Helen Grant’s belief is that when it comes to women’s sport we need to ‘give them what they want’, which are sports that are in one way or another beautifying. Cheerleading, ballet and roller skating (were Grant’s examples). Not only does such a claim render invisible all of the hard work that these bodies do when competing in such sports, but women’s interests are returned to those of ‘being-looked-at’. Sport is, by its very nature, active. It is precisely about doing.
Jon Berger’s claim that ‘men act, women appear’ is therefore painfully relevant here. When discussing roller skating Grant said how wonderful the women taking part looked while doing the sport, with ‘lovely sparkly socks’ and ‘their hair done’ (clearly she wasn’t observing the brutal sport of roller derby, where while some of the socks may be sparkly, there is no time for hair under those sweat filled helmets). In such comments, the active women of competitive sport are reduced to little more than how they appear. Could you imagine if Welsh rugby star Adam Jones was told that his appearance when competing should now be a concern?
And this is the important thing, it’s not that women can’t or shouldn’t look presentable (whatever that means) when competing, but rather that this is not something we say or expect of men. Rather than encouraging women to take up sport because they can still look feminine while doing so, we should be encouraging women into sport because of what it allows them to do.