The ‘This Girl Can’ campaign by sport England launched in the UK this month with the aim of inspiring women to as they put it ‘wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome’.
It’s true that the ads does break some new ground, featuring real people instead of actors and offering us a more honest perspective on attitudes to exercise.
But the ad has divided opinion. For every ‘sassy celebration of active women’ there’s been those who’ve questioned why women have been specifically targeted with their own ad, especially at such an obvious time of the year? There’s also the use of ‘girl’ to define womanhood and those that say the ad reinforces the very stereotypes it’s trying to undo.
The issue is that there is an assumption at the start of the conversation, that ‘this girl feels she can’t’, that all women fear judgement when it comes to exercise, that exercise is a necessary evil ‘(Sweating like a pig) if us women are to ever be desirable and ‘feel like a fox’.
Unfortunately you can’t please all the people all of the time and I’m sure some of us will feel empowered by the ad, and head straight to the gym, but for others perhaps a different approach could be more effective. Not everyone responds well to Americanised MTV gym motivation. And although It’s a fantastically slick ad, I found myself waiting for a certain familiar swoosh and ‘just do it’ slogan to appear at the end.
We know that women value openness and honesty. That they appreciate hearing the facts and sharing stories. Perhaps if there were less assumptions and hyperbole and more focus on the real people behind the ads and their stories we could find a greater connectivity. It’s amazing how the subtle things can be as motivating as all the razzamatazz.