Why ‘This Girl Can’ is the best advert in sporting historyby Lizzie on Jan 23, 2015 • 1:58 pm No Comments
Sporting advertisements don’t generally fill me with joy. Fronted by swishy-haired, ab-crunching, green-smoothie-drinking treadmill unicorns, they serve no other purpose than to make me feel as useless as I did on school sports day.
I am no athlete. If anything I’m the opposite of an athlete: Skinny, squishy, nesh and all too happy to sacrifice exercise in favour of deadlines. Or wine. Or some sort of carbohydrate and cheese eating competition. When I run I don’t glide through the air like a nimble mountain jungle cat, I stagger towards finish lines, red-faced and wheezing, clutching my asthma inhaler and praying for the sweet release of death. But then, when I’ve finally completed my sad little race, in a time which would embarrass the average 74-year-old, I feel incredible. I vow that I will get up at 5.30am to run every weekend. That I will become the next Paula Radcliffe. That one day, I might run a whole marathon. Of course, much like my plan to ‘train as an Olympic gold medalist for next time’ or ‘marry one of those Russian oligarch types for a mansion in Chelsea’, this idea is quickly dismissed as ludicrous. But it does inspire me to carry on. To work harder. To get a fitter. Which isn’t something sporty girls or sporting adverts have ever managed to achieve.
‘This Girl Can’ is a campaign launched by Sport England, to encourage women of all shapes and sizes to exercise. Whether it’s a ‘girly’ sport like synchronized swimming or smashing the boys at football, it’s fronted by women who just don’t give a fuck. They are the kind of women you can identify with. The kind you imagine struggling and falling over. The kind who will sweat with you and wish they were mainlining cocktails. And it’s brilliant. Because the truth is, you don’t have to be able to hit a ball. You don’t have to be fast. Or beautiful. You don’t need a spray tan, or the type of midriff one might possess if they’d recently recovered from a death-inducing gastrointestinal disease. You just need to go for it.
Despite taking four yoga and pilates classes a week, I’m neither particularly strong nor particularly flexible. A nightly jog hasn’t enabled me to complete a 10K race in less than an hour. And I still can’t stay upright on a bike. (In fact I’m living proof that it *is* possible to forget to ride a bike. If you don’t believe me I could cycle into a bush to prove it.) But none of this matters. Because slowly, bit by bit, I’m getting stronger. I can hold a plank for 15 second instead of seven. I can almost touch my toes. You might even say I’m a gym bunny. (Not that I’d ever call myself that. Nothing says ‘smug twat’ like self-identifying as a gym bunny, and besides, I’m much more comfortable being a food hippo.)
Unfortunately, the homogenised, media-driven vision of how a woman should look and behave has tainted not just the fashion industry, but sports too. It’s made us self-conscious and unambitious, preferring to cut calories or guilt binge in silence rather than risk humiliating ourselves with poor times and ‘Phoebe from Friends’ runs.
‘This Girl Can’ aims to inspire women, letting them know that they don’t have to be fit, slim or talented to get out there and participate. Already a viral campaign, the original video has been viewed three million times, shared across social media and talked about in our magazines and on our telly boxes. So let’s keep the momentum going. Run. Play football. Try martial arts. Zumba. Dance round your bedroom naked to the Frozen theme track. Just make sure you’ve got a decent pie and gravy delivery company on speed dial for afterwards.