This Girl Can is a national campaign developed by Sport England and many other organisations, attempting to ‘celebrate active women up and down the country who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their face gets’.
Anybody who has met me will know that I am a staunch feminist and may be surprised to hear my views on the campaign. I used to think that the campaign was a nice idea, and a good starting point to encourage women to become more involved in sport. But the more I looked into it, I began to see more and more problems with it.
You don’t have to look far past their mission statement (see above) to see the problems I’m talking about. The fact that they are celebrating women ‘no matter how they look’ is the first step in perpetuating the stereotype that women are high maintenance and care a lot about the way they look. Whilst this may be somewhat true due to societal pressures forcing women to care about their appearance, surely we should be taking the focus away from this completely and focus on their achievements within sport? It is beyond me that a campaign wanting to encourage women to get more involved in sport still sexualises women and perpetuates dangerous gender stereotypes. You can see this on their various posters, which can be found through a quick Google search. My personal favourites are ‘I play with passion, precision, and pigtails’, ‘Damn right I look hot’ and ‘I jiggle, therefore I am’.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that there are women who wear makeup and have their nails done whilst doing sport; I often get tarted up just to play darts because I do love wearing makeup, but why are we focusing on their appearance? I also see that this could come across as a way to shame women who practice sport but who don’t wear makeup, who don’t make an effort to make their hair look nice, and who don’t ‘jiggle’ when they run. It’s great that they are trying to be body positive (at least I hope that was their intention), but let’s not forget that women come in all shapes and sizes, and some women just don’t wear makeup. (Side note: wearing makeup during running is an awful idea anyway because it just sweats off).
The campaign also seems to have a very individual focus, and doesn’t actually tackle any of the issues that may actually prevent women from getting involved in sport. Some examples of these issues are: sexual harassment and discrimination within sport, a lack of confidence due to how women in sport have been treated, and the sexualisation and ideation of being thin and beautiful that is linked to women’s sport. Rather than looking at these issues, the campaign seems to suggest that women just can’t be bothered to have a jog in the park.
Focusing specifically on our very own This Roses Girl Can, the fact that men’s sport has seemingly been pushed to one side surely defeats the point of trying to make women competing in sport be seen as equal to men. Hear me out – I recognise that society already caters to the fact that men are capable of taking part in sport, and they face very little harassment or discrimination (unless of course they are part of a religious or ethnic minority, which we have seen a lot of, particularly in football games) – but to ignore men’s sporting events in attempt to promote women’s sport does not make us seem equal at all.
I don’t think the campaign is entirely negative, but it certainly has a lot of issues, and as a feminist who does play sport (albeit badly), I feel patronised. It is understandable that LUSU have put a great deal of effort into the campaign this year in an attempt to get rid of sexism in sport and as a way to celebrate women’s achievements, and maybe next year it is something that can be worked on even further.