International Women's Day 2015

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International Women's Day is on Sunday 8th March 2015.
International Women's Day is on Sunday 8th March 2015.

Earlier this year the Guardian ran an opinion piece highlighting some of the "serious problems" with Sport England's edgy new campaign to inspire more women to engage in exercise. It wasn't the aims of the all-female fitness drive that concerned the author. Nor the attempts in accompanying video footage to challenge the static, idealised female forms found on Page 3 or art gallery walls by showing women's bodies contorted, stretched or just plain sweaty with physical activity. No, none of that. Rather, it was the name of the initiative; 'This Girl Can'.

Using such an infantile term (and one with especially derogatory connotations in sport - most readers will have been lambasted for "throwing like a girl" at some stage of their life...) fails to consider the feelings of older women, the article argued. "Many women will not engage with the campaign’s key message about valuing active engagement because of this kind of language. Or were [Sport England] expecting women to form some kind of identification with feeling 'young at heart'?" it continues.

In our experience, attempting to identify and communicate across generations to improve the gender equality lot isn't such a bad idea. During January's Australian Open we were thrilled when longtime sporting idol Billie Jean King stepped back into the feminism court to decry comments made by a male interviewer as "truly sexist". Her outburst came after Tennis Australia commentator Ian Cohen asked two female tennis players to "give a twirl" after their matches to show off their outfits to the camera. King has spent her career petitioning for gender equality in sports, so she can sniff some male chauvinism a mile off. Her win in 1973's highly publicised 'Battle of the Sexes' match against Bobby Riggs helped to legitimise women's athletic prowess. Tweeting after hearing Cohen's question, the 12-time Grand Slam singles winner, now 71, insisted: "Let's focus on competition and accomplishments of both genders and not our looks." She added: "If you ask the women, you have to ask the guys to twirl as well."

Staying with how girls should or shouldn't move their bodies, we're reminded of punk rocker (and personal heroine) Viv Albertine's account of her post-music career as an aerobics instructor, thrillingly documented in her recent autobiography. Explaining what drew her to the gym scene, she recalls: "It was so exciting, girls moving their bodies. Before the early 80s, the only times girls moved their bodies was doing hockey or whatever at school, which everyone tried to get out of. This was really liberating: a sweaty room, packed with women, throwing their bodies around, sweating, looking dirty, no makeup."

Albertine conceded in a 2014 newspaper interview that she could have written more about her time with The Slits, and less about the not-quite-as-starry day-to-day when it finished. But she didn't want her book to be a regular middle-aged rock memoir. She wanted teenage girls to give it a go. And why? Because "I want them to see how often you have to fail to be anything in life," she told the Guardian. "I think young men and boys are taught to fail. It's nothing to them; they do sport, they fall over, they shout: 'I'm all right,' and carry on. But with girls they're so appallingly embarrassed to fail, it's like it's considered unfeminine."

So, with International Women's Day just around the corner, let's go easy on Sport England and their apparently questionable choice of marketing lingo. It doesn't really matter whether this girl can or can't, just as long as she's got mature role models like King and Albertine to pick her up, brush her down and fight her corner. Let's push for gender equality on Sunday, yes. But let's also celebrate female solidarity.