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“It’s not just about how you play (the game)…

but about how hot you look when you win!”Sportz Bratz

I kid you not – this is the motto for the Sportz Bratz.

Research clearly shows one of the best things girls can do to promote a healthy body image is become involved in sports. enlighten actively encourages girls to get physical but also deconstructs some of the stereotypes of women in sport that are unhelpful and explores the sexualisation of female sport stars. Some information from the Government’s Australian Sports Commission web site reiterates why this holistic approach is so important:

Stereotypes influence the types of sports in which women are likely to participate. Not only are sports labelled masculine or feminine, those female athletes who participate in sports are also subject to being labelled and stereotyped as either masculine (possibly lesbian) or feminine (conforming to the ideal). Sport can be a liberating experience for women, in that it offers them a chance to be in control of their own bodies. However, when women start to develop attributes that are perceived to be masculine, for example, muscle bulk and competitiveness, they are often subject to a type of harassment that comes of stepping outside the conventional range of the idealised female body type…

Diet and exercise are used by women to alter their body in order to conform to ideal female images. These practices control women and can lead to eating disorders. There is concern regarding the relationship between eating disorders and elite female athletes, especially in sports with an emphasis on aesthetics and body presentation. Research has clearly linked negative body image with the prevalence of eating disorders, and the susceptibility of those women with negative body image to develop poor eating behaviours. The relationship is consistent, almost every person suffering from an eating disorder suffers from a severely distorted body image.

Research in the United States has found that women who participate in sports and physical activity have a more positive body image than those who don’t. Participation in sports elicits approval from peers, family and friends, and helps women feel that their bodies are capable and competent. These positive feelings produce a positive body image. Although body image is profoundly shaped by social, political, racial, age and gender factors, these experiences are not static and are vulnerable to other more modern influences. We have the power to resist and change these stereotypes.

By refusing the stereotype, women will have access to a greater diversity of experiences that shape body image and self-concept.”

You may also find the report entitled Fit to Lead, produced by Womensport West, interesting reading.  

Findings indicate that: ” …a significant number of teenage girls perceive the sporting arena to be male-dominated. Their experience and comprehension of this domination varies, but whatever its manifestation, the interaction is frequently regarded as negative.”

What I most enjoyed reading was the possible solutions girls proposed. These include encouraging female students to design and choose their own sports clothing ( I can relate – my 8 year old daughter Teyah HATES her baggy PE shorts with a passion and has cried over these!) and providing non-traditional sports for girls.  

Teyah has embraced Taekwondo and I delight in the fact that her teacher, Di Carn, is not only fabulous at the sport  (she is a Commonwealth Gold medalist) but a wonderful teacher and female role model – patient, professional, powerful. A real life “kick butt” Princess Fiona!

What else works?   

I also believe that sport models the connection between out thoughts and our results. If we think we will achieve, we are far more likely to. All sports stars are aware of the power of positive thinking and getting in the zone. We use the analogy of the sports star psyching herself up before an event to explain to the girls how important their self talk is. Our words can heal or harm.

I applaud Adidas’s new Womens Philosophy and advertising campaign:

Sport is not an obligation

It`s a game

So play

And have fun

It`s up to you

Throw away expectations

And surprise yourself along the way.

Impossible is Nothing.”

It is up to us. We are in control. Powerful stuff.

P.S – Some interesting comments here, particularly on sportswear! Do read and offer your thoughts…

P.S.S Found excellent YouTube clip on the media’s representation of female athletes – an American one but worth a look:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/luadmO7Cugc" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /] 

Published inAdvertisingBody ImageEating DisordersSport

4 Comments

  1. Storm Greenhill-Brown

    I am a strong supporter of encouraging girls into sport. My two teenage nieces have excelled at athletics, netball and most interestingly, rowing. Our family firmly believes that sport enables girls to see their developing bodies as strong and productive, not as decorations that merely “appear” on covers of magazines. Men and boys aren’t the only ones being active – we are, with our powerful, amazing bodies. There is nothing like the atmosphere of girls crewing boats, working as a team and powering through the river to the thunderous applause of other girls along the banks. Being absorbed in a sport lets girls remember what their bodies have always done and were made to do … run, jump, skip, laugh and have fun!

  2. kelliemack

    I am interested in the point about women being in design roles in sport, (who designs women’s sports wear?) How do we work towards woman wanting to work in these masculine dominanted areas. (Old question I know). An area I would love to see more women working in is video game design. I would really love to see how technology savvy women making video games would influence plot lines, and characters.

  3. Donelle

    In response to ‘kelliemack’s’ comment about who designs women’s sportswear, I just had to share… My sister in law is a Pilates instructor and showed me the tag from her tracksuit jacket that she’d just bought. It says: “Corporate message: So you’re interested in PUMA? Nice move. You’re obviously smart, confident and know what you want in life. ……. You call the shots. You make the most of your chances. So buy this, it suits you”. WHAT?? Am I the only person who’s insulted that a corporate message claims to know the type of person I am based on what sport top I buy, or that they write “…it suits you” on a mass produced garment, as if women were generic clotheshorses? I know they’re trying to use humour, but aren’t corporate messages like this just perpetuating the ridiculous idea that “it’s not how you play the game, but how hot you look when you win…”?

  4. Yes Donelle, I agree with you – I think someone in marketing was trying to be very clever here and yet it is just so transparent! Is the wearer meant to be flattered?! I am not defined by any label and really don’t like it when companies pretend to be intimately acquainted with me… it is similar to the old “We know what a women wants…” line advertisers throw out in various forms.

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