In Summer 2014, ‘Always’ launched a campaign to bring awareness to the use of the term ‘Like A Girl’ as a negative connotation. They asked adults and young girls to act out physical actions ‘like a girl’ and the results were astonishing. While the young girls ran, threw and fought like themselves; the women acted weak and flimsy in their efforts. In other words when asked to do something like a girl, women automatically assumed that this meant to do it badly. The campaign was an amazing eye opener because the phrase has clearly been accepted by men and women alike and Always wants women to change their view of themselves as active women, after all, this kind of negative thinking can seriously impact a young girls confidence in her ability.
After reminding myself about the campaign it made me curious about what it means to be a physically active woman. Does being a woman have anything to do with the way we view ourselves in sport? Does it stop us from doing the sports we want? And for the adolescent girl experiencing physical body changes, does it get in the way of activity?
As a dancer I love being active and I don’t see how being a girl has interfered with anything I wanted to do in life. However, is dance not seen to be a stereotypical ‘girl thing’? I am hardly going against the grain in my choice of activity. Seeking further points of view, I questioned some of my friends on the subject and was happy to hear a range of views and experiences. I started with Liane who I know is an excellent hockey player, I’ve known her since we were young and she has always put time aside for sport.
Liane Phillipson, 24, Financial Administrator: When I first started university I toyed with the idea of going along to the first rugby or cricket training session. I told my friends about the idea and in response was told that ‘I might get hurt’ and that they were ‘both sports for boys’. In the end I didn’t go to either. I would like to believe that it was because the first couple of weeks at uni are so busy but part of me can see that what other people thought had an impact. In the long run, I would have only had time for one sport and hockey would have always have been my priority, but I often look back and wish that I had gone even to one session. I would encourage anyone to try a new sport or activity regardless of whether they or anyone else thinks it’s ‘just for boys’.
I am so on board with Liane in this, I really support girls being active in their own way and am proud to have friends who try all different kind of sports! However, maybe we should be worrying less about the activity, and more about how we feel.
Lucy Marshall, 25, Dancer: I think being a girl comes with plenty of stereotypes and labels but I guess it’s mainly down to how we think, feel and act. It’s becoming so greatly misled these days, and I’m definitely part of the social hype that we’re all so caught up in! ‘How to look good on social media’ rather than how to feel good in ourselves!.We need to focus on words such as ‘individuality’ and who we are, man or woman, how we feel and what makes us the happiest we can be. Always stand up for what you want, believe and dream, that’s what’s important. Don’t get lost in a world of comparison and look beyond what you see in front of you… the best things are always least expected!
Lucy emphasises what The Motivation Project is all about, the emotional wellbeing side of life. Encouraging girls to worry less about other people’s opinions, thoughts and social stereotypes and to concentrate on being the happiest versions of themselves. Darcie spoke about the pressure that comes with being an active female.
Darcie Bone, 23, Events Executive: There is much more pressure on girls to be in shape and look good than there ever has been. All the media portrayals of females are hugely emphasising their physical appearance and ‘working out’ (take instagram ‘thinspiration’ as an example). That said, I think if girls play sports such as hockey or football it’s seen as butch or unfeminine and therefore unattractive to men. It’s like only certain sports are seen as a good thing for females to do.
The media is certainly hard to avoid, especially when we have the outlets we do now, Darcie mentioned instagram for example. But the physical difference between girls and boys in adolescence could also have a role in how women experience fitness.
Lucy Richardson, 25, Business Consultant: Girls and boys have different types of pressure, different worries, different peers. I think society is good and getting better at offering the same opportunities regarding subjects and work though. Boys don’t have the periods to cope with either. That makes a huge difference!
I do seem to remember at school that swimming lessons were stopped once girls hit 13 due to this inevitable change, and now I look back and wonder what kind of a message that sent to any keen swimmers…
Lyanne Hodson, 26, Agency Director and Personal Trainer: I remember one time in year 8, I had developed physically quite a lot and tried to compete in the county 100m, however I was unable to do so at my personal best because of the changes in my development. Due to what our bodies endure in growing up together with what society presumes a girl should be, it’s inevitable that we have different experiences to boys but this this strengthens our emotional wellbeing. Girls become strong women, even if they aren’t active, some just don’t realise it.
Lyanne understands, like I do, that any struggles we experience as young girls, we can use them to strengthen us as women. I’m proud to do everything I do #LikeAGirl!