According to research from Women in Sport and the Youth Sport Trust, only 56% of girls see being physically active as important, in comparison to 71% of boys. Less than 50% of girls see PE as relevant to their lives, and most troublingly girls appear to start losing interest in physical activity at just seven years old. I don’t know about you, but this absolutely breaks my heart. Not only are we missing out of potential sporting talent, girls are missing out on all the opportunities that being active can bring them. The boost of confidence, the hormones than make you feel good, the camaraderie of being in a team and that moment away from all the other pressures of the world.
So how do you stop girls losing interest? From thinking that sport isn’t for them? Academics at Canterbury Christ Church University have suggested that identifying and encouraging more female role models in sport could help prove to girls that physical activity is just as relevant to their lives as it is to their male peers. It’s a bit simplistic, but I do believe you can’t be what you can’t see. If girls don’t see women achieving in sport, how do they know that physical activity is for them?
However, as research has widely acknowledged, there’s a real shortage of female role models in physical activity at all levels, whether it’s professional, grass roots or performance sports, as well as coaching, teaching and in sports science and management. In fact, there were no women in recent lists of the top 100 highest paid athletes. The thing is, it’s not like there aren’t women out there doing amazing things. There really are. The issue is making women in sport visible. Telling women’s stories and creating those role models. That’s where documentary film making comes in. I love documentaries, they allow complex stories to be told in creative and engaging ways. A great documentary captures your imagination and inspires you to do more, go further. Documentaries are inspirational and empowering. Yep, it’s not mass media coverage or insane sponsorship deals (both things I could talk about for hours, there’s some complex relationships going down there), but it’s a start.
Feminista Film Festival is a three-day film festival from 28-30 September which uses the power of documentary film to celebrate female athletes and artists. The aim of the festival is to increase visibility of women in sport and the arts by creating a platform to tell their stories on screen. More information, full programme details and tickets can be found here.
There are so many amazing films on the programme. From the deeply powerful ‘The War To Be Here’ where young Maria Toorpakai defies the rules of the Taliban controlled area of Waziristan by disguising herself as a boy, so she can play sport freely, to the inspriational ‘The Mirnavator’ that explores the psychological side of ultra running. Plus, the whole of Saturday is devoted to family-friendly films, perfect for those girls in your life that might not think movement, physical activity and sport are for them. Film is powerful, and while this might not be the biggest festival, or the most well known, it’s quietly making waves so that one day all girls and boys will believe that physical activity is important.
*images via Feminista Film Festival