I was flying from Wellington to Brisbane with Virgin Australia last year, when I happened upon an interesting article in the inflight magazine. It was all about today’s explorers and adventurers, featuring 8 different guys who had done or were doing interesting things. One had walked the length of the Amazon, another climbed so many mountains, a couple guys were cycling together from Alaska to the tip of South America. What struck me immediately was there was not a single woman adventurer featured.
Fact is, they are out there. Before I set out to cycle the world, I had never heard of a single one of them. After becoming immersed in the world of endurance sport and adventure, I began to discover how many there are. Sarah Outen, a British adventurist, is going around the world by cycle, kayak and rowing. Chrissie Wellington is a four time Ironman champion. Julia Immonen has a double world record for rowing the Atlantic. Anne Wilson cycled 10,000 miles around the world at 60 years old. Emily Chappell, a bike courier has been pedalling her way around the world for a couple years now. Felicity Aston travelled 1,089 miles across Antarctica alone on a pair of skis. These are just a few I can immediately think of off the top of my head. Point is, there are women out there pushing boundaries and doing interesting things. So why don’t we hear about them?
Look back through written history and it’s a sad case for women in any field. They often existed alongside men in science, philosophy, business, sport, art and exploration. The trouble was, history was written by men, and thusly, about men. “It’s a man’s world” was true back then, but why does this seem to still hold true today when women have equal rights in most western societies, and the media content is controlled and written as much by women as men?
I read an article the other day on the BBC website about women in sport. It stated that, “A more scientific study, carried out by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF), revealed that only 5% of media coverage of sport in the UK was devoted to women. At the same time, and no doubt connected, women make up only 22% of board members at British sports organisations. Almost two-thirds of boards do not meet UK Sport’s minimum target of 25% female members and six boards, including British Cycling, do not have any women on them at all.”
The reasoning was that women’s role models are fake photoshopped women who are famous for doing nothing more than dating footballers and making outlandish fashion statements. That we would rather read about which celebrity is getting fat, or showing baby bellies, who is cheating on whom, who is wearing what.
The women athletes who are written about often have to doll up, “dress down” or undress for the majority male readership. There could be a reason why “panty tennis” is one of the few sports which receive as much attention as its male counterpart, while the stadium at women’s rugby is only 3% full.
Unfortunately, statistics seem to lend weight to the media’s supposition of “what women want”. This is nobody’s fault but our own. They may feed it to us, but we consistently lap it up like well trained poodles. The day we stopped buying it, would be the day they stopped selling it. So why the hell aren’t we demanding a bit of substance? Why aren’t our role models female athletes, business women, entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, adventurers, women breaking boundaries and doing awesome things? Why are we buying the kind of froth fed to us in these gossip magazines telling us what’s cool and what isn’t? Which came first? The media dictating what we read, or us dictating what we’ll pay to read? Personally, I would rather hear about women pushing limits than women pushing bra sizes.