Sport England recently released an advertising campaign to encourage women of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities to do more sport and exercise. Named ‘This Girl Can,’ the campaign produced a feisty, memorable television advert showing ‘real’ women participating in a variety of sports; including swimming, football and boxing, whilst sweating and cheering, with Missy Elliot’s ‘Get Ur Freak On’ playing in the background.
The aim of the campaign and the need for it is widely welcomed. Sport England acknowledges there is a “persistent gender gap which means that more men play sport than women at every age,” and this jiggling, puffing and panting shows exactly what real exercise should look like.
However, there is an issue in how they showed these larger-than-life characters in the advert as ‘real women’ whilst naming the campaign ‘This Girl Can.’ It may be that they want their audience to feel they can be young and full of energy like girls, but if the aim is to get older women into sport, then calling them a ‘girl’ may not be the way to do so.
The advert has high energy and seems inspiring. There is an accompanying website with stories about the women from the advert, and they all seem to enjoy their particular sport. I would imagine the advert has inspired some women, empowered some women and represents some women. But some people have misinterpreted and decided the advert is applicable to only ‘real women.’
Sport England are not targeting every single woman. They don’t need to inspire the county netball players, the five-days-a-week gym goers or the Zumba dancers. These women play sport and they are active, and guess what, they are ‘real women’ too. So to say the advert empowers all women and shows us how we can actually play sport is absurd. Women do play sport; it’s just more women should play sport.
It is brilliant that society is now pushing for women of all shapes and sizes to be treated equally and valued equally, but there is an idea creeping up that jiggling and wobbling constitutes as ‘real’ and being slim or physically fit is due to luck or being obsessed with the gym.
Recently, a plus sized model was used in an advert in Sports Illustrated, an American sports magazine. This was seen as a great step forward for curves and the ‘real’ woman, and people questioned whether larger women should be put into more magazines like Sports Illustrated.
Am I the only one who sees the major flaw in this? The audience of the magazine are sports enthusiasts, supporters or athletes. When people in certain sports work so hard to excel and stay fit, why should someone else have their picture in a magazine about staying fit and healthy, just because it is now deemed politically correct?
Even though the ‘This Girl Can’ advert is a step in the right direction for getting more women into sport, maybe they need to stop focusing on body image, women ‘kicking balls’ or looking ‘hot’ whilst exercising, and start focusing on the physical and emotional benefits sport has to every single person’s life.
What did our Editors make of the ‘This Girl Can’ Campaign?
I enjoyed the advert and I do believe that it is aimed at every woman in that particular age group as it showed a range of sports and body types. The phrases that it uses are also applicable in a general sense because a lot of people know what it feels like to ‘sweat like a pig’ and yet have that sense of ‘feeling like a fox’ (or feeling good) when doing exercise. For my first two years at university, I played hockey because I was encouraged by my flatmate to go along and try it. I continued as it was fun and very sociable, enabling me to make a lot of friends that I otherwise would not have met. However, in my third year I just didn’t have the time for it anymore and so I had to stop playing. I do really regret this now as I now miss out on the exercise and the social side of it.
The ‘This Girl Can’ campaign on TV at the moment is such an empowering celebration of women. From their imperfect bodies to their physical strengths, it is great to see the media representing real women. There is some sort of absurd stigma attached to women doing things that are not considered feminine so it is nice to see the whole idea of sport being a ‘male territory’ being broken down. While I admit I am not inclined to sport in the slightest that does not mean the advert doesn’t represent me too. I suppose it acts as a one big middle finger up to the world: promoting the idea that real women do whatever they want and there is more than one face (or body) to a ‘real woman.’ It is just a shame society’s attitudes meant there was a need for this justification in the first place.
When I first saw the ‘This Girl Can’ advert it made me smile, not because of the snappy sound track or catchy slogans (although those do help), but because it reminded me of how good it feels when you do exercise, how rewarding it is when you’ve worked that hard and come out feeling great about yourself. What made me impressed was that at the end of the advert there was no product that was being flogged; just a campaign telling women to keep doing what they do. Because of how the advert made me feel when I saw it, I think it is aimed at every woman and tries to engage as many people as possible. However, in the same way that it inspired me, I can also see how it may not inspire others if they feel like they are being criticised.
I think all of the ‘This Girl Can’ adverts are a really good way of making people take notice. The organisation is doing some really great things to show people that women’s sport is just as much a thing as men’s sport. I do think women’s sport is under represented in the media so hopefully these adverts will make people stop and take notice. The general idea behind it is definitely aimed at every woman, to try and stop them thinking of the stereotypes like “you throw like a girl” etc. However, I don’t think it is encouraging any women to take part if they do not want to. I don’t play a sport at university because I have never really wanted to, but if I did want to there are plenty of opportunities that I would be able to get involved in.