Night In was an enjoyable evening.

    It you don’t like the sound of an event, don’t go. Simple. Everyone that did go looked like they were enjoying themselves so they got something right, at least.

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