As I’ve said many times, I wasn’t what you might call a sporty type at school. I was more ‘get sent to the head of year to get my eyeliner taken off’ type. Hated all sport, picked last etc etc. Until recently, I just didn’t get it. I never learnt to ride a bike, ice skate, do handstands, all the normal things kids do. Which makes me pretty well qualified to comment on the most ridiculous statement that an MP put out this morning.
I can’t be bothered to look up her name, but the Minister for Sport, Tourism, Equality and all the other things no-one else wanted to do, herself a former competitive sportsperson in her youth, has said that some girls don’t want to do sport at school because they don’t want to look unfeminine, and that maybe they can try other things, like cheerleading, or sports that mean they can look radiant while doing them.
Before I absolutely explode in fury, I’ll go through why I take issue with her idiotic nonsense point by point.
1) Some girls don’t want to look unfeminine
People, it’s 2014. Are we still thinking that females must look feminine? Is there still such a thing as looking feminine? And by feminine, I assume we mean lady-like, pretty, neat, pink-cheeked. That’s what feminine is now? That’s what we all want? Fuck me, is it 1950? To go back to a point I made in my last post – women and girls come in all shapes and sizes and as long as you’re female, you can be feminine, what ever that means to you. I suspect what girls who worry about not looking feminine really mean is that boys will think they’re not pretty/fanciable. They might not ask them for sex texts any more. I say, that’s a good thing. If I had a teenage daughter I’d be teaching her to go big on the sporty shit as it’s less likely boys at parties will try to cop a quick feel or ask her for a blowjob. No-one asked Boudicca for a blowjob at a party, or if they did they didn’t do it twice.
2) Cheerleading? Cheerleading? Cheer-fucking-leading? Yes, I know cheerleaders are athletic and gymnasts. If that’s what you want be a gymnast, or an acrobat in a circus. Don’t put on a cute skirt that shows off your legs, cheer on the boys and call it sport, because it’s not. I don’t know what annoys me more about cheerleading, the fact that the outfits are so sexualised or that I can’t help but think that it’s sort of related to doing pole dancing for exercise.
3) Girls could choose a sport that makes them look radiant, like Zumba. When I’m lifting a bar over my head, or when I’m doing a push up, or a pull up or swinging a kettlebell, the last thing I’m thinking is ‘ooh, I hope I look radiant’ because here’s shocking fact for the fucking patriarchy – I’m more interested in what I can do that what I look like. I’m more interesting in achievement and ability than my expression.
And that’s the crux of it. Girls don’t like sport because they don’t like what they look like when they’re doing it. Although, hilariously, they’ll starve themselves to try to get the sort of body exercise might give them. I had hoped the Olympics would make us see women in a different way, as Amazons. How wrong can you be. Instead of reinforcing these hilariously outdated images of a) what women are supposed to look like and b) what women should be able to do, we should be encouraging girls and women to get active because it makes you feel great. Because you can achieve brilliant things. Because (and this might be the argument that does it) – you might get a body like Jessica Ennis’. But you don’t get that by mincing around worrying if your mascara is running. By all means make sport more inclusive – I hated hockey and tried to start a girls football team at school but was told (no word of a lie) that it wasn’t ladylike. That was over 20 years ago but we’re still having the same arguments.
So, expert of public health that I am, here’s my plan for overcoming girls’ reluctance to exercise:
1) Redefine femininity – we need new, better role models of women who don’t rely on their looks. Put Amy Child’s and her make up in some kind of drag-queen prison
2) Find sports people with incredibly abilities and maybe some good abs – this is what you can get if you work hard
3) Make a better range of sports available, but make them proper sports that give you a sense of achievement
4) If you’re a man, brother, father, boyfriend, husband, whatever – support the woman in your life to achieve, celebrate what she can do, not what she looks like while she’s doing it. My husband (lucky me) is proud to have a wife that lifts weights, that works hard. Never once has he commented on how unattractive her finds my pull-up face, and for that I’m grateful.
Right, crossfit tonight. Oh, I do hope I look radiant while I’m doing it. Urgh.