Have you ever walked into a weights room, saw nothing but men grunting, comparing how heavy their weights are and the number of reps they’ve done, and walked straight out? We all know that sport is good for us; mentally as well as physically, the benefits are endless. However, research has found that unlike the boys, many women ignore the benefits and quit sport altogether, we wanted to find out why.
Society has been trained to think of sports in a gender specific way. Historically, women have been defined to be caring, obedient and nurturing, whereas men are seen as strong, independent and athletic.
Throughout history, women have been limited to participating in sport because it wasn’t seen to be ‘lady like’ to sweat, show aggression or compete. In the late 1800’s women were accepted in sports like golf, archery, and croquet but still weren’t allowed to play sports that involved more physical contact or strain- because that wouldn’t be ‘lady like’.
However, traditional stereotypes began to lessen as women started to tackle the negative concept of women participating in sports. The invention of the bicycle literally transformed the lifestyle of women in sports. Women changed their clothes to enable them to enjoy cycling - they chose a freer style of dress and bloomers (wide fitting pants for under the dress), allowing women to comfortably take part in horse riding, gymnastics and skating too- a revolution!
Women started to really participate in sports and began challenging stereotypes more and more. Female participation in extreme sports like snowboarding, skating and inline skating started in 1998 and has continued to increase since then.
Studies have proven that the historical stereotype is wrong, women are tougher than boys! We are more resilient in endurance sports and long distance racing, and overall more robust in basic survival abilities. This feeling women have is just a hangover effect of how society has defined us. So the next time you feel intimidated by a male during sport, put that feeling in a box and throw it away, you are the stronger one.
The internet can be another reason for women's nervousness and reluctance to involve themselves in sport. Whilst it is totally fine to be inspired and motivated by athletes and models (you should follow big wave surfer Paig Alms for inspiration), social media can be a dangerous place for our mental health. ‘Instagram famous’ women are all over our feeds with their ‘perfect’ bodies and ‘perfect’ lives. We look to these women, thinking they are perfect and begin to self-compare, we think, ‘they’re followed by millions of people, they are liked, and I don’t look like them, I can’t do what they can so I’m not good enough…’
Girls and women become embarrassed about their bodies and what they think are imperfections because they can’t live up to these unrealistic images on social media. In turn, this discourages girls from partaking in sport, because they think they will be compared to girls on Instagram.
"What you see when looking at extreme leanness isn’t just photoshop, it’s the result of a concentrated period specifically designed to get in shape over 8-12 weeks." says Jodie Newell, a personal trainer at Impact Fitness. "Many models and competitors do this once, take a ton of photos and then post them throughout the year to make it seem like they look like that all of the time – but the truth is that they don’t."
We want you all to know that nobody - not even your favourite climber, surfer, athlete or Instagram fitness model eats and trains on point every day of the year.
Never be embarrassed about your body, stop comparing yourselves to these unreal representations of a person’s life on Instagram and be yourself, love your curves, cellulite, baby fat, muscled thighs and be the best woman in sport that you can be. You have a great personality, your own quirks, a lovely smile and more.
You will always be loved regardless of how your body looks. Start not giving a crap about what other people think and do things for yourself and encourage your girlfriends because your nervousness will be replaced with feeling great!
Feel proud of being a woman in the water, at the top of a mountain, on a ramp in a skate park, or on a football team, don’t let society define you.