‘Newcastle Girls Can’, which took place between 2nd and 5th May, is the Newcastle University events week response to the national ‘This Girl Can’ campaign whose aim is to encourage women to get more active and take part in various sporting events.
Some of the events aimed at promoting body positivity and challenging the ‘male preserve’ sport stereotype included Pole Dancing Taster Session, Strength and Conditioning, Fitness Class, Fencing. There was also a discussion on the Politics of Beauty.
Safiya Robinson, Racial Equality Officer at NUSU and organiser of the events, said:
‘Newcastle Girls Can is a body positive campaign to encourage more women to get involved in campus sport. We were inspired by the national ‘This Girl Can’ campaign and wanted to see how we could bring that to the university setting.
‘Year after year women report feeling underconfident when using the sports facilities, and we wanted to provide a safe space to build that confidence and try something new without added external pressures.
‘Women’s bodies are constantly scrutinised whether they are too big, too small or too muscular, and #thisgirlcan encourages women of all abilities to get involved and get active!
“Women’s bodies are constantly scrutinised whether they are too big, too small or too muscular”
According to Robinson, the response from the week has been fantastic, with calls to make this an annual event and for regular women-only sessions to be introduced at the Sports Centre.
‘I think that this has been an effective way to challenge unequal gender representation in sport but it obviously can’t work by itself. More investment in Women’s Sport is needed, as well as concrete attempts to challenge the lad culture that pervades some aspects of campus sport. It will be great to see how a female AU Officer will impact women’s participation in campus sport next year!’
The Strength and Conditioning Session took place at Newcastle University Sports Centre on 3rd May. Sheri, a personal fitness trainer and group exercise tutor who led the class, explained:
‘We did some body weight exercises, stepping up and down, jumping on boxes, press-ups, sit-ups, and then I also took them into the main gym, and I showed them how to use the cardio equipment, and then we went upstairs in the weights area, and I showed them how to use the weights.
‘It is a quite male-dominated area and a lot of girls feel quite intimidated.
However, she further argued that this trend is changing:
‘If you go to classes, you’ll see that it’s 95% girls, and there’s more girls starting going to the gym. There are lots of girls in the cardio area, and slowly they’re starting to go upstairs, and you’ll see them lifting quite heavy weights, which is nice to see.’
‘It’s really important for girls to try and do weight training, because it’s really good for you bone density, and prevent you from getting osteoporosis in later life.’