Some born-again runner called Helen Croydon is acting like most born-again types do:
It might seem like an odd coupling: the glamorous, glossy, raunchy Rita Ora, rarely seen in a photograph without brows, lashes and lips painted to perfection; and… football.
The singer and TV talent show judge is backing a campaign with UEFA to get more girls into football. The aim of the European governing body is to make the beautiful game the number one sport for girls within five years.
Every sport wants more people to play it. Why is this worth an article?
It’s exactly the level of glamour and cosmetic perfection that Rita represents which is what stops many women getting into sport. As an X Factor judge, she feeds the ultimate materialistic goal – to be a pop star. Now she’s telling girls they should put on a faded tee and go and get their knees dirty.
Aspiring to be a singer is no more materialistic than aspiring to be a footballer. Most singers get paid less than most footballers. Kids aren’t just playing football for the love of it.
Like many women, I found ‘outdoorsy’ activities at odds with modern ideals of femininity. No hairdryer in the changing room? No go.
How is this a ‘modern’ idea of femininity? Have you been asleep for the last thirty years? It sounds more like the 1950’s ideal. Except that even in the 1950s plenty of women played sport.
Then something changed. I didn’t take up football (I’m too scared of fast travelling objects) but I did take up other outdoor pursuits with equal measures of cold, mud, exertion and socialising without perfect hair and make up. I joined a running club and soon I was spending weekends going to races with my new club friends.The most notable affect of this wholesome lifestyle switch was not the obvious one of fitness. The more transformational shift was the grounded perspective it gave me.
Playing sport is a good thing. Yes. But perhaps this is a message that’s best directed at Guardian readers.
Doing group sport activities meant going to the pub after races without a shower – incomprehensible in my pre-running life.
Even by shallow female standards, you were pretty extraordinary.
Bond with a new group of friends by cycling for six hours in the rain and you find there are none of the usual judgments based on appearances or social status.
This isn’t to say that we should never dress up and get excited about going somewhere posh, but it shouldn’t be a constant aspiration.
Who exactly did you used to hang out with?
There are many women like the old me, who are put off sport and outdoor activities because it’s incompatible with unrealistically high standards of appearances. (How can you fix a puncture if you’re expected to have three inch acrylic nails?)
Nobody expects you to have three-inch nails. Sure there are some men who like that. But even they don’t expect you to have them. (Personally, long nails put me off. When I see them, I immediately think, here’s a woman who’ll be useless at doing anything practical.)
There is no sound reason for so many more men than women enjoying football. It’s only outmoded stereotypes that prevent it: men get grubby and women dance with pompoms and grass skirts on the side lines.
‘Outmoded stereotypes’. Sigh. More Telegraph cliched soft-focus feminism. What counts as a sound reason? Thousands of years of men being more keen on doing sport than women — although it’s far too simplistic to say that women just dance on the sidelines — must count for something. You might as well say “There is no sound reason why people should enjoy music, just because they’ve been listening to it enthusiastically for thousand of years is no reason to think they really enjoy it.”
Until we get the message across to girls that aspiring to high level grooming is impractical and restrictive, we’ll still see more men out cycling than women.
But it’s basically other women, via women’s magazines, who tell women this. Men may like grooming, but generally not high-level grooming all the time. They don’t get it anyway, not in the UK, so if they are expecting it, they’re not doing a very good job. (There is perhaps one exception: rich businessmen. Is that the type you used to be after?)
And frankly, I don’t give a stuff whether we see more men out cycling than women. Or the other way around. I don’t even give much of a stuff whether anyone cycles. If someone prefers to drive or walk that’s their business.
We’ll still get more male competitors in marathons than women.
I don’t care. Why should anyone care?
Last week I took home a trophy for winning my age group at a triathlon in Essex. Elation soon turned to deflation when I learn I was the only woman over 40 in it! Where were all the sporty women of Essex?
Doing a more interesting sport than triathalon. Or spending time with their family. Or their friends. Or taking singing lessons. Basically, doing what they want.
Why do modern feminists all get upset if other women don’t do what the writer thinks they should be doing? I don’t get upset if other men my age aren’t doing the same thing as me.
And another thing. If, as this writer says, it’s men rather than women who’ve been wanting to do sport for time immemorial, and sport is a Very Good Thing, then maybe the men deserve some credit for realising this. But I suppose men will be blamed because the patriarchy or some such thing stopped women doing sport for evil patriarchy reasons. Even though since time began brothers have wanted sisters to come out into the yard and play ball with them, and generally take sport more seriously.