Feminine Sports and Other Nonsense

Here are some things that have been said to me by my 4 year old daughter, and by friends’ daughters of similar ages to their parents: 

“Boys don’t do ballet do they mum? They only tapdance”

“Football is for boys”

“Boys can already play football at school, it’s too hard to join in” 

And said to a friend’s daughter: “You can’t play tag with us because you run too fast.”

(There are many more of these and variations on the theme). 


Here are some observations: 

There are virtually no women represented in the National Football Museum. 

There is hardly any women’s sport on television, and women’s successes in sport (women’s cricket anyone?) can pass by unnoticed. 

You don’t see schools’ girls sports (hockey or netball) on television. 

Advertising of sports and toys reinforces gender stereotypes.

Girls do less exercise than boys. 

Girls’ shoes (school shoes and otherwise) are not made for running around or climbing trees. 

Our Sports and Equalities Minister, Helen Grant, suggested that women who are put off by ‘unfeminine sports’ should be encouraged to try ballet or cheerleading. [And I refer you back to my daughter’s comment ‘boys don’t do ballet, do they mum?’ 


How we play when we are little affects how we play when we grow bigger. I don’t know about you but I am pretty self conscious about trying something new, and about not doing something well. It comes as no surprise to me that joining a group of children who play football faster, better, more confidently, more knowledgeably is a hard thing to do. It comes as no surprise to me that joining a group of children in a ballet class that is for girls is a tough thing to do if you’re a boy and want to fit in. 


It seems that sports brands such as Nike and Adidas have been leading the way in marketing sports to women. It’s not about being feminine or segregating sports yet further. More of this please. Because how we (parents, teachers, grown ups, marketing companies) talk to our children about gender matters. 





Shoes, Blues and Independence

I took my 4yo shoe shopping today. In the Trafford Centre during the school holidays. *That* was a stupid idea. But, given we need a school uniform (that’s a whole different post), and given she seems to be in the middle of a growth spurt, it was necessary.

We started off by having her feet measured. Clarks have this odd i-pad type device that slots into the measuring machine to do the measuring. She could put her gender and her age into the machine too (I’m not quite sure why). On the screen was a boy (Jack) in blue, and a girl (Daisy) in pink. My 4yo asked why there were two people on it. Our sales assistant instantly said ‘so you can put in you’re a girl. You wouldn’t want to be a boy would you?’ with negative emphasis placed on ‘boy’.

She chose the blue; ‘because I like blue’.

This pleased me so much. Not because I don’t want her to like pink. She can have all the pink she likes. And last week she couldn’t get enough of pink and purple. This week she loves blue (but only light blue), yellow and green. I just love the fact that she didn’t get squashed into choosing what she thought she should, based on the adult’s influence.

It continued. She tried on a pair of shoes, and immediately said they were too tight. Sales assistant said ‘but they look so pretty’. Later we had ‘but they have a loveheart on the front’. She’s 4 for heaven’s sake, what’s a loveheart got to do with anything?

She stuck to her guns, and we got a pair of shoes that fit her and are comfortable.

I hope that I can continue to foster that independence as she grows up, even when she has grown ups and peers around her who try to narrow her options.