Watching the Winter Olympics in complete awe of the bravery, determination and talent shown by the competitors, it upset me to hear that the female ski jumpers had to fight for years to finally be allowed to jump in the Sochi Olympics four years ago (apparently one argument against it was that their reproductive organs may get damaged on landing) and even now they only get one event, while the men get three.
There are still, as we know, huge inequalities in sport across the board: from prize money, to coverage, to access…it makes for depressing thoughts and until there are more females holding top positions on boards, progress will continue to be slow. Women are underrepresented and therefore open to exploitation and abuse.
The female snowboarders competed in horrendous winds in Pyeongchang a couple of days ago and most people, including the competitors, felt it should have been postponed as it was dangerous. Yet the message that came across was that the female athletes hadn’t made their voices heard. That they hadn’t wanted to make a fuss, to rock the boat. To me this mirrors the bigger picture of where female athletes see themselves in the pecking order.
Women need to have a voice in sport – they need to make themselves heard!
As I was pondering this inequality (and I ponder it often, as my daughter is a footballer) I thought about how important it is that we get girls into sport and keep them there! The vast majority give up sport as teenagers.
Teenage girls are incredibly self conscious and I’m convinced this is one of the main reasons why they quit sport: the outfits, the gear, the sweat, the performance- it all draws attention to them at a time when they prefer to hide behind screens with filters and two hundred takes for that perfect look.
How do we convince our girls that sport will rock their self-esteem far more than 100 likes on Instagram and more than comments such as ‘beaut’ and ‘hotty’ ever will?
How the hell are we going to convince them, when actually there’s not enough action coming from the top? This is the problem.
IF we are going to get more girls into sport, we’ve not only got to smash stereotypes at the ground level, we need to get a huge momentum going at the top end of the sports themselves.
Yes, we need sportswomen as role models, we need females in the boardrooms, we need female coaches, we need a VOICE!
The struggle is real. Sadly I think that we are years away from big change. As an International female Taekwon-do competitor, as a Taekwon-do coach, as a mum to a female International footballer, as an avid spectator of sport, I see and have seen terrible inequality.
In my sport I teach people how to fight in the ring. As a female it can often feel as if every step towards equality is a fight. Not all women are taught to fight. The ‘fight’ response is often quashed by gender stereotyping at a young age. While boys are told to ‘man up’ girls are conditioned to be ‘like a girl’ – both are wrong.
But the fight is on!
We must all play our part. We must not allow our voices to get lost in the wind.
Stepdaughter fighting in the ring