Have you seen the new ad encouraging women to get into sport? It displays women and their wobbly bits enjoying exercise. It’s aimed at women themselves, and is based on the premise that many of us (women I mean, though possibly men too) think exercise is an excuse for thin people to look good. Bits of it are quite good and I liked that it captured the adrenaline rush you can get from doing something flat out for a bit.
The accompanying slogan is “this girl can.” Bleagh.
I haven’t appreciated being called a girl since I was 10 years old. I get E to yell “Girl!” with her fists raised in triumph in the same way that I yell “Woman!” when we talk about identity. But it’s entirely appropriate for her being, as she is, 2 1/2 years old. Do grown women refer to themselves as girls? Perhaps they do.
This is a minor irritant. My main problem is that the campaign is one sided. On my Twitter timeline this morning, there was a link to this advert. Just beneath it, was a tweet from someone highlighting that on her run home from work two men regularly tried to grab her, as if her exercise was a game to them and she was fair game. (This was RT’d by @everydaysexism as part of their ongoing campaign.)
One reason why I used to prefer going to the gym rather than exercise in the street is because I didn’t get heckled in the gym. I didn’t get catcalled, I didn’t get whistled at. These days, if I run on the rods or in my local park, I do get at least one call per run and sometimes more. I’ve never been grabbed though. I get fewer yells if I go out in the dark but that comes with its own set of concerns about personal safety.
So I ask, where is the accompanying campaign to allow women to exercise in peace?
We have a massive problem with food, exercise and bodies across the whole of our society. Sport England cannot possibly hope to combat all of the shit that flies around about it with this alone.
But having said all that, I like the advert. If nothing else, I think it does try to address the problems women make for each other – in judging each other by our appearance. We’re terrible for it. Usually when I talk about why people and women in particular don’t exercise once they get past compulsory PE classes, it’s to point out how many of us found PE classes to be nothing more than an exercise in ritual humiliation. I can still remember asking my mother not to get me a bra fitted till I left Junior School because I saw how someone else’s was pinged around the swimming changing rooms. And the girl who had her period and wore thick sanitary towels in the PE changing room after hockey one time – I hope to goodness she’s not hopelessly scarred by the experience.
It was these issues that made me worry about how I would raise E – teenage girls are such cows to each other. Body image and self esteem. For now, all I can do is set an example I guess – I do go out for a run, I do hare around in the park with her and I try not to worry publicly about my weight or appearance.
I usually go running on a Saturday morning. A few weeks ago I put my gear on and opened the front door to be greeted with a downpour. Urgh. I wasn’t expecting rain. S chided me and said I wouldn’t notice it. I went upstairs to get a second top – it was not only raining but really cold. S, who knows just how to play me, told E I was being weedy. She promptly repeated it. Obviously I couldn’t let that slide so I went running. Half an hour later I was soaked through. (For the record, the only time I didn’t notice it wasn’t raining was the 30 seconds when it stopped. S said he didn’t think it was raining that hard. Pah!)
E is soaking up comments like a sponge takes on water. She had some concerns the other day about being too heavy – all because at some point I’d had to stop carrying her and put her in the pushchair. She repeats that she’s heavy much more than other things I say about her so I’ve tried to turn it round that she’s a big girl, big and strong and mighty. She has a nice round tummy which she occasionally points to and again, I’ve tried saying “what a lovely tummy!” and so on.
I could really do with all this stuff waiting till she’s older – I thought I’d have more time. But perhaps it really does start this young. This girl can. So can I.