Category Archives: Women’s sport

NO WOMEN WERE INVOLVED…

… In any of the (many) mistakes that officials made in any of the premier leaguer games yesterday.

Phew, we are relieved…. It seems that it’s nothing to do with your gender, if you make a mistake as a man…. But everything to do with your gender, if you don’t make any mistakes at all.

How confusing!

We’d like to thank Gary Linekar for the superb little dig he made re one of the mistakes (made by a man) in one of the games yesterday. It’s good to know that high profile men are finding the whole debacle an important enough issue to not let it go just yet.

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A small word about the offside rule

How heartening to see the reaction from established sports personalities to the appalling remarks made by Gray and Keys regarding Sian Massey. Kenny Dalglish and Rio Ferdinand we are grateful to you both for voicing your support for her and your disgust at the two commentators’ attitudes.

 

But let’s not forget that the ubiquitous and rampant sexism within the field of sports is going to take more than this event to break down. I‘m still waiting for a response to a letter I wrote to the BBC regarding their patronising and pathetic attempt to feature women’s sport in the Sports Personality of the Year programme  before Christmas. A 40 second slot devoted to women’s sport under the title ‘girl power’, within a two hour programme. No mention of our successful Cricket, Rugby, Football or Hockey teams; language such as ‘golden girls’ being bandied about. The BBC has as much to answer for as Sky does. And it seems to be having some trouble in coming up with a response.

 

Sky should sack both Keys and Gray for their insults to women. If it has any business sense –  not to mention ethical and cultural sense – then it will . But we need to look much deeper at the attitudes we have to women and sport and address them head on. This means giving girls every opportunity to take part, to celebrate their role models (and know who they are), and to be allowed to compete and be rewarded in the same way that boys and men are. This means taking to task the boardroom culture which dominates sport and getting more women in top positions. And it means that we finally need to wake up to the fact that women are informed and engaged consumers of sport in all its forms.

 

Off-side rule for girls…

Kim Little is top goal scorer of the year

Hooray, England are out of the world cup. Well, not really hooray, as I love a bit of football, love supporting England and was really looking forward to it, like many of us. But now we’re out, and in such spectacularly disappointing style, the press are full swing into the autopsy and it’s been interesting to compare and contrast the achievements of our men to that of our women’s team.

Yesterday those achievements were celebrated at the 12th FA Women’s Football Awards. Kim Little received most honours for being top goal scorer as well as many others including Natasha Dowie, Katie Chapman and Jordan Nobbs (seen below) who was young player of the year.

We’d like to add our congratulations to these women and to shout from the roof-tops about their successes as well as to the inspirational Hope Powell, Lewisham born,  for receiving her CBE in this years Queen’s honours list. So great to have so many role models for our girls to aspire to be… a bit more of this and a little less of the ‘Future WAG’ or ‘WAG in training’ t.shirts wouldn’t go amiss, how about Future Football Manager, or Future Young player of the year instead?

Hilarious.... isn't it?

Ironic, or just plain sad really, that our highstreets are plastered in the *hilarious WKD ads. (Dare I mention them in case I get the usual onslaught  accusing me of not having a sense of humour…yawn yawn (see Guardian piece today, including string of vitriol below),

Well, I do dare, because the plain fact of the matter is, is that whilst we’re busily being told how stupid we all are in the ads… Sport England’s Active People survey in 2008 tells us that 260,000 women and 1.1 million girls play some form of football in England and that there are 26 million females playing across the world, of which 4.1 million are playing affiliated football – this is a 54% growth since the year 2000 (FIFA Big Count 2006) and I’d wager that those numbers have risen since then too.

Young Player of the Year - Jordan Nobbs

So, whilst you ‘ad lads’ are all having a laugh at the expense of the girls (offside rule blue ad) and even the WAGS (the orange ad) whilst supping your neon alcopops… there are loads of us ‘girls’ who know exactly what off-side is thanks…. and it’s our job to remind you that we exist. So before you have a go at me for daring to speak up about how pathetic, the ads are…

I’d focus on reminding our ‘lads’ where the back of the net was first…. no?

wetsuits vs bikinis

A friend and supporter of PinkStinks sent me a link to an article from the Telegraph last week. Somewhat embarrassing, somewhat tragic, totally pointless. It struck a chord with me, as I took part in the London triathlon this weekend. In stark contrast to the desire to break the world record for getting the most bikini clad women on one beach all at the same time … my gosh, how utterly thrilling.

The triathlon, and countless other events like it, 10ks 5ks, walks and fun runs, encourage participation in sport, team work, competition and of course result in some impressive fund raising for charities. The Telegraph article laments, maybe in tongue in cheek fashion, the failure of this rather pathetic record breaking attempt. Some of the 42 women that bothered to turn up, blamed it on the weather. One woman is quoted as saying “It made me feel pretty embarrassed to be British when we can’t even mount a decent challenge”. Well, you know what, you should have got your wetsuit on, and come and jumped into the docks with the hundreds of other women participants this weekend. There was more than enough reason to be very proud … even despite the fact we all got issued with pink swimming hats!

Be the best you can be

Be the best that you can be

It was a nerve-wracking time for us, something new, something brave, something a little ‘off piste’. We were invited to be part of a panel at an event in Hackney, North London, called ‘Be the best you can be’. There in front of us were over 60 girls, aged 14 – or there abouts. I couldn’t tell you, my kids are little, these kids looked like grown-ups to me. And there we are sat on a panel, for the first time talking about what we are all about, to some of the people, that we’d really like to benefit. Emma calls them, our ‘beneficiaries’!

It was certainly one of the most difficult things we’ve done to date – we’ve spoken to journalists and funders with relative ease … but this, was a whole different ball game. And a ball game that we are going to have to spend a bit more time learning the rules for.

It wasn’t bad, it was a strange format really, a bit them and us. The girls’ faces were mostly blank, and a bit bored, but there were some sparkles in there too. At the end of the talk, when a Labour Party member had just about finished off any hope of ever inspiring any girls EVER to want to get into politics, we were determined to meet Michelle Brown, now SHE was a role model, and SHE was coming at it from the right angle.

This young woman is exactly what we are looking for in our role models, for PinkStinks as a campaign, and for cooltobe.me as inspiration. She told the girls of her journey to being in the England Women’s Basketball team. How she had lived her dream; how there’ll always be ‘haters’ or ‘doubters’ but that you should get your strength from these people … and do it anyway. How when she got pregnant at 19, and the world of basketball turned away from her; but how she made them look at her again, and how she succeeded on her own terms, because she believed that she could. About how having her son gave her a new dimension in her life, and how she chose an education to safeguard her future. About how when she got injured, her education saved her, and meant that she could earn a living for herself and her son. And now she is an award winning coach for the Brixton TopCats, a successful Women’s team from Brixton.

One of the organisers said at the end, that we as a panel were an “inspiration”, and I don’t doubt that some of the women there were, or deserved that accolade. Michelle certainly was, and we hope that we can do some work with her on our project. But something that really crossed my mind was that it’s actually the young women there, working with these youth groups, day in, day out, hoping to inspire and ignite in them something that will give them the energy and determination to try to make it in life, to get what they want and to be fulfilled. Really it’s they that are the inspiration. And really, it’s they that deserve all the credit.

Girls get their kicks by Helen Donohoe

My niece is doing amazing things. At the vulnerable age of seven she is making her very own stand against the pinked up tyranny that surrounds her.  She doesn’t like pink anymore. Hallelujah I cry. Not only that but she would like to wear shorts rather than that school dress please. Good choice! Much better for climbing. She’s also taken the brave decision to wear her football kit of choice as she proudly takes part in the inevitably boy-dominated football sessions after school. All the braver because her football kit of choice is Tottenham Hotspur’s.   The boys in their mass marketed Chelsea and Man Utd uniforms think this is funny – but she can handle that.  What she finds much harder to cope with is the horrible stick she gets from the girls; ‘you look like a boy’, ‘that’s what boys’ wear’ ‘do you want to be a boy?’.

It’s so familiar to me. It’s as if 30 years of my life never happened. In 1979 I was in exactly the same place.  The kit was red with white sleeves but the bullying was just the same.

On the face of it that is quite depressing. However if you look closer there is room for a smile. There will always be spirits that can not be fenced in. No force in the world would ever stop me playing football (and many have tried).  But women and girls all over the world play football in far tougher circumstances than I or my niece have ever faced. I sent this article to her as a reminder of that.

And here’s another great piece of film.

However, we need a prevailing culture that means you don’t have to be brave or tough to have the same choices as boys.  Naturally cultural change is complex and multi-faceted but role models are essential.  That is why it is absolutely critical that the Football Association get women’s football right. They govern the game in England, where the game was invented.  They have responsibility for the development of the game at all levels and ultimately they have the ability to allow women and girls’ football to thrive – or in the current climate at least survive.  Arsenal Football Club have for over ten years set the inspirational standard of what women and girls’ football could look like.  The players are heroes. My two year old girl can shout their names and if I ever need reminding of how far we have come, I just take my daughters and their friends to join the crowd that every Sunday watch Arsenal women play.  This year they won the FA Cup and League again.

However, they really are the exception that proves what the norm could be.

Thirty years on from my experience as a girl daring to be different the links are still missing.  When girls on the one hand can dream of growing up to be Rachel Yankey, but still face bullying for just wanting to join in with the boys (or hopefully other girls playing football) we still have a long way to go. If you’re a football fan ask your club what they are doing for women and girls’ football (pink scarves in the club shop is not the right answer!) or remind the FA how critical it is for them to invest in the women’s game.

Not every girl or indeed boy will get their kicks from chasing a football around a park.  However, that should be their choice and no one else’s.

Orla - supporting Arsenal Ladies

Orla - supporting Arsenal Ladies

New Year’s Honours

It’s always good to sit back and take stock of the year gone by on 31st December. So here we are. I was spurred on this morning by the publication of the New Year’s Honours list. As you would expect, the sports men and women were headlining which was great to see … gold medallists all got an honour … and it was especially brilliant to see Rebecca Adlington and Eleanor Simmonds – both so young and such amazing people on the list. 

If you delve a bit deeper though the list is bulging with amazing people … but for these purposes of course … it’s the women on the list who really stand out for me. Incredible bravery and resilience; amazing lifetime achievements; creativity and business success. All celebrated in one place. It’s so refreshing to see when we are so used to seeing the usual celebrities being celebrated for their dress sense, or their exploits, or their handbags or whatever it is. 

I was really pleased that Vivien Smith, who has volunteered for more than 40 years for GirlguidingUK,was honoured and she was mentioned alongside the more well-known recipients on Radio 4 this morning. And I noticed that Karen Gill – founder of the Everywoman network, which both Abi and I have found so useful and supportive – was on the list too. Great to see.

One of the most telling stories for me this year was the media interest in GirlGuidingUK’s research which highlighted the difficulties which girls today have around self-esteem and the pressure to look a certain way. We talked about this research a few months ago and so did the press … take a look at the reaction and links on the GirlGuidingUK website. It says a lot about how this issue is something which we need to tackle and we need to take seriously. 

An interesting article in the Guardian last week talked about tomboys! And asked: where have they all gone?? It’s a good read and it really brought home to me how incredibly our society has changed over the last few decades in terms of the conditioning that girls get. Yes – in some ways for the better without a doubt – but look closer and you realise that girls really are under the most enormous pressure to conform to outrageous standards of dress and codes of behaviour. I wondered – just before Christmas – how ‘pink’ my daughters’ Christmases would be this year. We escaped relatively unscathed I think … and interestingly Jasmine was thrilled to get Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven. I’m really curious to reread this after all this time. Even looking at the changing attitudes to her books is fascinating … let alone analysing the characters. I’ll keep you posted! 

Happy New Year!