Women Should Try “Feminine” Sports, Says Minister

Apparently, the key to getting women more involved in sports is promoting “feminine sports,” or at least, so says Helen Grant, UK Minister of Sports, Equalities, and Tourism. She’s ruffled quite a few feathers in the UK with her suggestion that women aren’t as involved in sports as men because they feel “unfeminine” while engaging in sporting activities — a statement that manages to be simultaneously intensely sexist, offensive and ignorant of the actual barriers faced by women who want to get involved in sports. What’s really leading to decreased participation in sports among women?

Her heart may be in the right place — she said that it’s time to look at what’s on offer and what women and girls actually want — but it was very clumsily expressed, and it didn’t directly address the larger issues women face when it comes to getting involved in sports. Even as the UK team is bringing home the gold in Sochi, for example, female athletes in the UK remain underappreciated compared to their male counterparts, as elsewhere in the world; most of the nation’s sports stars are men, with women getting a fraction of the press, sponsorships and attention as the men.

It’s not just about media attention, though. While the media may not focus on women’s sports or celebrate women athletes, women also face discrimination and sexism on the pitch and in the locker room. Outdated social attitudes about the comparative weakness of women often lead coaches and other mentors to be dismissive of women athletes, and girls battle eating disorders, self-image problems and other issues that are less common among men. In a society where women are expected to meet a very rigid beauty standard, the heavily-muscled, powerful bodies of athletes may not necessarily be considered attractive, which traps women and girls between a rock and a hard place.

The minister went on to identify ballet and cheerleading as examples of “feminine” sports, in a manner that read to some critics as dismissive. Her examples were rather unfortunate — men participate in both cheerleading and ballet, and endure a considerable amount of mockery and joking even though they’re powerful athletes alongside the more famous women in their disciplines. Furthermore, if “feminine” means pink, weak and covered in ruffles, which Grant seemed to be implying, you’d better look somewhere other than cheerleading and ballet, two of the most demanding athletic disciplines in the world.

Cheerleaders and ballerinas (as well as ballerinos), are in training for hours daily to perform at the peak of their skills. In both disciplines, a high degree of athleticism is required along with artistic skill — thus, ballet companies spend hours in physical training in addition to dance classes, choreography sessions and more. Both disciplines are so physically demanding that participants are often forced to retire by their 30s because their bodies are no longer up to the task — just like the men of the gridiron and basketball court. And these sports aren’t for the faint of heart; athletes in both disciplines routinely work through severe injuries and witness devastating accidents that can ruin careers in an instant.

For true gender equity in sports, critics argue, it’s time to see more media parity in the coverage of women’s sport. That includes not just airing more coverage of women athletes, but also of shifting the tone of coverage. Women continue to be profiled in terms of their appearance and personalities rather than their athletic skills, which is something that needs to change in order to fight social attitudes about women and sport that may be keeping women on the sidelines.

Photo credit: Kyle Taylor.


Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven9 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Jordan G.
Jordan G3 years ago

Barefoot kitchening ... now *there's* a real sport.


Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

There's no stereotype in sport

Mary L.
Mary L3 years ago

I agree with Borg D. What's a feminine sport?

Lynn C.
Lynn C3 years ago

I really don't understand why we're giving this kind of idiocy a venue. They've been spouting rubbish for who knows how long and we stand around being amazed and maybe even insulted? They're not going to go away, so, long ago I just quit giving any attention to idiocy and it's been a real boon!

Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

I wanted to be a major league pitcher, but in our school girls could only play softball, which at the time I considered a distant second choice.
Jacob R, just what “feminine sports” would you recommend men try? John M, I suppose you either consider trolling on Care2 as “doing useful things” or you’re not successful because you spend so much time doing so.
Anne M, saying “that’s just the way it is” is defeatist. We need to break down those barriers so it’s NOT just the way it is. What’s “masculine” and what’s “feminine” anyway? Rosey Greer (former NFL player) wrote several books including one titled Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men. He was pretty good at it.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

What exactly are "feminine sports," anyway? Are there certain sports where you need to have a vagina to play?

Ellie K.
Ellie K3 years ago


Marilyn L.
Marilyn L3 years ago

This is so true. I love the WNBA but it never gets the coverage that the NBA gets. Here in Arizona we have the Phoenix Mercury and these women are good, very good basketball players but they are barely supported or covered by the media here. NBC news affiliate is really the only one that talks about their games but that is not all the games just some and generally those are play-off games, etc. The Mercury has been National Champions I believe about 4 times in the last few years and made the play-off more than that; the Phoenix Suns can't say that but they are covered and supported all the time. Unfortunately because the WNBA teams are not well covered in the media there is little known about them or their teams so they are not supported by the public like the men’s teams are which may mean 2014 might be the last year for the WNBA.

Some girls don’t like sports but that is also true for some young males but I think young males are some times coerced into doing sports even if they don’t want to because it the manly thing to do. We need to make sport available to all kids male and female and let them decide for themselves if they want to get involved or not.