Let’s talk of the latest health campaign you should know about. Earlier this week, Sport England unveiled their ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, which is trying to remove long-standing shame and fear associated with females engaging in sports through a video that has racked up over 1 million views.
We all know that when we think of sports, we think of a male dominated arena where seeing men sweat, huff and puff, groan and talk boastfully about their recent gym session is frankly, quite normal. Even images and visuals related to this have always been welcomed in the mass media since it has always been more acceptable for men to ‘naturally’ fit with sports and bulking up, while women and their bodies have been moulded to see sports and fitness as a means of becoming skinny and heading towards absurdly set goals centred around unrealistic models in magazines and more recently, hashtags such as ‘thinspiration’ (with more unrealistic images of women, yay).
What this campaign aims to do is show that females of all shapes and sizes can engage in sports and fitness activities without the need to please anyone; essentially, it is normalising the normal, everyday female and the normal female body shapes that exist in our world. It’s about redefining femininity and ridding it of a long, enslaved history that has dictated it must restrain itself, be conservative and shy away from a love of sport and fitness. It is telling females that they do not need to engage in sports just to get fit and that actually, it is more about loving your body and loving yourself.
The campaign has received some criticism for being called “This Girl Can” and so excluding women an even slated for still being about sex, but I disagree. Girl or women, the campaign’s message is far more important than the name, and anyway, weren’t all women girls once? Yes, “girl” has younger connotations, but the campaign is essentially about shedding yourself of those factors that create fear within females and prevent them from engaging in sport – age being one of them. “Girl” suggests frivolity, letting go and embracing that inner youth that can never really be demolished, whether you’re a woman or not.
And while the video does capitalise on images of women’s flesh, well, what did critics expect to see when tackling sport? Some see objectification in it but if Sport England covered these females up and created the video, then they would see that it is a misrepresentation of women in sport and claim that women need to be empowered to in fact reveal their bodies when engaging in healthy activity. So the campaign would lose either way, right? I for one see sparks of female empowerment radiating from the women. If Sport England wanted to make this campaign sexy, it would scream sexy, but to me, it doesn’t.
What’s important is that the campaign works and the hashtag is easy to engage with. Girls or woman, this is about being female. We could all sit around and be picky but for once, let’s not. The message here is coherent and makes sense to many female wanting to make a go of loving themselves. Let’s focus on that!