Column: Moving past lip service on women’s issues

I came, chubby-cheeked and reluctant, to the realisation that if I was ever going to find the seat of my own power, I had to embrace the smell of my own sweat.

There are a lot of stats that link girls’ mental health, resilience and confidence with physical activity. But taking that from the abstract into real life is problematic in a culture that pushes back against girls even perspiring. (It’s “glow.” And it doesn’t have odour, right?)

Some pretty powerful initiatives caught my attention over the last year for trying to make that shift. The Always Run Like A Girl campaign asked: when did doing something “like a girl” come to be an insult?

After watching a host of older kids and adults imitate running and fighting “like a girl”, (“oh no! my hair!”), it was disquietingly impactful to hear a six year old answer the question, “What does it mean to you when I say ‘run like a girl’?”

“It means, ‘run as fast as you can.’”

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It sure does, darling. (Don’t you forget it.)

Jackson Hole-based freeskier, Lynsey Dyer worked to reclaim “ski like a girl” first for herself and then every future skier girl, culminating in her crowd-backed all-female-athlete film Pretty Faces. (See Dyer at The GLC on Friday (March 6) as a guest of Mountain Story’s live interview series.)

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Sport England recently put out a campaign, This Girl Can, to encourage women to be more physically active and overcome their fear of being judged, of not being fit enough or good enough, to get at it.

But when feminine hygiene product brands, female filmmakers and public health officials are putting out a message, it doesn’t have the same impact as when a global sporting property does the same thing.

When feminine hygiene product brands, female filmmakers and public health officials are putting out a message, it doesn’t have the same impact as when a global sporting property does the same thing.

Crankworx, the home-grown mountain bike festival that is now a truly global property with a world tour including New Zealand and France, just announced their commitment that through 2015, at all 22 of their events, female and male athletes on the podium would be receiving the same prize money.

As Crankworx World Tour manager, Darren Kinnaird, said, “It’s just time. Hopefully, this will encourage more women to get involved in competitive mountain biking.”

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The crucible of mountain biking — where brands, technology and athletes are made — just exerted their influence to make women feel welcome in the sport.

The message that sends to all girls is pretty profound.

Counter this with the message sent to aboriginal girls across Canada, when the Prime Minister refuses calls to launch an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

Other men are coming forward, where Stephen Harper is standing back. Men like Paul Lacerte, the founder of the Moose Hide Campaign.

Four years ago, Lacerte was at a national gathering of indigenous women leaders and health officials strategizing how to address the issue of missing and murdered women. “There were 180 people at the event and only four men. It was shocking to me to see that women were not only bearing the burden of violence and abuse, but also the burden of advocacy.”

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Lacerte and his daughters have since cut 25,000 tiny squares of tanned moosehide that are now being worn by men across the country, who are stepping into the space, to say that violence against women and girls is not okay.

It’s a grassroots initiative that deserves all our support, because First Nations’ girls should grow up riding bikes and getting a sweat on and most definitely not thinking that running like a girl means running for your life.

 

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