Warning: The following thoughts are not original… maybe I am just a bit slow, so stay with me.
When I was 16 my English teacher tried to convince me that I should watch women’s football. I guess there had been some prominent match which had been televised and she was waxing lyrical about how her husband had watched it and said it was as good as the men’s game.
I disagreed. I told her that it was much slower and much less skilful than the men’s game and that it was not worthy of a taking up time on the TV schedule.
Now, I think I was (at the time) probably right about the first part but I was very, very wrong about the second part. Of course I have always believed in the equality of the sexes and of opportunities, even as a sixteen year old pillock, but believing in it is not enough. No-one should not believe in it, but the case for affirmative action (just to throw in another contentious phrase) is as compelling now as it was when I was a youth.
I have a five year old daughter and I am amazed at the number of times she has said to me “only boys can do that”. Where does it come from? It is certainly not something I have ever said, indeed I have always tried to say the opposite to her whenever possible. But there is a form of conditioning within society picked up by osmosis, or through subliminal messages such as the fact that you only ever see “boys” doing certain things.
I am an obsessive sports fan. My wife thinks I would watch two people having a spitting competition (apparently its some kind of saying where she comes from). I have tried to subtly brainwash my little girl into loving sport, by simply having it on all the time and boring every one to death about it. She drew a picture the other day; a sort of flag / landscape with Moeen Ali on it. Need I say more.
But in truth she is much more interested in fairies and princesses, much to my chagrin and probably much to her credit for ignoring her boring old man. However, I am stunned by how enthused she becomes when there are “girls” playing sport on the TV. Not so long ago there were a number of one day internationals on Sky, as I flicked between one channel and another. She asked me if we could watch the women playing. I obliged. Happily. Its good to watch and although her attention was not held for very long as she probably saw something sparkly in the corner of the room, I realised that every time she sees a woman or girl doing something it kind of unlocks it. It means something else is possible.
The Olympics has brought this into focus once again for me, for my daughter and probably millions of other girls across the world. So, lets see more women doing more things in more prominent places, on more TV stations, in more companies, in more countries. There may be a cost in the short term, but it will surely reap benefits in the long term.
I am sorry it took me such a long time to see the real effect of the visibility of change even before it is widespread and not just the importance of believing in it.