It’s no secret that media coverage of women’s sport is far inferior to men.
The stats are damning; research by Women in Sport in 2015 found that just 7% of all sport media coverage in the UK focused women, with the figure as low as 2% for national newspapers.
While there are many fantastic initiatives encouraging more women and young girls to get involved in sport, they are faced with this huge barrier – how can they inspire people to get actives if there are seemingly so few to aspire to?
This is the exact question the #SeeSportyBeSporty campaign is aiming to answer.
We’re celebrating international #DayoftheGirl by saying a massive thank you to @BFCLadies superstars @DarcieGreene Mollie Crump and Sophie Crosby for supporting our #SeeSportyBeSporty campaign #RoleModels https://t.co/0gWN7518C6 pic.twitter.com/rXSFHtLqCB
— Totally Runable (@TotallyRunable) October 10, 2018
The brainchild of former Olympic sprinter Emily Freeman and lawyer Natalie Jackson – also the founders of the brilliant Totally Runable organisation – the premise of this campaign is simple.
“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” stated Natalie.
“If girls aren’t seeing women in the media being sport they find it much more difficult to see themselves as sporty.
“We know from our own research that girls aged seven and above are not as confident about their sporting ability as boys. I’m not saying boys have it easy but girls have the issue that they’re not seeing the role models they should be.
“So #SeeSportyBeSporty is about calling for sport in the media to be gender equal. It’s nothing more complicated than that.”
— Totally Runable (@TotallyRunable) October 26, 2018
While overall coverage has certainly improved recently – especially the amount of televised women’s sport shown on BBC, Sky, ITV and BT Sport, while The Telegraph has recently appointed its first dedicated women’s football writer in Katie Whyatt – there is still a worrying discretion when it comes to photography in newspapers.
Totally Runable conducted their own research into this, buying a copy of each of the UK’s top newspapers once a month between July 2017 to June 2018.
The results were shocking. Of all the photos they saw, 17% depicted sporting action or players.
But, of those, just 2.9% were of women.
Furthermore, there was one edition of The Sun with 86 photos of male athletes and none of women, while during September 2017 there was just one picture of a women compared to 365 of men across various newspapers.
If these were magazines with photos that suggested a woman can only be a model if they are without an ounce of fat on their bodies, they would be slaughtered.
So why aren’t we doing the same to newspapers who are basically suggesting that only male athletes are noteworthy and treating their female counterparts as second class citizens?
Rightly so, this is not something Natalie and Emily will stand for and just days after completing their research, they launched the #SeeSportyBeSporty petition to bring about this much needed change.
At the time of writing they have already accrued more than 1,200 signatures, with many important figures – including Lizzy Yarnold and Hannah Cockroft – getting right behind the campaign.
To their credit, certain media outlets have also given them a platform as they try and bring about change, most notably The Guardian – the newspaper their research found to have the least male bias – and the BBC.
So excited that #SeeSportyBeSporty is getting coverage in @guardian and generating such debate. For me there’s no debate, we know girls are less confident about sport than boys but “if you can’t see it you can’t be it”. Let’s help them see it 💪🏽💜👍🏼 https://t.co/0V4O8kOHDi
— Natalie Jackson (@NatJackson52) November 3, 2018
Speaking about the overwhelmingly positive reaction, Natalie admitted she was delighted but not wholly surprised with just how much traction #SeeSportyBeSporty has received.
“We read a quote from Lucy Anne-Holmes – the founder of the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign – who said something like: ‘I thought somebody should do something about this, then I realised I am somebody’,” she said.
“So we started it thinking we just need to have something happening so we started a petition and ‘thought let’s see what happens.’
“We’ve had a brilliant response – we’ve had world champions, Olympians, Paralympians, governing bodies, the association of PE, all kinds of people supporting it.
“I think it’s really struck a chord with a lot of people. But actually we’ve had a lot of people that aren’t necessarily elite athletes but are just people like me who are just as passionate about it.”
Looking through the comments on the petition and it’s clear to see just how important this cause is to women and men alike.
“I wish I had been more active after leaving high school. Seeing more female role models might have ensured that.”
“I’m tired of hearing people don’t care about women’s sport, when it’s often so invisible it’s difficult to find out how to care. It’s such a backwards business model.”
“We should encourage everyone to be involved in sport, regardless of any factor. Sport is inclusive, so let’s start representing it as such.”
“My daughter asks every weekend what sports we can watch with women competing and other than tennis and athletics there are none!”
In the 21st century it’s quite ridiculous to think that this level of inequality still exists but the brutal truth is that it still does.
Obviously this is a highly complex issue and change will take time but we can at least make a start by raising our voices and getting behind this campaign.
As Natalie said, how can we expect to inspire more women and young girls to get involved in sport when it is so hard for them to see role models to emulate?
You can sign the #SeeSportyBeSporty petition here.