‘This Girl Can’… this girl always could.

Hello reader! Welcome to this blogpost at the end of a week which I would like to think of as the British being simply that… British. What with a tube strike over work pay and trade unions, a commemorative display of remembrance from the tragic 7/7 attacks a decade ago, and Wimbledon superbly portraying traditional British etiquette, style, grace and charisma, it’s most definitely been a week to remember in this country! But, what else has also stuck out (and not like a sore thumb, gladly) this week has been the heavy media campaign addressing the pervading sexist attitudes that still exist within this country. We’ve legalised marriages within the LGBT community, the death penalty is illegal… yet it’s still not illegal to be overtly sexist or misogynist on social networking sites; with this in mind trolling can be perceived as acceptable, with many celebrities and normal humdrum people like yourself and I being an ‘easy target’. The media campaign ‘#thisgirlcan’ looks to address the issue of women being seen as inferior people. Having completed a first-year degree research project on the issue of women being seen as second best in politics, I thought it would be silly to dismiss this media campaign. However, I have mixed views about the campaign. Whilst I totally agree that #thisgirlcan is a well-received campaign and that it, like the ‘He for She’ campaign ponders the forward-thinking movement towards true egalitarianism, I’m not so sure if it successfully combats discomforting attitudes that some people in society have. In fact, I question whether the campaign can actually glorify attitudes of female inferiority, and if the campaign is encouraging girls to get involved in sport.

According to the website, http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/, “This Girl Can is a national campaign developed by Sport England and a wide range of partnership organisations. It’s a celebration of 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”. Let’s focus on a few words in this blurb (sorry for the English Language A Level style analysis, but it proves the point in which I’m trying to address).

  1. ‘wide range of partnership organisations’ – when reading this in isolation, it provides the thought that whilst the campaign is national, not all sporting organisations have jumped on board and got involved in the campaign. Therefore, the disassociation between the #thisgirlcan movement and sporting institutions highlights how sexist attitudes are not displaced as a consequence of the movement starting.
  2. ‘active women’ – I appreciate that the movement is mainly focused towards sporting achievements, however where is the applause for all women in general. ‘This Girl Can’ when looking at the title alone suggests that women are able to do ANYTHING equally to men, so does the campaign agree with conformist social attitudes that women still hold the domestic roles within the house? This movement has a function… a function to already support the currently existing ‘nuclear family’ lifestyle.
  3. ‘how they look’ – once again, a campaign discussing the nature of feminity with strong associations and connotations towards how a female look. From my blog post ‘A Sprinkle of Zoella’, you’ll see that all girls and women view themselves with flaws that nobody else sees, and this campaign addresses and highlights a woman’s insecurity within themselves. It’d be lovely to see a female sporting campaign that focuses solely on achievement, not whether the achievement is done with a fishtail plait, a messy bun, size 6 or size 16. The comedian Katherine Ryan (@kathbum) discussed this at Safeword, bringing up the idea that females who bring out DVD’s are contractually obliged to adhere to the ‘#thisgirlcan’ movement by carrying out a cardboard cut-out of themselves everywhere to go to prove their achievements. But, do we really need to do this? Is this in fact where society has gone wrong, and where the movement could have potentially made leaps and bounds in the sporting prowess of women; instead it has ran the ‘fear of judgment’ whilst relaying this judgment of ourselves onto ourselves. (I didn’t mean for the sporting pun of ‘relay’ with running).

So, immediately you can see my point of view that the campaign may just accentuate the common opinion that females are second best towards men in the sporting world, and if the campaign is encouraging girls to get involved in sport in the same way that men do. For example, when I think of sports-stars, I think of people such as Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, Michael Phelps and Tom Daley. Yes, I also think of Jessica Ennis-Hill and Serena Williams, but the females are more often than not mentioned secondary to the men. Even with the London 2012 posters placing Jessica Ennis (then) as the ‘it girl’ for the games, this placed an inordinate amount of pressure on a young person’s shoulders in the way that most British men did not have. Greg Rutherford can be argued as more of a success story because it wasn’t expected… Jessica Ennis is no longer the ‘British star of the games’. Once again, this shows how a significant female action can be displaced by a male sporting star who was previously secondary, but when achieving the same position of a women can be hassled more by the British press.

Similarly to BBC comedy panel shows in which one woman HAS to appear in order for the show to be seen as ‘equal’, when searching the ‘#thisgirlcan’ website, there is no mention to suggest the hard work of top-billed female sport stars. From this, can we argue that this feminist campaign is in fact a weak, passive movement that could be viewed as a ‘popular trend’? The website states that ‘judgement is a barrier’ that must be overcome, but all the website shows is people participating in sport, there are no agony aunt style tips to relieve any tensions that females may have regarding their treatment within the sporting world. Therefore, the movement can then be regarded as an ideology which looks to create a perfect world, but in fact, it has a long way to go until it truly creates an egalitarian sporting world. However, I’m not sure if this will happen. Look at the USA female and male football teams. The males got paid more to get into the last 16 than the women did for winning! The top female sportsplayers are just seen as not as good, important, or special to the men…

Now, the adverts also suggest that all women are exactly the same. Take this one for instance.

Is the campaign really showing the true equality, or showing what a woman is seen to care about?
Is the campaign really showing the true equality, or showing what a woman is seen to care about?

The phrase ‘my gameface has lipstick on it’ implies that women, while being viewed as hard and domineering within the world of sport all wear lipstick, and are all girly girly. This is not the case. For example, Nicola Adams wasn’t bothered about her appearance, she just wanted a Nandos (a girl after my own heart, thinking about food). What the advert does is typify women as weak characters, glorifying the misogyny and that women just care about their appearance, even when they are in a brutal sporting match.

For myself, I don’t need a funded lottery campaign to tell me whether I can or not. I know I can swim. I know I can run. I know I can’t do a backtuck or be the next Beth Tweddle, because I haven’t been stretching since I was a foetus. This girl can do it, but this girl always knew she could. The campaign shows the backward-thinking nature of many people within our society, and could be expanded in order to really make women equal, and a true force! Now, a song to show that women are great in a way that the campaign may not necessarily truly exert. Easy. Beyonce. I’m a grown woman, I can do whatever I want.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3MjxWn5W9M

Enjoy (and please share, I’ve tried to discuss a movement here, ooooh exciting).

Sophie x

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