Whilst our society has moved on and developed its views on the roles of women, it is still evident that gender inequality exists – particularly in the area of sport.
The participation levels of girls in sports has increased across the board in recent years and society is even more accepting of female athletes than ever. Despite this, the fact that girls continue to drop out of sport at six times the rate of boys, is an indication that we still have a long way to go in reaching the goal of gender equality.
Girls still feel that women are viewed as the weaker sex and this often discourages them from playing sports. They believe they are not pushed in the same way boys are, even from an early age, and as a result this affects their choice on participating in sports.
The lack of media coverage in women’s sports also assists in preventing girls from taking sports to higher levels. In 1993, five percent of media coverage focused on women's sport, however just over 20 years later in 2014, this statistic only increased by two percent. The NUJ concluded that women's sport would be taken more seriously if there was a greater coverage in the media.
Coming from an all-girls secondary school, the students here, as a rule, feel that sport is not encouraged enough; not specifically in our school but across our female society. At Tonbridge Grammar School, all students participate in four hours of physical education per fortnight, yet many of the girls feel that this is not enough.
A shocking recent statistic obtained from the Guardian states that a mere 12% of girls get the recommended amount of exercise, yet 74% wish that they did more sport or exercise. This clearly shows that there are many factors preventing sport for girls, which can change depending on age, puberty and peer pressure.
We interviewed many girls at Tonbridge Grammar School and they had a variety of views that all implied the same underlying message, a subliminal sense of inadequacy.
In an interview with Megan, a student in year 10 at the school, we asked her whether she thought men and women played an equal role in sporting society. She told us that she disagreed that they did, however she felt that women should definitely play an equal role. When we informed her that this was already the case, she was shocked at the lack of press coverage in women’s sport. She also felt that contact rugby should be introduced to all-girl’s schools, despite rugby being blatantly associated with masculinity, so that we can defy the female ‘weakness’ stereotype.
We also interviewed Samia, a student in year 9, who does not participate in any sports apart from compulsory school activity, and yet we received similar answers. Samia stated that one of the main reasons that she doesn’t do sport is that she has never been encouraged enough by her peers, or even her family, as many of them are of the opinion that sport is dominated by men. However she also believed that contact sports such as rugby should be introduced to the school sport curriculum for the same reason.
However, the issue of women’s prominence in sport can be flipped when thinking of sports such as dance or gymnastics. When we interviewed Annabel from year 9, she said that despite the stereotype of dance being a ‘girl’s sport’, she didn’t consider it to be that way and that, as a dancer herself, she believes that men are equally as talented but the sport is portrayed as gender-specific, much like football and rugby. She also shared a story of her cousin (aged 3) being told by his peers at preschool that dancing was for girls, not boys. This makes it clear that from an early age, people are convinced, not only by media but also by the environment they grow up in, which sports are socially acceptable for their gender.
In the media recently, there have been adverts that have been empowering and encouraging women, including the Always advert of #LikeAGirl and the Sport England campaign of #ThisGirlCan. The #LikeAGirl campaign showed that young girls think differently to the older generation or even men and women in their 20s; the young girls ran and threw to their best ability when asked to complete the actions ‘like a girl’, whereas the older people ran and threw in a deliberately weak manner when asked the same thing. This campaign was incredibly encouraging as it showed that perhaps the stereotype of women being weak is being eradicated by the new generation.