Women in Sport: Celebrating Our Bodies and Demanding Change

Last night a small rag-tag group of keen Women of Keele Educate members gathered to listen to three fantastic members of the Keele Sports Center.

Woke women in sport

Presenting for us were:

  • Mel Piper – Student Experience and Engagement Officer and self-confessed Quidditch obsessive
  • Naomi Parton, Active Lifestyles Officer and life-long Netball player
  • Nina Walker, Keele’s Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach who also competes and takes part in CrossFit.

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We started with a talk about the numbers involved around women being active and involved in sport.

We found out that only 4% of sports media content is dedicated to women’s sport (UNESCO)

And that only 58% of women are meeting national aerobic guidelines compared to 68% of men (NHS, 2016)

But it’s not all doom and gloom!

Change is happening and continues to happen. We watched two inspirational videos:

 

And

 

We learned about the very different journey into sports careers that Mel, Naomi and Nina took, and realized that it is never too late to find that activity that becomes your passion.

The room opened up about their own experiences in sport and the barriers that can be faced.

We talked about mental health.

We talked about periods and the taboos that still surround them. You wouldn’t judge an athlete for pulling a muscle but why can’t athletes say that their periods are giving them an off day in sport?

We spoke about the positive impacts of team sports as well as the potential negative sides (like drinking cultures). We talked about sport being more than ‘traditional’ sports offerings and all the things you could do if you are just not into being a team sports player.

We spoke about the impact of ‘lad-culture’ and cat-calling / shouting when women are exercising. Sharing the frustration that when you get out the house to get active you have to overcome yet another social barrier.

We talked about the impact of others speaking out and normalizing women’s experiences.

We spoke out against body shaming and framing exercise as only good for weight loss or a way of reaching some idealized version of a female body.

Sport is so much more than this. It is an opportunity to invest in your entire well-being.

Whether you do yoga, weight-lift, run, go to classes, swim, or take part in team sports.

It is all a great way to celebrate yourself.

Women’s bodies are fantastic and we wanted to celebrate ourselves in all forms,

Finally, we fan-girled over our sports heroes and decided that this talk was an essential one to have again next semester as part of our freshers offering.

If you want to get involved in sports at Keele:

https://www.keele.ac.uk/activekeele/

Or follow their Facebook page by searching for Sport Keele.

 

Join us for the next WOKE events soon!

 

 

Review: Amy Vreeke: The Year My Vagina Tried to Kill Me

In total seven women from Keele went to see the fantastic Amy Vreeke’s show. Two at Friday’s show and five of us on the Saturday.

It was bloody fantastic (pun intended)

The one-woman show by stand-up comedian and theatre maker Amy Vreeke was absolutely brilliant and had the audience roaring with laughter.

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Punctuating great parts of comedy where Amy relived failed one-night stands, pants ruined, and calculated that she spent £7,500 extra on maintaining her vulva instead of a second hand Volvo she could have had for the same price,  the show also had more serious, emotive parts exploring misdiagnosis, painful sex, the person she was as she tried to handle it all.

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She was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2016 but it took 10 years of her presenting with many symptoms to many different medical professionals.

It took judgemental looks and suggestions that her lifestyle choices were less than ideal.

It took her concerns being ignored and her voice being silenced.

This show is a must see, follow her career, she is a talented lady.

Go and understand more about a disease that affects 1 in 10 women in the U.K. and do it in a way that has the entire audience laughing and learning together.

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Read on for some reviews by a few of the women of Keele who also went.

Phuong Thanh Bui: I have never had a chance to watch such an amazing show ‘The year my vagina tried to kill me’ by a talented actress Amy Vreeke.

This show was the combination of art, comedy, gender equality and women hygiene, and it was highly inspiring for me.

The idea to normalize the natural behaviour of women that society cannot talk about that easily while it is part of women nature and it is beneficial for women was highly appreciated for me and I think this show was a good introduction to make this goal a reality.

Sarah Briggs: Amy’s show explored the frustrations and misinformation around endometriosis with a refreshing frankness laced with skeptical humour that was effective at highlighting that sufferers are not alone, whilst raising the crucial and unacceptable truth that more conversations around chronic health conditions are needed to combat the misinformation that is so prevalent.

Amy’s wit and energy certainly achieved her objective to make a difference to people, whether as women affected by endometriosis or as friends, partners, or relatives in a way that a bathbomb and chocolate just can’t.

It was refreshing to laugh with others with tears in my eyes instead of feel like crying with frustration over a bowl of cereal…

Time to Do Better

A quick Saturday morning of research has thrown up some interesting facts and figures:

2016

When looking at the data from the KeeleSU Elections in 2016 there were 47 candidates total.

Of that total 78.7 % identified their ethnicity as white. When you compare that to Keele’s statistics on all students, the student body, was 65.8% white.

So in percentage terms, the white student populace is over-represented in running for positions of power on campus.

I also found that whilst 61.7% of candidates in the SU elections identified themselves as male, the campus wide demographic showed that only 41% of all students on campus were male.

(Head to here to see the full report on the student demographic at Keele that year)

2017

When looking at the data from the KeeleSU Elections in 2017 there were 43 candidates in total.

70.45% of candidates that ran identified themselves as white compared to a campus demographic of 64.8% white students.

61.3% of candidates that ran, identified themselves as male, but campus wide the demographic data meant that 41.4% of all students were male.

Head here to see the full report on the student demographic at Keele that year

There is a disproportionate number of men running for and holding positions of power on campus.

It is not representative of the student body.

I don’t currently have access to the data to do the same work for KPA positions, but it is significantly worse if you consider the number of male postgraduates that have held the KPA positions versus the number of female postgraduates we have in total.

(This data is from 2015/16 as it was available it is unlikely that there are  huge fluctuations in gender balance year on year):

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It’s time to do better.

After just a few months of work Women of Keele Educate have ensured a higher number of women and non-binary people at Keele have nominated themselves in the upcoming by-elections.

Take the time to read the manifestos of some fantastic candidates when you see them appear in the next few weeks.

Take the time to vote.

Take the time to ensure that you are accurately represented.

If you need any help or would like to join us get in contact

W.o.K.E Two Weeks (ish) In

Read on for a blog post by Sophia Hayat Taha, co-founder of W.o.K.E

Just over two weeks ago we started the wheels in motion for the W.o.K.E project. 

We have speakers lined up, T-shirts available, a fabulous website (if I do say so myself), direction for writers, writers coming forward, a visible presence on social media which is growing quickly, and people talking about us, coming forward to work together.  Basically we are about to get some amazing changes at Keele actively happening.

It is awesome. It is scary. It is empowering. Clearly we all want change.

What we don’t have yet is our full collection of champions, we are sorely missing more people of colour, trans voices and non-binary voices.

We are lucky enough to have some champions for our mental health based volunteer roles and some faith W.o.K.E champions in the pipeline too (watch this space!).

The missing champion roles scare me, and yes I know we are in the middle of summer, and only two weeks in, but patience has never been a strong point of mine.

I am in a bit of a cycle of wondering what I can do to make the roles more appealing and keep people safe and supported. Please do get in touch with concerns or suggestions.

We want to empower everyone who is usually ignored and kept down by multiple structural oppressions.

After London Pride being hijacked by a problematic group of anti-trans voices we posted our support for our trans sisters and brothers on Instagram and twitter.

We lost a few followers,  had to report and delete comments, and block someone. We will continue to do this every time we see bigotry. We have our safe space rules and we will continue to update and improve on them so that everyone can participate.

W.o.K.E is an intersectional movement. If that troubles you, we have reading lists that will be live soon, we suggest you educate yourself.

Challenge your privileges and have a long think about why you think you can oppress someone else. 

We have many opportunities to learn over the next year, with workshops coming to Keele, external workshops being signposted and travel arranged for groups that want to go (watch this space), conferences, reading lists, activities in informal settings, and more formal speaker sessions.

This is a long journey that we all need to take. None of us is free from our own privileges. A few of mine are that I am a cis, white-passing, straight-passing woman. We all have our own oppressions and struggles. We can all learn. We can all do better.

Over the year we have workshops challenging white feminism and the white supremacy underlying white tears. We have workshops that are specifically for men to learn about intersectional feminism. We have workshops tackling how to be a better feminist in practice instead of just in words. We have practical help for those that want to put themselves forward when nominations open for elected positions on campus. We have well-being activities, collaborations with the careers services coming up and cooperation with Keele’s decolonise the curriculum project.

This year is going to be incredible.

I am so excited. I am so scared, but I hope that you will feel empowered.

In solidarity

Sophia