This Girl Can – Sexist or Success?

Can you believe we’re over half way into January 2016? January is the time when we all promise to change, to better ourselves… “I’m getting fit” “New year, new me” “Out with the old, in with the new”…How are you all doing with the New Year resolutions?

With everyone in the ‘get fit’ mindset January is the perfect time to launch a sports campaign. Just over a year ago, 12th January 2015, Sport England did just that and launched the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign to increase the number of women actively participating in regular sport or physical activity, with the aim to knock down the barriers that stand in the way of women who have fears about exercising. The campaign is an almighty celebration and positive encouragement for active women, those who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their face gets…Sweat like a pig, look like a fox!

Before I go any further, if you haven’t seen the ad already you must watch this extraordinary 90 second video, ‘Missy Elliot’s ‘GET UR FREAK ON!’ beat drops as a women pings her bikini bottoms against her butt ready to go for a swim…great work FCB Inferno (Be warned it may inspire you to exercise right away!)

What I love about this advert is that it features women of all ages, colours, shapes and sizes, exercising like their lives depend on it. They hurl themselves across football pitches, fiercely run up hills, sweat like crazy on spin bikes; they’re boxing, climbing, cycling, swimming, dancing, jumping, whooping, celebrating exercising. There’s no holding back, we see what it is really like to exercise as a women, the true struggles we face, and this advert beautifully embraces them all. We see breasts bouncing everywhere; mascara running down sweaty faces; women training in false eyelashes; flesh wobbling; cellulite on full display; heavy, open mouthed panting; hair all over the place and stuck to the face. The advert ends with a girl collapsing on the sofa, still wearing her running gear (crop top & shorts!), “I’m knackered” she sighs!

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‘I jiggle, therefore I am’

Sport England created ‘This Girl Can’ in response to the sad revelation that there are TWO million fewer women than men aged 14-40 participating in sport and 75% wish they were more active. This campaign is so righteous and embraces the modern society we live in having social media at its heart. You only have to type #thisgirlcan into Twitter to see its success. Social media is still exploding with people showing their enthusiasm for the campaign and sharing their sporting ventures.

This Girl Can has been awarded a Gold Lion for tackling gender inequality in a new award category at Cannes. I can’t think of a more worthy winner as Independent research says 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!

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HOWEVER, when the ‘edgy’ campaign first launched, when it was being talked about but hadn’t yet changed behaviour, it was criticised. The campaign was deemed all about sex not sport and playing into the norms of objectifying female flesh, maybe because in the ad the women wear crop tops to train and swimwear to swim? Sexist for using the term ‘girl’ not women, are people really focusing on a word, it’s just a word…this all sounds very familiar.

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A knee jerk reaction when tackling gender inequality in sport isn’t unusual or unexpected. At Lingerie Football League we too are receiving the same knee jerk reaction, it’s causing controversy as we’re being talked about but as we are only one month in we haven’t yet changed behaviour. After people get over the knee jerk reaction, we hope this is the start of gender equality in football. Our goal is to drag football into the 21st century, in this day and age, women’s football should no longer be a poor imitation of the men’s game. We want to look like women and receive the same rewards and recognition as men, is that too much to ask?

Here’s something to think about, did you know that the main reason that there is a disparity between men and women who are actively exercising on a regular basis is the fear of being judged? Sport England CEO Jennie Price explains the fear of judgment “for being the wrong size, not fit enough and not skilled enough… Every single woman I have talked to about this campaign – and that is now hundreds – has identified with this, and it is that fear of not being ‘good enough’ in some way, and the fear that you are the only one who feels like that”.

After just one year, the BBC reported amazing statistics about the success of this This Girl Can

-This Girl Can films have been viewed 37 million times on the campaign’s YouTube and Facebook channels alone.

-540,000 women and girls have joined the This Girl Can social media community.

-There has been 660,000 tweets using #ThisGirlCan

-The campaign has been talked about on social media every single day since it launched on 12 January, 2015.

-The campaign has been talked about in more than 110 countries.

It’s no surprise that the ‘sexist’ remarks have since been forgotten about.

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This Girl Can – Sexist or Success?

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