Category Archives: Women and Sport

Sunday Sports(woman) No 4

Sunday Sports(woman) No 4

To my shame, I’d never heard of Wilma Rudolph, but as the Olympics start it’s good to remember her here today: women and sport,


According to Wikipedia, Wilma Glodean Rudolph was considered the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s and competed in two Olympic Games, in 1956 and in 1960. In the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games.

This achievement is all the more extraordinary, given that she had polio as a child. Wilma died in 1994, but the Woman’s Sports Foundation Wilma Rudolph Courage Awards are now awarded to athletes who exhibit extraordinary courage in athletic performance, demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity, makes significant contributions to sports and serves as an inspiration and role model to those who face challenges, overcomes them and strives for success at all levels. Amazing. I’m so pleased to have learnt about her, and to read about the amazing athletes who continue her legacy. The latest winners are here – inspiring!

Sunday Sports(women) No 2

Sunday Sports(women) No 2

Two things today… first of all, and further to my recent rant about why women can stop playing sport,  can I suggest you watch this great video (recommended to me by Jen Campbell (thanks Jen)) …


And secondly, another link – here’s the book recommended above – Eat Sweat Play, How Sport can change our lives by Anna Kessel. I thought it was totally wonderful. If it doesn’t make you want to get moving, I’m not sure what will – and not just for the fun of it but because it shows just how women have been conditioned not to play sports for reasons that have nothing to do with us. More on the women footballers of the first world war soon…. it’s an amazing story!

eat sweat play




Sports(woman) Sunday

Sports(woman) Sunday
Sports(woman) Sunday

Look at this blog go …. all organised and snappy with the days of the week. FIrst of all there is a regular Friday writing exercise, and now a weekly Sports(woman) Sunday. This gives me the chance to talk more about women and sport, look at the opportunities and praise the wonderful. And there are so so so many. As always I’m doing this mostly for me – the chance to find out more and keep information in one place, but hopefully there will be something for others too. Let me know what sports work for you, or otherwise. Let me know your successes and hopes. And stories. But first of all – WALKING WOMEN!


Now, as you might notice from  the dates in the poster above, the special Women Walking event as part of Somerset House’s Utopia 2016 festival, is nearly over but there are still things you can do, walking women you can follow, and inspiration to be taken. After all, here’s the quote used in the publicity:

The invisibility of women in what appears as a canon of walking is conspicuous; where they are included, it is often as an ‘exception’ to an unstated norm, represented by a single chapter in a book or even a footnote. Heddon and Turner (2012) ‘Walking Women: Shifting the Tales and Scales of Mobility’ Contemporay Theatre Review, Vol. 22(2), 2012, p. 225

I couldn’t resist that. When I went along to the exhibition, I tried out Jennie Savage‘s recorded walk – leaving Somerset House to follow her instructions through the headphones (turn left, now next right etc etc)IMG_1211

Listening to Jennie’s observations of a very different walk while carrying out my own was a strange experience. Apart from refusing to turn right, turn right, because that would have taken me into the Thames….


…rather than being distracting, the dual narrative – Jennie’s and my own on the ground –  meant I noticed things I might not otherwise. First of all there was the tribe of other walkers – on every level.


And then I started to make connections in the walk, mapping it if you like. For example, I came across this statue I’d never noticed before, perhaps because while I have walked these paths so many times before – it’s always been with a purpose. And if I’m honest, I’m usually late for that purpose so rushing.


A fascinating man, W T Stead. I looked him up when I got home, and boy, is there a novel to be written about him! Not just professionally – although, apparently, ‘He was influential in demonstrating how the press could be used to influence public opinion and government policy, and advocated “Government by Journalism“.[4] He was also well known for his reportage on child welfare, social legislation and reformation of England’s criminal codes.’ But he also died on the Titanic, was obsessed by spiritualism, and knew much about the ‘dark underbelly’ of Victorian times. This plaque is a replica of one in New York.

But this information was all found out by letting my fingers ‘walk’ on the internet afterwards. On my actual walk, turn left, thinking about journalists, I also noticed these…


So much news, so many empty boxes – funnily enough just at the moment, Jennie was talking through my headphones about passing a newsagents. And then back at Somerset House to return my headphones, paying a little more attention about where I was walking, I started thinking about how many people had climbed down these stairs to mark and smooth them so…


Some of you may recognise them as the Stamp Stairs. I’ve gone up and down them many times, but not really looked at their history. And hey, this is where all newspapers in Britain had to be ‘stamped’ to indicate that the correct tax had been paid. So all newspapers in the country had to be brought to Somerset House to be individually stamped here until 1855, when the duty on newspapers was removed.



News, news, news. Amazing what you pick up from walking. BUT… why walking women and not just walking?

I find this fascinating – this Canadian report of a discussion of the difficulties and challenges in planning a gendered city  shows some of the reasons. After all, a ‘streetwalker’ might be an historic term, but it is telling one. Because there’s no doubt that men and women experience walking in any space – city or countryside – in very different ways, and to be honest, much of the current literature is about men walking.

A major inspiration for me is the writer and walker, Linda Cracknell. She knows how to walk – read her books! Recently on Facebook, she talked about women walking and camping on their own, with particular reference to a wonderful experience she had had. Oh, I replied, I’d love to have the courage to do that. And so apparently did many other women. So Linda wrote this beautiful piece giving advice about just how and why women can become more adventurous solo walkers:

Going solo

So that’s something for me in the future. But in the meantime, I might follow another of the great ideas (from Amy Sharrocks) in the Walking Women event – to buy a bus ticket and see where I go, and then walk back…


And I’ve ordered this book… I promise it is not just for the ‘Chip Walk’ although….


Women and men and sport….

Women and men and sport….

It’s a curious time to be British, even if we can’t agree of anything else surely we can agree on that. But heyho, sport will bring us together. And look England are playing Iceland, and for the amount we pay Wayne Rooney each week we can give almost the entire population of Iceland one pound each. Oh wait….

It’s not just that last night’s football was a disaster that’s getting my goat, it’s that it was all so male. The commentators, the players obviously, the male sentimentality of it all. I can’t help imagining the whole of the news over the last few months replayed with women instead of men as the main protagonists – how soon we would start talking about gender problems, why women just can’t manage the big problems of the world, they’re too emotional, look at them weeping over a game…

But back to sport. That’s the thing that brings us together. Now if I was writing as a journalist, I would be getting quotes, finding research etc etc, but this is a rant. A rant as a sports fan, a mother, and yes, a woman. Because at the moment professional sport doesn’t bring us together, it brings men together and keeps women on the outside unless of course they join in and become ‘good sports’. Whereas everybody knows we are bad sports. We don’t deserve to be paid as much as men – even when we’re competing in the same tournaments – or to be given the same airtime, or the same personal respect.

It happens early. I saw it with my children – my son, a good rugby player was taken on tours to America, Canada, Scotland, given special privileges at school for being in the top team, recognised by teachers etc etc. My daughter, a good cross country runner, was told that she should keep running because it gave her a great figure, was not allowed to join the school’s cross country tour to Spain because it was traditionally for boys and her going would mean the expense of an extra woman teacher even though she was a better runner than many of the boys going. Oh how I wish I’d kicked up more of a stink about that, but she begged me not to.

See, that’s what we do too often as women. We don’t kick up a stink because we know there are ‘consequences’.

So we buy newspapers every day, especially at the weekend, where the ‘Sport’ section is actually ‘Men’s Sport’ – and where very often the only photographs or mentions of women are the reporters. And we don’t say anything. This has consequences – such as a senior BBC sports commentator not realising until too late he was doing anything wrong when he made sexist remarks about the appearance of a top woman professional tennis player, or women not realising they could do boxing or rowing until we saw women do it in the Olympics with their whole hearts and bodies, and oh, it might not have been pretty but it was inspiring.

I was a keen sprinter at school but then overnight I did what was called then ‘developing’. When I ran in races, the boys would stand on the sidelines ‘appreciating my developing’ until I got self-conscious and started worrying about how I was looking. Consequently I began losing and eventually stopped. Although I loved running, loved the feeling of forcing my body to run so fast that my mind went blank and my legs took over. I loved the competition side too, not just the winning, but having other girls beside me also running their hearts out. And us all laughing afterwards because the adrenalin was still taking us over.

Bloody boys, I think when I look back. WHO WERE THEY to bring me down so quickly just because I had breasts. I didn’t stand on the side of rugby matches and shout comments about their penises. Or that they didn’t deserve to be on the pitch because they were ugly. Or tell them in corners afterwards that I was seriously worried that if they continued training, then they might grow muscly and therefore unattractive. That I was only telling them this was for their own good and besides, all that hearty stuff was, well, a bit unattractively unmasculine, wasn’t it?

But hey ho sport brings us together.

So what can we do? Back to the Olympics, and I’m imagining the sheer horror there would have been if they decided not to show any of Jessica Ennis’s races because ‘advertisers weren’t interested’.

Is it because men are better at sport that we see so much of them, or is it because we see so much of them that we become brainwashed to believe that men’s sport is best? Here’s what I think we can do…

* Let’s stop pretending it’s a level playing field, and that women just aren’t as interested in sport as men. Would men feel as entitled to live for sport if all they saw, day after day, year after year, was women playing?

*Let’s demand to see more women’s sport in our newspapers and on television.

*Let’s not praise the BBC every time they mention ‘women’s cricket’ or ‘women’s football’ in passing but write in asking for news EVERY TIME our national teams are playing.

* Let’s make it easy to go and watch women playing by giving full match details in advance, just as the men’s matches get.

* Let’s learn to praise girls and women for their skills not their appearance, and then maybe we won’t need official surveys into why women aren’t playing sport any more.

And then maybe sport really will bring us together.