Name: Lauren Hurst
Student Number: n5674603
Tutor/Time: Katie Page, Friday 9-10am

Running like a Girl: How Equitable is the Playing Field when it comes to Women in Sport?

Cultural Artefact

'If you let me play'

When people associate women with sport they see supporters not players, which install’s ideas to generations after generations of young women that women are not strong enough to be actively involved in sports. This Youtube video (1995) by the Nike Corporation was run during the 1996 Summer Olympics soccer competition. I found this Nike advertisement quite confronting as it really hits home the benefits of girls and young women playing sports. It identifies the common reasons that affect young women and how sports involvement can help their self esteem, development and initiate life lessons to become confident women in society.

“If you let me play”

I will like myself more, have more self-confidence

Be 60 percent less likely to get breast cancer

Suffer less depression

Be more likely to leave a man who beats me

Be less likely to get pregnant before I want to

Learn what it means to be strong

Public Health Issue

Girls and young women can be quite hard on themselves when it comes to image, self esteem, popularity and weaknesses. Not only can there be psychological issues that affect girls and adolescents but also the physical effects of limited involvement in physical activity which can lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. One of the key things these girls can do, to change and/or prevent these things from happening is an involvement in sport or physical activity. As you can see within the cultural artefact above it lists common reasons why these girls want to play sport and how it can benefit their growth into adulthood and forge the women they become. Although this artefact represents the young girls eagerness to play sport the decline of participation within those years is quite significant and an issue which needs to be targeted.

Literature Review

Recent research within the last ten years has determined there are key factors which result in a decline in young women’s involvement in sport from the ages of 5-10 years to 10-16 years are lifestyle, bullying, time constraints, self esteem and lack of parental support.

A study that was conducted in Melbourne to determine what the benefits of sport and physical activity for adolescents was. They determined their findings by examining schools with independent, catholic and government backgrounds within metropolitan area. The students were split into two age groups which were then divided into a focus group of year 7 and year 11. Each group was asked a number of questions to help determine the reasons why they choose to be involved in physical education classes/sports or not (Craike & Symons & Zimmerman, 2009, p152-153).

The study that was conducted explored significant factors influencing the drops in sports participation which included: individual, social and environmental factors. A range of factors influence participation in sport lack of time, self-efficacy, attitude, perceived behavioural control, enjoyment, concerns about body shape and weight management, individual autonomy and pressure to conform to popular ideals of beauty (Dwyer & Markin, 1999; Cockburn & Clarke, 2002; Dwyer, 2006).

They found the reductions in physical activity among young women were related to changing sources of motivation from intrinsic to extrinsic, competing from priorities from school, part-time work and other leisure opportunities; a lack of priority for physical activity from parents and the school curriculum; gender stereotyping that restricted the range of physical activities that young women feel comfortable participating in; and a lack of accessible sport and physical activity facilities, programs and services in schools (Craike & Symons & Zimmerman, 2009, p167-168).

The woman’s sport and fitness foundation in the UK conducted a Health Survey on Young women and girls’ physical activity (2010, para. 2 pg 4) which one of the things they found is that only a quarter of girls meet current recommended levels of physical activity per week, only 24% of the girls which they surveyed, completed an average of 60 mins per day with 29% being little of no activity at all.

Another study conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics identified that the decrease in participation in physical activity was largely driven by a fall in female participation, from 66% in 2005-06 to 63% in 2009-10 (ABS, 2011). As adolescences struggle with the transition from primary school to high school there are other pressures that come with it – social, at home, and at school. Issues such as body image, the onset of puberty, and general feelings of insecurity about the changing body can surface in these years. Physical activity sometimes takes a back seat to other priorities.

Common barriers which girls face going from childhood to adolescences are the myth that you can’t be feminine and play sport, peer pressure, such as having friends who don’t exercise or play sport, lack of basic skills, fear of looking silly in front of other people, fears of being teased or mocked by other players for being unskilled, previous bad experiences such as teasing and embarrassment about wearing sporting uniforms. The huge benefits of regular activity for girls are maintaining a healthy body weight, improved fitness and heart health, decreased incidences of mental health issues i.e. stress and depression, increased self-esteem and opportunities to have fun and interact with friends and family (Bailey & Wellard & Dismore 2010). Although the positives far outweigh the negatives it still is quite hard for young girls too get more involved. That is where strong female role models come into play.

Female athletes aren’t as well known as we would like and especially for our children to see and look up too. Recently in the Women’s Health magazine November 2011 issue, they conducted a campaign which was “I support women in sport” and the women all around Australia and New Zealand voted for the best sports women in the country. The campaign was launch by Ms Quentin Bryce AC, Governor General of Australia. Women’s health made a promise to their readers to promote positive female role models, highlight women’s sporting achievements and encourage women to get active (Harley, 2011). These women are the leaders that should be looked up too and respected by our children to encourage them to not only to be active and to enjoy sport but to be the best version of themselves. These women should be seen and heard within the schools for young girls to see that you can be an active, healthy girl and that you can do anything that you put your mind to instead of fitting in with the norms of a girl spectator.

Cultural and Social Analysis

As you can see in the evidence above, society and culture are crucial when addressing and understanding this issue as it affects the health and wellbeing of young women. With the alarming health issues that can be brought to attention caused by not being involved with any physical activity i.e. obesity, heart problems, depression and low self esteem. Society and culture is what moulds our thoughts and opinions and what should be done and what isn’t. The stereotypical female that is presented within society that our young women see is that females are expected to be quiet, obedient and attractive. That the females are the sports mans trophy something to display at an event or game to signify his success. We need to adjust the way which people view female athletes and promote their success through schools and homes so young girls can see that women can aspire and can achieve goals once they put their mind to it, and that a simple game of netball once a week can give them empowerment.

Female athletes and spokes women are gradually obtaining a voice within society to help teach young girls and women the value of being physical active. Women like Michelle Bridges who has set a goal in her life to influence however many families she can in the bid against obesity, to try and change the way people think and eat so they can install healthy behaviours onto their families and especially their children. In the evidence above it explains that young adolescents view physical activity only to maintain or too loose weight which is a dangerous mind set, the media on a day to day basis focuses on looks especially what people weigh. We need to promote healthy behaviours not weight loss or diets but to be healthy by eating clean, feel good foods that help our bodies and physical activity daily.

The social and cultural groups which are most affected by this issue is every young female, from the ages of 5, children have the choice to be physically active or to be a part of a sporting team. Not only are the girls affected the families are as well. The media plays in important role in the health issue as they limit what these young girls are viewing and giving them a sense of false belief of what women should be like not what real women are.

The awareness of the issue is important of decreased involvement in sport which leads to mental and physical problems can be help by parents, teachers and sporting coaches. Initiatives and programs that have been put in place by the Australian Government, is the smart moves program. This requires schools to make physical education a weekly/daily event in all students cirruclim. Although this is in place it doesn’t target girl’s insecurities about not performing well and being ridiculed in front of their peers. A program that could be implemented to maintain young girls and women’s involvement with sport could be single sex physical education classes or classes that are focused on skill sets and improvement for all, so not one child is singled out for their lack of skills or confidence.

Analysis of the artefact and my learning reflections

The artefact represents an idea that young women want to be involved in the sport and physical activity. It shows that girls of all ages and race want to be included as part of a team and feel like they are worth something. I think that if we focused more on giving children the confidence and the boost to give everything a go without worrying about what people think and how they look, overall society will benefit from this. Installing the confidence in young women will create strong, independent adults that will stand up for what they believe and not be afraid of doing what they love regardless of what it is. I think another important issue is that all children are a blank canvas and they need to be guided down the right path to make good decisions, being involved with sport not only provides young women with a healthy lifestyle it also creates strong friendships, life skills i.e. team work and gives them self esteem which are all great characteristics of the women that we want to lead the future generations. We need to promote healthy women and healthy lifestyles so that we reduce the issues we are facing. We lose too many beautiful, young and smart girls to depression, suicide, anorexia, heart disease, diabetes to name just a few.

This assessment and course has opened my eyes to risks and issues that are going on within everyday life that need to be addressed so that future generations can improve and lead the youth to a brighter future. I was asked by a lecturer when I started this course where I wanted to go with it, what were my main objectives and if I wanted to be someone who prevents what is happening to our society and help prevent the obesity epidemic or to just maintain and fix the problem. After researching this specific topic although it is about women in sport, it all plays a part to have a healthy population. I want to be someone who prevents it not just maintains and helps youth live a healthier lifestyle.

Reference List

My Discussion (Reflection Task)

Page: Is generation Y ‘real’ or a creation of the media? Has the media created the ideal body image and what impact is it having on generation Y’s health?

Comment: Wow - it's amazing how one topic can be so confronting. This is something that is such a sore subject for many people the use of performance enhancing drugs. I have a friend of a friend that is enhanced drug taker so he can be the best version of himself, but the dangers associated with it are just not worth it, I think the eyes of the friend thinks that he is bullet proof and that he wouldn't happen to him. if only the youth understood that no one is bullet proof and it only takes one thing to cause death. I loved the way you targeted it and your artefact was a perfect example.

Page: Who Stole The Cookie From The Cookie Jar?

Comment: The tittle caught my eye, very interesting, I believe as well that technolgy plays an important part in the youths growth and development. I know when I grew up I was playing sports outside and never even knew how to play or interact with a video game for example but these days that's all the youth know. I think that it all has a huge impact on how children develope ideas and how they loose the social interaction with other children. Great essay and very good read.