Why the ‘pinkification’ of women’s sport is wrong
There has always been scepticism within government circles about the abilities of the minister for sport and equalities, Helen Grant. And now you know why.
Interviewed by the Telegraph on the gender gap in sport, she managed single-handedly, and in just a few choice words, to compound David Cameron’s “women problem”.
To tackle the issue that 1.8m fewer women than men take part in regular sport, female athletes should take up more “feminine” sporting pursuits she advised.
“We really need to take a step back and actually ask women what they want and give it to them… whether it’s a Zumba class or a game of Rounders after they’ve dropped the kids off,” she continued, exercising her own upper arms by digging a hole of her own making.
She appears oblivious to the fact that many men do the school run, or that, just a day after we learnt that the number of women in work in Britain has hit a record high, mums are more likely to be dashing from the school gates to the workplace. No time for zumba or rounders there.
Ms Grant (above, right) also ignores the glorious role models of last year’s Olympics. Jessica Ennis-Hill, winning time and again in “masculine” track and field events. Or Rebecca Adlington, struggling throughout her life with sexist taunts that her appearance isn’t quite feminine or conventionally beautiful enough, yet overcoming those taunts to triumph in the pool.
And this year, it was women cricketers who won the Ashes, so thank goodness they didn’t decide to spend their time honing their zumba skills instead.
It gets worse, though.
(Above: watch the former Tory MP Louise Mensch and Louise Hazel, gold medallist, debate Ms Grant’s words)
Ms Grant goes on to suggest women should consider “gym, ballet, cheerleading?” explaining her train of thought as follows: “There are some wonderful sports which you can do and perform to a very high level and I think those participating look absolutely radiant and very feminine such as ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading and even roller-skating.”
Try telling that to her fellow Tory MP Tracey Crouch, who’s campaigned against FA rules which prevented her joining male MPs on the parliamentary football team. Ms Crouch (who I’ve called this morning, so I’ll let you know what she says) looks perfectly radiant to me without recourse to cheerleading. Or at least, only cheerleading of a strictly metaphorical nature.
Ms Grant’s mentality is the pinkification of sport and it’s quite wrong. It happens in other fields too, and it starts young. Virtually every present my five-year-old daughter was given had an element of pink in it. And when I tried to buy some lego for her at the local toy shop, I was steered towards a pink creation featuring ponies and grooming.
It’s why Ms Grant’s cabinet colleague Vince Cable has complained that the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe. If the girls of today are too busy worrying about their radiance, and putting together less demanding pink Lego, we’ll not only miss out on the sporting stars of the future, but hold the economy back too.
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