Yesterday the Culture, Media and Sport Committee launched its enquiry into why, oh why, not enough women take part in regular exercise. The gender divide in sport participation is widening with stats from the WSFF showing that only 20% of women do enough exercise a week to stay healthy. That’s just to stay healthy by the way, that’s not to train to become a top flight athlete, that’s just doing enough exercise in a week to make sure your heart, lungs and all their organy friends stay happy and healthy. We all know the pros of keeping active and that they far outweigh the cons, however something has got into the psyche of women in the UK that’s preventing the statistic of those doing enough weekly exercise from rising.
Its a complex issue, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered, however Christine Ohuruogu certainly identified one of the key ones yesterday whilst speaking to BBC 5Live about the Committee-the media. Now, you may have noticed that we hear at The Sportist have a lot to say about the lack of women’s sport in the media and this is a huge factor in discouraging women from getting active, however as Ohuruogu points out, its also the other images the media portray that drive women away from the hard work of the sports field. Let’s face it, if there are no female athletes available in mainstream media then there are no role models for other women, however if there’s an image of a tired, sweaty female rugby player next to an image of a glamorous reality TV starlet heading out to the latest flashy club then, in general, who are women more likely to want to be like?
As Ohuruogo puts it -“I don’t want to put everyone in the same box, but a lot of these young women aspire to this kind of lifestyle: get rich, get famous, do the bare minimum and life is great….On the other hand sport is saying work hard, be determined.”
The media have generated a culture that now awards celebrity status to those doing very little. By going on a reality TV show, doing nothing that is really of any use to anyone or even that entertaining, these women are rewarded with clothes, access to the best parties and wealth and it all looks so easy. With young girls from primary school age not being encouraged to take part in sport, the chances of them becoming active as they hit their pre-teens and teens when bombarded by these images becomes more slim. Yes there are obviously the exceptions otherwise we’d have no female athletes at all, but generally when you’re between the ages of 8-18 being different to your peers and the perceived images the media rams down your throat of what’s accepted is not a very appealing idea.
When the downward spiral of active levels gathers momentum from the age of about 5 years old, its no surprise that with the lack of support from the media women are not likely to reach the guidelines for weekly exercise. It isn’t a habit, it hasn’t been encouraged and it isn’t going to get you rich quick.
In a way I feel the committee with find it is dealing with an issue far beyond the diminishing levels of women participating in sport. Yes this is obviously a very serious problem, but could also be one way of looking at the lack of motivation of young women in this country in all areas of life thanks to a gaping hole of intelligent, determined and high achieving female role models in this country’s who aren’t criticised in the media for the way they look, the clothes they wear and who they’re dating.
To give Amy Childs her due she is pretty active – exercise DVDs, half marathon running, you name it, she’s done it. However it would be nice if she talked about it a bit more than discussing putting stick on jewels on your lady garden place…vom.