Category Archives: Outdoor and Travel Media

Why Every Woman Should Check Out the #thisgirlcan Campaign

 

In recent weeks I’ve noticed a takeover on my bus stops, shopping centres and tv screen. Those women in ads, looking perfectly coiffed and slightly dead behind the eyes have disappeared, and been replaced by women of all backgrounds and sizes dripping with sweat, charging up hills, dancing round gyms or even charging into the boxing ring, all as part of the #thisgirlcan campaign.

The #thisgirlcan campaign is aimed at encouraging women of all abilities, shapes and sizes to participate more in sports and exercise more often, and challenge their fear of judgement that stops them from doing so. Approximately 75% of women between the ages of 14-40 state they want to be more active, yet there are two million fewer women than men that regularly participate in sports.

Every woman has felt intimidated when trying out a new sport or in new surroundings at some point, particularly when you’re by yourself. That little voice, niggling in the back of your head, questioning your ability, the competency of others, whether you will be ostracised or not based on those criteria, how you will look. The list goes on.

This uncertainty is then compounded with the issue of body image; look at anything related to fitness in the media or in fashion, and it will be closely followed by images of tall, slim girls without any muscle mass, dieting tips, or clickbait articles varying between cellulite eradication or how to make your bum look bigger. Not very representative of the general public.

And not very fun either. Who wants to spend their precious free time counting calories, or toiling in the gym for sculpted abs, while you spend the rest of your time miserable and obsessive? Not you, and if the 5/10 diet is anything to go on, nor does anyone around you, either.

Which is another reason why I think the #thisgirlcan campaign is so important – it reminds everyone that sport is for fun. You don’t have to be the best, or work towards winning a competition, just enjoy the sport you’re participating in.

As someone who enjoys trying out new sports, and for the most part has little regard for the judgement of others, even I have felt somewhat disheartened if I haven’t picked a sport up straight-away or felt judged on my ability, like I was in a contest I didn’t know I had registered for. All you can do during times like those is ask yourself “Does it really matter?” and remember why it is you decided to try out the sport in the first place. And if you don’t enjoy it the first time round, ask yourself why and find alternative solutions.

So the next time you start to feel down or intimidated, just remember the message of #thisgirlcan. Fitness is for everyone, and comes in all sizes and ability.

 

biking-this-girl-can

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Wadjda film review

Although some might claim Wadjda (pronounced waj-da) has a simple premise, it is a poignant and observational film analysing the social norms and changes for women in Saudi Arabian society. It is also a miracle the film was ever made.

Shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, a country famed for not having any cinemas, the film’s director Haifaa Al-Mansour spent approximately five years seeking financial backing and investment from a foreign co-producer. Haifaa Al-Mansour is also the first female Saudi feature film director, which came with enough challenges itself; she spent much of her time directing the film in the back of a van due to restrictions on men and women socialising in public.

Al-Mansour cites inspiration for the film from her own personal experiences and those of her niece, and this is easily reflected in the film. Ten-year old Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) is a spirited and enterprising girl growing up in modern-day Riyadh. She dreams of riding a bicycle and racing her childhood friend Abdullah, and when she passes by a green bicycle in the local toy store one day, is determined to buy it. Unfortunately Wadjda’s mother refuses to buy her one on the grounds that riding a bicycle is something only men can do and she would bring shame upon her virtue. Luckily her mother is too preoccupied with preventing her husband from taking a second wife to notice Wadjda’s various schemes of fundraising for the bike at school, despite her head teacher’s attempts at hindering her progress. As the arguing intensifies between her parents, Wadjda signs up for her school’s Koran recital competition against the odds of her winning for a chance to win the prize money that will help her buy the bicycle.

Normally this blog is dedicated to women in the outdoors and travel, but every once in a while something comes along that represents the spirit of this blog that it needs to be shared. I presents to you, Wadjda.

Whilst the storyline is simple enough, the film simultaneously lends itself as a reflection on the trials that Saudi women face on a daily basis to conduct themselves within societal norms. For the majority of the film, the cast and screen time revolves around the women in Wadjda’s life, whilst the men feature only in minor roles.

Although the film takes an unbiased approach, through Wadjda’s eyes the audience witness the persistent tribulations the women in her life face. Whether it is her classmates’ education cut short by marriage, her mother’s exhaustive attempts to earn a living for her family despite being at the mercy of a husband who is more interested in finding a second wife, or the constant taunts from her childhood companions that she is not allowed to ride a bike, it is apparent that even if the men are not visually portrayed on screen, their presence is still felt.

However Wadjda is also about change, and by the end each woman rebels against the societal norms in her own personal way. This message is reflected in the most pivotal moment of the film, when Wadjda’s mother tells her she can do anything she puts her mind to; she accepts that change will not happen overnight, but it is through small changes, and strong-willed women like Wadjda that these changes will happen.

For more information, see the official website here: http://razor-film.de/en/projects/wadjda/

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Book Review: Conversations on the Coast, by Nick Hand


Four years ago during a cycling holiday to Cornwall, Nick Hand pondered how long it would take to ride his bicycle around the coast of the British Isles and return to the same spot he was standing. 137 days and 6,325 miles later, Nick finished his journey and recorded his experiences on the saddle in Conversations on the Coast.

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