Sexing up women’s sport: is this really the 21st century?

13 Oct

Sometimes women can be their own worst enemy. Take former England cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent’s views on how to encourage women into sport in the article Sexing up key to boosting profile of women’s sport which appeared on the BBC website earlier this month. After reading this article I had to check the date – not only to check that it wasn’t April 1st but also to see whether we’d mysteriously travelled back several decades in time.

Ms Rainford-Brent summarises her stance thus: “You want women to be attracted to the sport, but sex sells”. Note the almost apologetic addition of the word ‘but’ as if to make it alright to say “You want women to be equal, but we’ve got tits and bums you know”. She goes on:

“Some of the biggest barriers for young girls playing sport is the image and being sweaty or a bit masculine, so if you can make the sport more attractive for females to play then you will attract more girls in.”

I can imagine that’s an enormous barrier. Women are infamous for not wanting to break into a sweat. The birth rate plummeted when women realised it was near impossible to give birth without a slight dampness of the brow. How Sweaty Betty stays in business I don’t know, such is the image it gives of hairy women in gyms, armpits dripping, whilst around them men recoil in disgust at the sight of such a depraved betrayal of femininity.

According to this dubious ambassador for women’s rights, “women’s tennis … [attracts] female crowds because the players look feminine, but they are very sporty.” Really? They can look feminine AND be sporty? I’m grateful here for Ms R-B’s instruction as I had always assumed the two were mutually exclusive. Whatever next? Women can have blonde hair AND be clever? Women can have kids AND a successful career? I know this last one is extreme and every cell in your body rejects it but just imagine …

So why does Ms R-B think cricket is a shining example of what women can achieve?

“Women’s cricket also has a good advantage in that we have very feminine looking and good players, but when we started playing we wore the England men’s kit which was very baggy and heavy and didn’t look great.”

When they painted their nails pink they beat India. When they were first sponsored by Jimmy Choo they beat Australia, considered the best women’s cricket team in the world. But, by god, those heels were a b*gger when running up to bowl. Forget determination, physical strength and skill, clearly women can achieve anything with a little feminine tailoring. Make it pink and they can take on the world.

I’m not kept awake at night thinking about how more women should be getting into sport. As far as I can see, they’re already there. (I think there was something on the TV recently called the Olympics – I recall seeing at least a couple of women taking part and I believe that some even won medals. That said, we managed to detract from some very successful women by prefixing every mention of their name with the phrase “London 2012 poster girl”.)

There’s no doubt that certain sports are dominated by men and that the women in those sports struggle to be taken seriously by sponsors and the media, but is turning every women’s sport into beach volleyball really the way forward? Surely equality is about minimising and not accentuating differences. Women are as physically and mentally determined as men and as motivated by success and money. And if they break a fingernail in the process then I doubt you’ll find many sportswomen at the touch line with a tear-streaked face touching up their mascara.

3 Responses to “Sexing up women’s sport: is this really the 21st century?”

  1. simonsometimessays October 14, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    Like. Share. Retweet. Print A5 flyers and leave them all over the tube. This is an excellent piece, with or without the photo.

    Is this connected? But it seems just daft that British women’s success in sport – regarding the Olympics as an exception – is not routinely at the front end of the news. Wayne Rooney’s team can beat San Marino – woo woo – but the English women’s cricket team’s great performances recently can’t even get decent TV coverage (well, I don’t have Sky).

  2. Muddling Along October 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    How on earth are attitudes like that still going on? Within both sexes there are the sportier ones and the don’t like to sweat ones – it isn’t a female thing and all the sexing up sport and making it look less, well, sporty can only risk alienating those girls with aptitude and who want to achieve surely?

    • Crumbs & Pegs October 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

      Agreed. Amazed this was published as a serious story. Feel that the cricketer is letting down both sport and women!

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