Image from thisgirlcan.com.au
It’s no secret that exercising is an important part of staying healthy – both physically and mentally – but research has shown that half of Australian women aren’t getting enough exercise each week. To combat this, VicHealth have just launched a new campaign called ‘This Girl Can’, empowering and encouraging more women to become active in sport and fitness.
There are many factors that prevent women from participating in sport, including fear of being judged, not being fit enough to get started, or worrying about what other people think. This perhaps stems from structural disadvantages faced by women including carrying a heavier carer load, being more likely to suffer from poor self esteem and body image issues, and pressure to fulfill stereotypical gender roles. Not to mention feeling unsafe walking or running alone at night – it’s no wonder women are less likely to participate in exercise than men!
The sexist stereotype that only men should play sport is reinforced by the lack of media coverage of women’s sport. In spite of huge successes, women’s sport only receives 7% of Australian TV sports programming and 9% of sports coverage on the news. This is on the rise with the introduction of the AFL Women’s League, but there’s still a long way to go. There needs to be more female athletes in the spotlight to show other women and girls that not only are there career opportunities in sport, but also that it’s okay to be sweaty and messy, as long as you’re having fun!
That being said you don’t have to become a professional athlete or exercise 7 days a week to participate in physical activity. It’s important to remember that everybody has different abilities, strengths and circumstances. So find whichever sport or activity works best for you – whether it’s soccer, tennis, yoga, frisbee, rock-climbing, walking, water aerobics, football, wheelchair basketball, netball, dancing – whatever you’re most comfortable with. And don’t feel guilty taking time for yourself to exercise – your body, your mind and your health are so important, self care is essential.
The ‘This Girl Can’ campaign explores real experiences and challenges faced by a diverse group of women, each sharing their own individual stories. One of the women is 20 year old Sabrin, who had always been told that she couldn’t play basketball because she’s a girl. But coming from South Sudan, she was no stranger to the sport. For Sabrin, “it was a sport I could play wherever we went and helped me fit in… Who’s to stop me?”. Hear Sabrin’s full story:
Another inspiring woman who shares her story in the campaign is Janelle. As a teenager, Janelle had body image issues similar to other teenage girls, but she was also embarrassed about her prosthetic leg. She wanted her prosthesis to look as real as possible. Two years ago Janelle decided to tackle her hang-ups about having a realistic prosthesis and started running with a blade. It might not look like a leg but she can sure run faster! Learn more about Janelle’s story:
Sarah, 45, also joined the campaign to share her story of always feeling judged for having a bigger body. Then, she discovered yoga and for the first time ever she finally felt comfortable in her own skin. For Sarah, yoga isn’t about the perfect bendy bodies making perfect shapes – it’s about the shape that’s right for your body. Watch Sarah’s story:
Miranda shares her experience of not liking sport until discovering her passion for roller derby, and now at 40 she’s totally committed to her team. She cares more about what her body can do than what it looks like. Hear more:
While there is still a lot to be done to combat the many structural issues holding women back, not just in sport but in all areas, empowering them to feel motivated, strong and confident in their bodies is a great place to start. And now with so many new role models in the AFLW, now’s a better time than any. It’s time to stop listening to the patriarchy telling us we can’t play sport, because all girls, women, transgender and non-binary people CAN!
You can learn more about all the other incredible women and the campaign itself here.
Maddy regularly writes for Rosie, and is passionate about music, history, art and gender equality.