A number of photos have caught my eye recently, and not for the right reasons. When I made a generic comment about it on Facebook, it was interesting to see how many people missed my point. So I thought it would be useful to explain it further here.
Last year, I was privileged to meet some of the women behind the Women’s Sports Trust at their Be A Game Changer awards. Their aim is to use the power of sport to accelerate gender equality. For anyone who has ever met me, you will know how much that resonates with what we’re trying to achieve through the Racing Chance Foundation.
Any woman who is involved in sport is in a privileged position: by definition, you get to keep fit and healthy doing something you enjoy. But the benefits are more far-reaching than that. Playing sport builds confidence, resilience, determination and grit – all attributes that will serve you well when/if you decide to focus on a career. It’s no coincidence that some of the most powerful women across the globe have participated in sport at a high level – you need the attributes I mention above to succeed in life.
But the other role of sport is to provide positive role models for people. Women’s sport is especially important because there are unrealistic expectations of what women should look like, whether that be Size Zero models, or popstars or actresses. Let’s face it, millions of magazines are sold each year which are full of these images, with just as many showing how awful a woman looks because she has put a bit of weight on, or she’s not in her make up or she’s done her hair in a rush. Neither of those options are a healthy place to be.
However, in order to change the status quo, we all have a role to play. Imagery is a massive tool in changing stereotypes. We’re (thankfully) moving away from images of women in half-zipped tops that lend themselves more to a “Carry On” film but we’re still miles away from being at a point where men take women seriously (just look at how many choices there are that aren’t “female specific colours” when you want to buy your next cycling top). And don’t get me started on the shop which had footage of a video shoot for women’s cycling kit where all the models’ hair and makeup was being touched up. We’re cyclists. We get muddy faces when we’re out riding!
With women’s sports, we have the opportunity to show the world that we don’t need a full face of perfect makeup, or blown dry hair, not an inch out of place. At Racing Chance HQ, we use the phrase “muddy faces win races” to promote this as an idea (we use the hashtag #muddyfaceswinraces).
I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for makeup and poses, but it shouldn’t be on the bike.