Sexism in sport: funnily enough, it’s not a joke.

Earlier this week, a photograph cropped up on Facebook. It’s innocuous enough, but it was posted to open a discussion. Contrary to popular belief, we women don’t walk around looking for things to be offended by, but it was nice to be asked the question, ‘Is this okay?’

Chances are if you have to ask the question, the answer will be, ‘not really.’ But what should follow is an explanation of why this isn’t okay, and thereafter, acceptance and understanding. What should not follow is an argument whereby everyone who is offended or upset by something is told to, ‘get a sense of humour’ and ‘stop being so PC’.


Let’s talk about the picture. Here is a step. It will help people get up the wall. It could help anyone get up the wall. It has, for some completely unknown reason, been dubbed ‘The Girlie Step.’ I have no doubt that it was named without even a trace of malice. What I do think, is that it was named without a trace of common sense. Stepping on that little bit of wood makes you no more a girl than it would make you a unicorn, and the inference that using it somehow correlates to feminine weakness is, no matter how you spin it, offensive.  Ordinarily, this would be the sort of thing that would make my eyes roll so hard that I’d worry about losing them somewhere in my head, but somebody, rightfully, used it as a discussion point.

Many themes arise from the debate that raged surrounding this troublesome bit of timber, and I couldn’t address them all or my head will explode, but I would like to clear some things up.

  1. I don’t need a sense of humour transplant if I don’t think it’s appropriate to laugh at something that isn’t actually funny.

I don’t personally think it’s that funny that a device designed to make something simpler should be assigned a gender. I think we can all agree that women have been fighting, and will continue to fight for equal standing for a very long time, and it is not helpful to confuse an inability to complete a task, with being ‘girly’. I can absolutely laugh at my own inability to do something, but without permission, or knowing me personally, you can’t.

  1. There is nothing wrong with being girly.

The women taking a stand against this silly step are not saying that it isn’t okay to like pink, bunnies, knitting and poofy skirts. They are saying that they resent the implication that something has to be called girly for it to be okay to poke fun at people who aren’t tall or strong enough to scale a wall without it. They are not saying that girls cannot both enjoy getting muddy and also like doing typically feminine things like getting excited about shoes and kittens. They, girls, are not your nemesis.

  1. It’s nice to be cool, but it’s even nicer to be nice.

If you’re a cool girl who is totally okay with having your gender used as a synonym for weakness, who ‘hates PC’ and who doesn’t feel affected by everyday sexism, then you’re very lucky, and I’m pleased for you, but it’s massively disheartening when you make an enemy of the women who feel this in their daily lives, and are asking for change. A little bit of empathy will go a long way. Admittedly, it is frustrating to not know what’s ‘okay to say’ these days for fear of offending people, but that’s why opening a dialogue about it, and better understanding the offended parties can make for a more harmonious existence.

  1. Equality =/= fairness in every situation.

I don’t know who made this picture originally, but it’s descriptive.

  1. There are strong women everywhere, but there are also ones who have not found their strength yet, ones who have had it momentarily weakened, and ones who are recovering it.

But we’re all on the same team.


4 thoughts on “Sexism in sport: funnily enough, it’s not a joke.

  1. kballingtonyahoocouk says:

    We at Bog Commander posted the picture in response to recent debate over obstacle difficulty for women qualfifying for the OCR Championships. It was designed to provoke thoughtful debate, much like the #runlikeagirl campaign. It certainly did this. The ‘girlie step’ has now gone and we sincerely apologise to anybody who took offence at this sign, it certainly wasn’t put up there to cause offence. To make amends, we will be writing to ‘Mr Mouse’ and asking him to consider renaming his event to something more gender neutral. Thank you for your intelligent blog on this subject.


    • Ami says:

      Thanks for the first part. Bit confused as to the Tough Guy reference. Perhaps it detracts a little from your (much appreciated) apology though. I just expect a little more from a rep from a race, you know?

      It’s sad because the post wasn’t really about *you*, it was about the debate that followed. Bit disappointed to be honest.


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