Jan 31, 2015

This Girl Can. Why beef jerky is my caviar...

“My gameface has lipstick on it.”

I’ve been tremendously inspired by the recent ‘This Girl Can’ campaign. It’s great to finally see a campaign celebrating and showcasing active women up and down the UK who are doing their thing, inspiring women of all sizes, abilities and experience to “wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome.” Sport can and should be an enjoyable part of life.

You can watch the campaign teaser video here: http://youtu.be/i-moaoJVbHs

Delivered by Sport England and delivered in partnership with a wide range of organisations including the BMC, the campaign aims to address some thought provoking findings. Research by universities and other sports foundations found that 2 million fewer women are regularly participating in sport or exercise than men, despite 75 per cent of women aged 14 to 40 saying they’d like to do more. 

So what’s stopping them?

The research says that fear of judgement prevents many women taking part in sport and activity. In a recent interview with the BBC, Sport England chief executive Jennie Price shared, "One of the strongest themes was a fear of judgement. Worries about being judged for being the wrong size, not fit enough and not skilled enough came up time and again."

The campaign slogans use humour and a cheeky, edgy attitude to address that. The supporting images are a far cry from the perfectly tanned, perfectly tonned, cellulite free and quite frankly, unrealistic images that are used by the media in the womens fitness and outdoors market.

Where does this cultural "perception" of 'what is and what isn't' feminine come from?

I’ve always loved the outdoors and have always been fairly sporty.  So sporty in fact that growing up I simply accepted the label of ‘tomboy’ – a term that the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign tackles head-on. Why do you have to be compared to a boy just because you like sports? Why should it be unfeminine to run around, get muddy or play what was always predominately classed as “male sports”? Where does this cultural perception of 'what is and isn't' feminine come from?

6 years ago I took my first step into the world of mountaineering on an expedition to climb a 6,000m peak in the Nepal Himalaya. I found myself facing the tomboy label once again and in the minority on the mountain – not a real surprise as only one in ten people inquiring about exploratory climbing expeditions are women.

But why?

In my opinion it's not about women being less adventurous than men or about there being fewer women who embrace mountain sports or become mountain athletes. Rather, I believe it has more to do with the image being projected to us through the media that it’s only Amazonian, pain-loving super-athletes who can go on such expeditions, supported by production teams and sponsorships. There’s a perception that in making the decision to climb you must put both career and family on the backburner. That you have to grit your teeth for every photograph and you’d have to morph into a female, long-haired mascara-wearing version of Bear Grylls... 

But I know that this isn’t the case at all. I know this because the description above definitely doesn’t describe me! And it definitely doesn't describe most of the women I've met in the mountains.

In the past 6 years I’ve spent over 13 months in total on male-dominated expeditions, living above 5,000 metres thanks to a passion for high-altitude mountaineering.  I have a full time job. I have family commitments. I have to train. And no, it isn’t always fun. I definitely don’t look pretty after 2 months without a shower, let alone a week. On these expeditions, mascara and muff-wipes are considered taboo. Finally, no one looks sexy in a down suit…. 

But I’m going to let you in on a secret. 

My heels are good on ice.

Showers are overrated.

My linnens are goose down.

I run up escalators.

Down suits are my Spanx.

Beef jerky is my caviar.

I’m proud to be a sporty woman, a 'diva in down'. And I’m proud to have earned my place in the mountains through sheer discipline, commitment, courage and creativity. I’m equally thrilled to see that the BMC) is promoting the campaign. And I’m going to keep climbing these mountains – both real and proverbial –and hope that I can inspire others to do the same so that in the future more of my climbing team mates are women.

Llanberis Mountain Film Festival (LLAMFF)

A few weeks ago I was asked to speak at The Llanberis Mountain Film Festival (LLAMFF), running from 6th to 8th March 2015 across a number of venues local to Llanberis, in Wales.  I’m honoured to be sitting alongside a panel of inspiring women for the 'Game Changers' evening, sharing our personal stories which cover youngest ascents, epic climbs, global expeditions, ocean rows and international mountaineering. 

The film and lecture programme will run from 1800 – 2230 daily and you can book seats for any showing or lectures directly through the LLAMFF events listings: https://llamff.yapsody.com


Post a Comment