This time last week it felt like things were changing for women in sport. England was about to play in the semi-final of the Women’s World Cup in Canada. Not since Italia ’90 had a English football team made the semis, and up and down the country people stayed up late to watch the match. It seemed that virtually no-one was talking about what these women were wearing or how they styled their hair; it was all about the game, the skill, the personalities and the excitement of the sport. And then, a few days later, the FA ruined it all with a tweet.
It later deleted its sexist remark but the damage was already done – an embarrassment from the very body that ought to be supporting the sport rather than objectifying the women playing it. And inevitably, now that Wimbledon is in full swing, there is yet more nonsense in the press that has absolutely nothing to do with the talent of sportswomen; this morning, the BBC was more interested in talking about the shrieks that Maria Sharapova and other female players let out on court, implying that it was all a bit silly. Oh, you silly women making those noises!! Listen, people, the shrieks happen because these women are so bad-ass they can serve a tennis ball at 130 miles per hour. We reckon you might let out at least a little squeak if you got anywhere near doing that. The worst bit of the report though? The journalist was a woman.
Female journalists are as guilty as anyone of objectifying women in sport and reducing them to being judged for what they wear on court or how they tie their hair, though this can often be attributed to the wishes of their male editors. I worked at a national broadsheet newspaper during the 2012 Olympics and was asked on a daily basis to “report” on the nail art seen in the athletics stadium or the “trend for plaits” in the Olympic village. Sure, the sports desk was busy doing proper sports reporting, but was it really necessary to reduce women to their appearance and belittle their sporting prowess on a daily basis?
Of course we admit that here at InStyle HQ, we are as guilty as anyone of worrying about what we look like at the gym or how we’re going to style out our leggings at that Pilates class. We hope, though, that if we were ever good enough to play sport professionally, we’d be judged on how well we played, not the way we dressed or what noises we made when we were doing it.