#ChooseStrength – Importance of Language

It was a significant weekend for Women in Sport in Ireland with the Camogie Annual Congress taking place in Armagh, Katie Taylor winning her fourth professional fight and the Dublin and Mayo footballers playing the first ever Lidl National League game at Croke Park on the same bill as the senior Men.

All of these and more will have drawn commentary from mainstream and social media but not all will have used the same language for women as they did for men.

This divergenece of what is seen to be an acceptable way of describing sport for men and women has prompted pyschologists Nollaig O’Sullivan and Maire Treasa Ní Cheallagh to collaborate on mental skills workshops for sporting groups.

In researching for this they found a marked lack of relevant material specific to women athletes and so began to take simple steps to change that.

Calling Out

Arising out of a number of workshops aimed at education about female athlete physiology and identity, they developed a theme of calling out the positive and negative language around sport.

#ChooseStrength is a simple call to action whereby you can share comments that you see in a positive or a negative way of describing women in sport.

It is a simple initiative, brought to life through social media and depending on the support of those who believe this is a right way to go about creating a more ‘normal’ perception of Women in Sport.

It is something which at Sport for Business we wholeheartedly support and will follow through the course of the coming months to see how it develops.

It may well form part of our Sport for Business Women in Sport Conference which will take place at UCD on November 30th and which we will be launching next month.  Let us know below if you are interested in being part of this event.

“Year on year, more and more women are participating in sports worldwide, yet the ratio of coverage of female sports is woefully low in comparison,” said Ní Cheallaigh who herself is a bilingual journalist covering GAA and Basketball for TG4.

Power to Shape

“Research shows that media has the power to shape public beliefs, and that certain aspects of female sport are emphasised and other parts ignored. Tennis is a great example as its one of the few sports where male and female athletes often get parity of coverage. However, the way males and females are described and talked about is very different. Women are described as emotional, while men are seen as powerful and the epitome of physicality, and usually there is a higher ratio of negative descriptions for women rather than men, giving us the underlying message that female sports participation is acceptable, so long that it’s in a way that conforms to society’s view of femininity.”

“Research carried out by Cambridge University Press just before last year’s Olympics showed the same trend, which is that the language around women in sport focuses on appearance, clothes and personal lives, while the men are referred to in terms of their sporting prowess.”

“This is important, because what we see, and what we hear, influences our beliefs, and therefore also influences our athletes. Hearing from the day you are born that female sports are inferior will seep into your thoughts, and become your belief system if you allow it. In the age of social media, we are in a position to change the narrative.”

“#ChooseStrength is a hashtag and an online community to inform all of us of the way we should talk about female athlete, and more importantly, how female athletes want to be described and depicted.”

“We’re asking people to share their experiences with us, both positive and negative, and let us know what they are hearing, and more importantly, what they want to hear instead. “

“Each time you see a phrase or description you don’t like, or hear something that you do, tell us, on Twitter, Facebook or email. Sometimes, people don’t realise the impact of their conversation until it’s pointed out to them, and engaging in visible and positive discussions online will help. Words can affect well-being, identity and perceptions.”

“It’s important to point out that this is not an anti-male sentiment or anti-man campaign. Women’s sports rely heavily on the support of men, and male coaches. Hopefully this will be a small step in an effort to broaden the conversation and the perception of female athletes, while encouraging girls and women to stay active which is an ongoing battle. It will also help us in our ongoing research. Sport and physical activity is for everyone.”

The third Annual Sport for Business Women in Sport Conference will take place on November 30th, 2017.

We will be announcing details of the theme of this year’s event in a few weeks time and hope you will join us for the next steps in making change happen for Women in Sport in Ireland.

In 2016 we brought Sally Hancock and Sally Horrocks over from the UK to share their thoughts on how real progress had taken place there.

They were joined by a great athletes panel including Ireland Women’s Rugby Captain Niamh Briggs, Irish soccer international Louise Quinn and Paralympian swimmer Ellen Keane.

Minister Patrick O’Donovan shared his thoughts on how Government could play its part and signalled his intent to light the fire that became the call for 30% representation of women on Sporting National Governing Bodies.

What will 2017 hold? Well we promise it will be about doing and that it will cover areas which are both attainable and that will make a real difference.

Let us know if you think you would be interested in playing a part in this event and let’s play a part together in making it happen.

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