The year of the woman: Let’s keep it sporty
When I was seven my parents received one of my more memorable school reports. My spelling was fine, my reading above average and my maths needed work. But what stood out was a comment from my P.E teacher. ‘Chloe must learn not to be afraid of the ball.’
I’d be the first to admit that I was not a sporty girl. Sporty girls and sporty boys were loved by teachers and pupils alike. If you didn’t cut it on the pitch, you probably didn’t cut it on the playground. When we played cricket at college, the team lumbered with me would tell me to ‘go deep’, where I would sit on the playing field making daisy chains, returning with dread when it was time for my team to bat. I’d swing wildly, eyes wide with terror as the ball came careering towards me. Needless to say I’d always miss.
This summer, we are celebrating the sporty girl. London 2012 has been heralded as the year of the woman. It is the first time every one of the 204 participating teams have included women. It is also the first time that each event will feature both a men’s and women’s category, with women finally taking to the boxing ring. In fact, Team GB features more female athletes than male athletes, showing that women are indeed taking London 2012 by storm.
Despite this, the media seems intent on focusing on Team GB’s women’s bra sizes, rather than on their talent, a problem that male athletes don’t come up against. Granted, no one complained when David Beckham’s bulging underpants were plastered across London, but it is clear that male athletes aren’t subjected to the same remarks as their female counterparts.
A case in point is Jan Moir’s comment about Lizzie Armistead in the women’s road cycling race. “Lizzie emerged without a speck of mud on her flawless complexion, manicure perfect, looking ready for her close-up.” Forget the first medal for Team GB at least Lizzie had had the foresight to get her nails done!
Victoria Pendleton recently did a photo shoot for Esquire. Victoria appears on a bed, all fishnet tights, glossy lips and bed hair. Yes, it’s proof than female athletes aren’t just big thighs and no breasts, although why that is so surprising I don’t know. But why don’t we focus on the aptitude of our sportswomen, rather than smothering them in fake tan and forcing them into the glossy world of celebrity?
The marked increase in the popularity of women’s beach volleyball is another example. Ask anyone which event they would most like to see and more often than not, beach volleyball is up there. But I wonder how many fans of the sport could name the two members of GB’s team. The controversy surrounding the outfits of the GB beach volleyball team demonstrates the ‘sexed up’ image of women in sport. Some players demanded that women be allowed to wear shorts and a t-shirt, rather than the traditional ‘skimpy bikini’. Others argued that if women had to wear next to nothing, male competitors should strip off as well. Currently, Team GB’s women are set to stand in the drizzle on Horse Guards Parade, baring all. For many, the sport has become known for its ‘sexy’ outfits rather than for a team’s success and this where we must proceed with caution.
A fine line needs to be drawn between bringing the punters in and selling our women short. I hope we can return to the girls I envied at school, the girls who weren’t afraid of the ball. It wasn’t their shiny hair or big breasts that made them popular, it was their proficiency in their chosen sport.
Female Olympians are making talent cool. For that I salute them and welcome them as role models for the next generation. By all means, wear a bikini, get a manicure before a race, or do a photo-shoot in your smalls. But please, let’s keep the Olympics about sport, the medals and the achievements of Team GB’s women.Tagged in: beach volleyball, Lizzie Armistead, London 2012, olympics, Sport, Victoria Pendleton, women
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