Picture the scene;
Last night, two of my nieces pop over as they usually do, to catch up on homework (this lasts for about 15 mins, then they talk at me or text me emoticons from the other side of the sofa, I still don’t know what cat looking sideways means…).
The TV is on, and up comes an advert. There’s a woman but we don’t pay attention, we know how it goes, she has an unobtainable figure, she’s usually white, has been photoshopped and is being sexualised. BUT WAIT!
- There’s some cellulite
- There’s a woman sweating
- There’s a woman without make up (At this point my nieces put down their phones looked at me, and then paid attention to the advert, curious and confused)
- There’s women of all sizes
- There’s women of abilities and disability
- There’s women of all ages
- There’s women of different races
- Some of them aren’t even in coordinated sports wear…
As it finished, I had this sinking feeling; is this one of those adverts for “natural beauty”, telling you to be yourself whilst selling you products to do the very opposite. Yes Dove, I’m talking to you. But my cynicism was unnecessary, it’s an advert for Sports England to encourage women to take up exercise and keep healthy.
The bar for decent advertising which treats women with respect rather than disdain for their bodies is so low, that 1 min and 30 seconds delighted me so much, my nieces and I watched twice more, just to make sure we weren’t making it up.
One of my nieces was particularly delighted, as she struggles with her body in a similar way that I did (still do), she simply said; “that’s what I look like after PE and it got on the tv – maybe it’s not that bad!”. She was making it out to be nothing, but it wasn’t. It was definitely something to her. That makes it worthwhile already.
Beyond the simple fact that there are real women in the advert, what strikes me more, is that there is a sense of aggression and strength which is very rarely seen. Women playing football, boxing, putting in a gumshield before rugby or roller derby, all with a face of determination. Too often when we depict women even doing activities of strength or “men’s roles” we make them pretty, ask them to stand at an angle and smile. I’ve watch roller derby, there isn’t time for any of that sh*t.
Women are celebrating winning a game, women are at the gym, women are jumping into a lake – nothing is prescribed, not the appearance of them and not even the type of exercise that’s being promoted. Marketing done
There’s the obvious problem that these are women and not girls and the tagline is This Girl Can, there’s also the slight issues that the homepage says “This Girl Can is here to inspire women to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement
is a barrier that can be overcome.” Well, judgement is a barrier that exists because it benefits the sexist status quo, and really until we tackle the sexist status quo, overcoming judgement is not that simple. But, I love it too much, so you’re forgiven.
There has also been some criticism of it being focused on appearance rather than other issues that may prevent women from getting the time to do exercise. Sure there is a list of reasons why women are excluded from physical activity, but the reality is, if you went out on the street and asked women, I’ll put money on them saying it’s because of the discomfort they feel in their own bodies, which is absolutely the result of a patriarchal society hell bent on making women feel like crap about themselves and profiting from it. In times when we have seen an increase of objectification, Sports England should be applauded. Claps all round.
Take a look at the website and meet the women. You’ll love them. I want them to be my friends and then we can all go to the gym together and have a competition on who can leave looking the worst.