Friday, 21 February 2014

Getting more women into it really about looking "unfeminine"?

This week, Helen Grant, the minister of sports, equalities and tourism, gave an interview to The Telegraph newspaper on the gap between men and women participating in sport in the UK - 1.8 million fewer women than men according to the article. Grant states in the interview that adult women should be asked what they actually want to do in terms of sport, suggesting that this might be something like Zumba rather than traditional team sports. The article also quotes her as saying that women could choose sports where they "don't have to feel unfeminine", such as "ballet, gymnastics, cheer-leading and...roller-skating" and this aspect of the interview has triggered discussion elsewhere in the media. I first read about this interview in opinion piece in The Guardian's Comment is Free section today which argues that "suggesting women take up cheerleading or roller-skating is in keeping with a Conservative agenda of preserving outdated gender values"  and a BBC article quotes a Labour MP as accusing Grant of promoting "lazy stereotypes".   Grant has claimed that her comments had been "taken out of context" in the interview, so it's difficult for us to know exactly what was said or meant (you wouldn't use any of these articles as scholarly material in an assignment!), but this got me thinking about my own experience as a woman who participated in sport as a child and then returned to it as an adult.

I don't think that "looking unfeminine" has ever been a concern for me. What I have experienced as an adult is unwanted comments for being a woman out doing sport - I tend to run on a treadmill in the gym rather than outside now because I just can't be bothered with having things shouted at me from passing cars - but I think that this is part of a much wider issue which goes beyond sport. I think it's the same issue which means that female athletes suffer comments on their appearance, and that the newspapers got excited about the 2003 redesign of the England netball team's kit making the outfits more "raunchy" and "sexy" (do a search in NewsBank for "netball kit" in 2003 newspapers if you're interested)...but that's a whole other, non-sport related blog post in itself.

I think that some of the other things which are going to be putting women off sport are factors which may well put men off too, like expense, time and feeling that they will not be good enough at it, and that's where some of the attention needs to be focused; identifying what the issues really are for women, and making sport more accessible for them.

Another issue mentioned in the article is the disparity between the media coverage of men and women's sport, which I think is really important too, especially in getting young people interested. When I was a child, the boys in my class had their football idols who they could look to emulate, men who were on the television and in the newspapers every week, who were considered heroes; we girls didn't have the equivalent. I think women's sport is gradually getting more coverage - in recent years there's been a lot more women's football on television, certainly -  but there's still a long way to go. I'd like to switch on the BBC or ITV and see highlights of our national netball team's games at a time of night that isn't the early hours. I'd like our female footballers and netballers and other sportswomen to be idols for young girls too.

I could go on forever about this topic so I'll leave it here...but I'd love to know what you think. Do you agree with Helen Grant's supposed comments, or any of the responding articles? What do you think gets in the way of women participating in sport...and what can we do to remove barriers?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Free workshops for Education and Sport students

Just a quick reminder that my colleagues and I are running free workshops next week for students in the Faculty of Education and Sport:
  • Referencing Clinic
  • Getting on with RefWorks
  • Using DISCOVER
  • Beyond DISCOVER
Check the What's On calendar to see what's happening when. No need to book, just turn up on the day. Hope to see lots of you there!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

National Libraries Day

You may have seen some of our publicity this week about National Libraries Day; an annual national celebration of libraries which this year takes place on Saturday 8th February. You can find out more on the website.We're running a competition where we want you to tell us, in the most creative way you can think of, why you love your campus library, and you'll see posters in the library/LRCs advertising the local public libraries too (they're on the ground floor at Bedford Library, and on Friday we'll have some goodies out for you too :-) ).  Public libraries offer space to work, books, ebooks, newspapers, magazines, online resources, internet and many other services, and they are free to join - you just need to take in some ID (usually two pieces, at least one with your address on) and they'll get you registered. They offer some great services, foster social inclusion, open up access to information and knowledge, and play a vital role in the lives of many people - and they are increasingly at risk. So if you have fond memories of visiting the library as a child, if you've been meaning to get round to joining the library, or even if you've never really been a library user, perhaps you could take the opportunity to go along to your local and see what's on offer. Bedfordshire Libraries has loads on this month, and on National Libraries Day you can get a free gift when you join a Bedford Borough library.

To find out what's on near you, check the events map, or have a look at the #NLD14 hashtag on Twitter.

Happy National Libraries Day, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with for our competition!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Invisible Library - new online tutorial

Hopefully lots of you have been using the Study Hub Online already (I have been extolling its virtues on here and in your classes and one-to-one appointments all year!) for help with writing and researching your assignments. You can now use it to find help on searching for, managing and evaluating information and resources for your work, as we've added the Invisible Library tutorial. This comprises of nine units which you can work through systematically, or dip in and out of, whatever you need or prefer, which cover these things. Log into BREO, click on the "Communities" tab, and select "Study Hub Online" - you'll then find Invisible Library in the left-hand menu.

Do let me know how you get on with it.