Listening to the radio this morning I heard a segment about the #thisgirlcan campaign run by Sport England. This campaign has been running for a while now. It is reaching out to women and encouraging them to be more active. Research showed that one of the main reasons that women don’t exercise is that they are worried about judgement and how they look when they do. This campaign aims to combat that and make women feel that they should take part, not worry about the reasons why they might not want to.
It got me thinking about the piece that I first wrote about this campaign when it launched. I scrolled back through the mists of my Medium account and found what I had written. It seems a good time to revisit those words and I’ve included the original post here with a few edits.
I don’t like it when I see blogs or articles written online which criticise. I’m not a big fan of the negative. Mainly just because I don’t believe that there is much in this world that is totally and utterly negative and so for all that stuff in the middle that is just a bit ‘not OK’ maybe we could all exercise some balance?
This is one of the reasons that I don’t tend to write anything about things that I don’t like myself. I think ‘well it’s not my cup of tea, but I’m sure it speaks to someone else.’ Yet there is one thing that has been going around and around in my mind recently and now I want to write about it.
I’m a runner. I’m a woman. And, on the whole, I really like the #thisgirlcan campaign run by Sport England.
Their message is simple: ‘This Girl Can celebrates the women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it.’
And it is a great message. There are so many new runners that come along to our club who think from the start that they aren’t fast enough, can’t run far enough, don’t know what they are doing. When they ask questions about how to ‘become a runner’ I just say — you are a runner.
So where does the message fall down for me? The use of the word ‘girl’. This girl can? Does that apply to me? Not really. I have two kids, I’ve been running since I went to university. When I compete in races I am in the VF35 age category — Veteran Female. Not girl.
The campaign is aimed at girls and women from 14-60. It isn’t just aimed at girls, it is aimed at adults.
I want women to join up for sports, to go out and find something they love doing and ‘just do it.’ Why do we have to do this at the expense of acknowledging that on the one hand we know what we are doing but on the other hand we are all ‘girls’?
Much of the campaign focuses on women who take their sport seriously, as well as beginners. I can’t help but feel that using the word ‘girl’ to describe grown women who are taking their sport to the next level is somehow diminishing that.
It would just take one more letter on that hashtag. #thiswomancan Why don’t we show girls these women as role models that they can look up to and aspire to be? Aspire to be the person who decides to try kickboxing for the first time, or who is running their 100th marathon? Wouldn’t this be such a great message? Hey girls, look at these women!
I know a lot of people will say it is just one word. Friends of mine have said this to me. I agree, it is just one word, but it is one word that I’ve not used to describe myself for a long time.
So yes, I’m all in for taking part in sport but for me I’d rather own my age, and my identity as as woman in sport, at the same time as owning my sport.