Caroline Garbett exercises that can-do attitude - 8848

Caroline Garbett exercises that can-do attitude

There are cautious celebrations across the country today as it appears that after years of protests from equality groups, The Sun has finally dropped its Page 3 feature.

Though there has been no confirmation from the county’s biggest newspaper, bare breasts have been conspicuous by their absence – in print at least – since Friday. Today’s Page 3 instead featured two soap stars prancing around on a beach in bikinis.

If it turns out to be a permanent move, it ends a 45 year ‘tradition’ of topless women in the paper, which many have argued is sexist and exploitative.

Many will see the move as another baby step towards equality in the UK – and there is plenty going on to help close the gap between the sexes.

Launched a week ago, This Girl Can has already amassed 2.6 million views on YouTube and hundreds of words of media coverage. More than 27,000 people have followed This Girl Can on Twitter and 80,000 like it on Facebook.

A PR success story, if media results were the campaign targets.

However there are more important goals for this public awareness crusade.

Research indicates that women are less likely to participate in sport than men and, when we are constantly bombarded by images of youthful body perfection in film, on TV and in magazines, it’s not hard to see why so many of us avoid public displays of exercise.

Meanwhile, in between pressure to drop a dress size in a week and pages of ‘shock-horror-celebrity-cellulite-scandal’, we have a looming obesity crisis in this country.

At a recent conference hosted by sight loss charity Beacon, it was reported that by 2025 an estimated five million people will have diabetes, with an increased risk of preventable visual impairment.

Shockingly, that is millions of people potentially losing their sight due to a lifetime of poor diet and exercise.

So with This Girl Can, Sport England aims to inspire all of us to join in with an exuberant demonstration of mass jiggling, jumping, punching and swimming to improve our health and happiness.

The film is an uplifting and infectious call to action. Even the choice of music – Missy Elliott’s Get Ur Freak On – underlines the uncompromising message: sport is something to enjoy for yourself and with your friends, not something to do in the quest for those unachievable abs.

It sits beautifully alongside last year’s teen empowering #LikeAGirl campaign, exploding myths, challenging perceptions and inviting both genders to rethink what it means to ‘throw like a girl’, which was itself watched by almost 54 million people.

Now for a confession.

Despite loving gymnastics in primary school, I was more likely to be found clinging to a radiator than prancing around on a netball court as a teenager. I loathed school sport and I was rubbish at everything – running, throwing, swimming. It wasn’t until years later I discovered I was pretty good at fencing, and I realised that there was a world of activity that I had missed out on.

But I value every hour that I sit shivering in an ice rink while my daughter practices her slapshot; every mile driving to a hockey or football pitch so she can revel in the muddy joy of teamwork; every moment detangling post-swim hair; every penny and pound spent funding kit and travel and subscriptions.

Because I believe the healthy habits she forms, trying as many sports and activities as she can pack into a ‘normal’ week will stay with her a lifetime. Long may she unselfconsciously skate and kick and holler with her friends.

Competing with and against boys – and being their equal – is perhaps the most important life lesson she can learn from sport.

She plays like a girl. A girl who wins.

If she can hold her own in a mixed-gender ice hockey team, surely she will have the confidence to carve out the career she wants as an adult.

While This Girl Can is playing its part in promoting women in sport, others seem determined to remain in the 1960s. It was shocking this week to read that in my own county of Shropshire a female lawn bowls player has been banned from competing for her local team – because the league claims women are ‘not as good as men’.

The Shropshire Premier Bowling League (SPBL) is insistent on its strict male-only policy and its president has pledged to ‘fight vehemently’ to keep her and other women players out. What sort of message does that send out to young girls who just want to keep fit and participate?

I hope that my daughter will continue to jiggle, jump and maybe one day teach her own daughter that This Girl Can.

Caroline Garbett is an account director at Connect PR.