Girls self esteem and sport: Blocking the holes in the sieve!

It was the recent Girlguiding report headline that got me: “87% of girls aged 11-21 think women are judged more for their looks than their ability”. It’s a stark reflection on our image obsessed society and time that ‘S’ of Sajeimpact undertook her first blog!

The drive for equality has always run through my veins so it’s got me wondering recently why I always resisted the label of being a feminist. I enjoy fun banter, don’t take myself too seriously and surely my shoulders are big enough to carry the everyday jibes you get as a woman?

But for all the work we are putting into addressing the gender balance, the attitudes we ‘take on the chin’ and messages we get swamped with in the media are deeply damaging to our children and particularly our girls. The consequences are also reflected in the take up of girls in sport. Girlguiding found that 41% of girls are put off sport by the embarrassment of having to wear sports kits. A statistic that is reflected by the dip in girls sport participation when moving to secondary school and body image is at it’s peak.

It’s great that so much work is going into offering girls opportunities to engage in more sports, that women’s sport coverage is (painfully!) slowly on the up but that is only half of the battle. Society has to look at itself too. For all the bravado that we can empower girls by embracing their sexuality, the results show a very different picture. In fact the report shows that girls’self esteem is falling year on year. I think Miley Cyrus needs to rethink how she is ’empowering’ our girls!

If the above report is to be believed, focusing on programmes alone for future generations will be like pouring water into a sieve! There may be some short term incentives and solutions surrounding changing room and kit practicalities that can be sought but long term we also need to start blocking the holes of the sieve! If we want to see girls returning to their PE kits again it’s essential we need to develop girls’self esteem, to challenge the pressures society & the media places on them to value them as a person before we judge them for their PE kits or what’s underneath them!

I love the game of rugby for lots of reasons but I love the fact that no matter what size, shape, build you are, there is a role for you to play an equal part. Beards, baldness, cauliflower ears can all become your trade mark if you’re a man. What a liberating celebration that must be! I’m certainly not advocating cauliflower ears and beards for women! But I dream of a day when whatever size or shape you are, you can be cheered on by people in stadiums and on tv for their ability in equal measure to their male counterparts.

I didn’t know any different when I was growing up, it was just the way things were. Maybe it’s my age, maybe its seeing my own daughter growing up in a world where image is supreme, but I’m no longer willing to’take it on the chin’

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