Tag Archives: #WomeninSport

When will newspapers stop reducing #Womeninsport to what they wear on a night out?


I was sifting through the Sunday Times sport section this week being, frankly, highly critical. This is an easy stance to take when it comes to newspapers and sport – there is barely any coverage at all of women in sport on their pages, with females accounting for, on average, anywhere from 0% to 5% of content.

So, you can imagine my surprise when, in The Sunday Times, after the usual pages of sport by men, men, men, there was showcased a specific section on women. Okay, I thought, taken aback. I’d rather women in sport weren’t segregated to a separate area, integrated as female sport truly should be into male domains so the join is seamless, but hey, at least it was something, so I read on.

The paper was celebrating the Sports Woman of the Year Awards and one of the articles was about world taekwondo champion, Bianca Walkden. It talked about her achievements, her successes, a big picture of her in her sport kit adorning the bulk of the page. But then there was another photo of her, a shot of her smiling in a black party dress. Huh, I thought, they don’t do those type of shots with the men’s sport articles, but, ever the optimist, I gave the paper the benefit of the doubt until I got to the byline underneath the main shot. It read, and I quote:

Bianca Walkden - World Taekwondo Champion
Bianca Walkden – World Taekwondo Champion

Wonder Woman: Bianca Walkdean is not to be messed with when it comes to taekwondo, at which she is champion, but she is just as happy to look the part for a night out, inset.”

I almost dropped the paper, I swear. What? I mean, what? I had to read this three times before I could believe it was real and not a seedy line in a red top newspaper or some lads mag. Just as happy to look the part on a night out? What is this? Hey, Sunday Times! The 1950s called an they want their era back. Here we have all these amazing sports women who have achieved so much, and, instead of sticking to celebrating this, the Sunday Times choose to reduce Bianca Walkden’s success to how she’s willing to get dolled up. You never, ever see this with men in sport, so why with women?

Here’s the bottom line: women play sport and it has nothing, NOTHING to do with our looks. What we wear on a night out should have no bearing at all to the coverage these amazing, accomplished sports women receive. So, sports editors, when writing about women in sport, ask yourselves, before you publish a piece: Would we treat the men like this? If the answer’s no, then don’t do it. It’s a question the Sunday Times Sports section should have asked itself. It’s a question all media outlets should ask themselves. And maybe then will desperately needed progress finally be made.

Got an opinion? Post your comment below.

Zumba alone will not help girls into sport

Shopping basket filled with sports related items on white background

Have you seen a boy playing netball recently? When I was at school, there was a clear distinction between the girls and the boys when it came to sport. The lads did football and the girls netball. That was it, no joint games, no change in tradition – you were expected to know where the gender line was drawn.

Fast-forward 15 (okay, 25…) years and it seems nothing has changed. Today, in the Independent Newspaper, Judy Murray, tennis coach and mother to Andy, said that, “Schools could encourage more girls to take up sport by being more sympathetic to the image conscious world that young women grow up in.”

Now, look, I agree with that statement – to a point. Yes, there’s a lot more that could be done to encourage girls into sport, and with real reason. In a survey carried out just last year, for example, it was found that a worrying 40 per cent of 16-year-old girls do no vigorous physical activity at all. But the question is, does providing girls with activities that bow to an image conscious society, help? Isn’t that just like putting a plug in the hole without fixing the hole itself?

Natasha Devon, author and broadcaster, said activities such as Zumba and Yoga should be considered in schools to encourage girls into sport. Now, yes, without doubt, more choice is a good thing, but what would be damaging would be for schools to introduce Zumba but only for the girls, effectively turning Zumba into the new netball, and so would start the whole inactivity, inequality cycle again.

I have two girls and I wouldn’t dream of turning round to them and saying, my dears, girls are expected to not sweat, so best do Zumba. In fact, they tried it once a few years back when they were at Brownies and hated it. But, whether they liked or not is beside the point, because what’s interesting is that the boys in Cub Scouts, boys the same age as my girls, were not offered Zumba at all, and instead played football and running games, activities which were never offered to the girls.

What should be happening is a sea change in how we view young woman and woman in general when it comes to sport. We can get dirty, sweat, stink, play rugby, football, cricket or do Zumba or dance, but we should do it because we want to, not because it fits a pre-defined gender role.

But of course, they only way girls are going to want to do any of these sports is if society gives them a huge, bloody break and gets off their case. The answer? To encourage girls to just be. Be themselves, be strong, be smart, whether that involves getting muddy on a rugby pitch or dancing hip swinging moves to Latin tunes.

Break down the gender demands and not only will we see more girls get involved in sport, but we’ll see more of a change, more of an openness across the genders, too. And then maybe boys can finally start playing netball.


Gazette column: Girls’ school sport needs better provision. Now.

It’s “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my weekly Gazette newspaper column to my blog so you can have a read…

This week my column for the Gloucestershire Gazette is about sport for girls in schools and how, if we want them to participate given the dire recent participation statistics, better proven needs to be made. Now. To read it, simply click to my Column page.

What do you think? Let me know.

**Look out for  Wednesday Wafflings next, well, Wednesday, where I post the latest entry in My Diary of a Hopeful Author**