I’m sure most of you will have spotted the new campaign by Sport England #ThisGirlCan. The campaign aims to close the gender gap as women are exercising less than men, seemingly because of self-image issues; they don’t like how they look when they exercise or don’t feel comfortable exercising or sweating in public so avoid it altogether. This Girl Can encourages women to get out there and find exercise they love doing and go for it, no matter how sweaty or bright red they may become while at it!
The reason I love this idea so much is the advertising of REAL women, no airbrushed, super-skinny, completely unrealistic images that women (and men) have grown accustomed to looking at. Now we have a campaign in which women of all shapes and sizes feature, working hard and reaping the benefits. Remember, thin does not always equal healthy, being underweight can have just as many medical problems as being overweight. Women should be embracing their bodies how they are, loving themselves, and loving their sport without having to worry about their image.
As a dancer, an industry where image is at the forefront of every casting, I have plenty of experience of girls trying to look their absolute best while working their absolute hardest. Most dancers will quickly learn that feeling insecure about yourself will get you nowhere, working hard and being resilient will ultimately push a dancer to the next level, away from the superficial side of the industry that we dancers are all too familiar with! And when you reach the other side, the side where you are comfortable in your skin and just happy working hard and trying your best, the feeling you get is so satisfying, it’s contentment. So much better than fretting about whether you didn’t book that job because of your muffin top!
I have to say all of this because while I’m writing I’m conscious of the young girls, the ones who are experiencing changes in their bodies and becoming more aware of themselves as young adults. They often feel insecure and looking up to a celebrity ideal can lead them to question why they are the way they are. With unrealistic role models these thoughts can become really negative and it’s just a downward spiral unless we coach them on how to manage their thoughts (enter The Motivation Project!).
Being a teenager in this day and age is so different to ever before, if anyone saw Channel 4’s real-time thriller ‘Cyberbully’ last week you’ll know what I mean. The concept of hackers and trolls is worrying, and the fact that a girl doesn’t even need to leave her bedroom to feel tortured is horrifying. Girls get enough negative press from themselves most of the time so others joining in and picking at their insecurities could leave a teenage girl feeling extremely alone at a turbulent time. I’m glad that teenage girls can look at a campaign like This Girl Can and learn that it’s OK to be themselves and to embrace their bodies however they are.
When I walk past the screens in Waterloo Station now I can’t help but beam up at that woman Zumba-ing away and knowing she feels great doing it. I think we need more women to be brave and set an example for the younger generation, after all they’re going to be more inspired by those close to them than they will of an advert. Mums, Grandmothers, Aunties and Sisters, I’m calling on you to be their real life role models, let’s show young girls that sweat isn’t anything to be afraid of, nothing and no one is perfect and hard work is more rewarding than a crash diet!