As a fitness fanatic and social media addict, a new initiative has recently caught my eye on Twitter. This Girl Can (www.thisgirlcan.co.uk) is a Sports England campaign which is “a celebration of active women up and down the country who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their face gets.” The campaign features a variety of images of women exercising, with slogans such as “I jiggle therefore I am” and “I may be slow, but I’m lapping everybody on the couch”.
I think the message behind this campaign has it’s heart in the right place; encouraging people to exercise is A Good Thing and everybody should be free to exercise without fear of being judged, but I’m struggling not to find it vaguely patronising. I’m not sure if I can quite articulate why, but please bear with me whilst I try…
The message seems to be that even though women have wibbly bits and might jiggle around whilst they run, they can still exercise. Well, thank you for the permission…I do understand what it’s trying to promote and that it’s telling women that they should get out there and not worry about what they look like, but it feels like the “You go girl!” message is underselling the gender as the weaker of the species, and saying that even if you may get laughed at you should do it anyway. I also get that it’s trying to dispel the myths about the typical gym goer and make it seem less intimidating – which I think it does actually succeed in doing – but what’s wrong with showing women as already being strong? The campaign is, inadvertently perhaps, creating a divide between the sexes that needn’t be there. Couldn’t this have been aimed at both genders? I’m sure there are men out there who are equally as daunted by the idea of joining a gym or going for a run for the first time.
And why ‘girl’ not ‘women’? Semantics maybe, but I can’t help but feel like it has weak connotations.
As mentioned by a fellow blogger, I also hope this doesn’t turn into a skinny versus curvy campaign. I don’t want the only images portrayed of women to be the overweight, unfit ones. This isn’t representative of the gender and feels like we are being undersold rather than empowered. Female doesn’t equal unfit. There are a couple of already fit and athletic women featured in the campaign too, so I hope that these are featured as prominently. Although perhaps the campaign does have the right balance, and too many images of fit and toned women might be intimidating. I’m not sure.
A quick scout of social media tells me I’m not alone in my view (‘This Girl Can – patronising’ is actually a search suggestion on Twitter), however there are equally as many people, if not more, who scoff at the idea of it being patronising. I guess opinion will differ depending on your position. I’m viewing the campaign as a woman who is already active and participating in physical activity, which isn’t the target audience. So maybe that’s why I haven’t warmed to it.
I’m not sure I’ve managed to articulate myself very succinctly here, and I’ve been wrestling with myself about this topic for a couple of days now without coming to any firm conclusions. But I definitely can’t shake the idea that women are being slightly patronised by this campaign – although it does have a strong overall message.
I would love to hear your views!