It's not always easy to be a woman in sport
It's not always easy to be a woman in sport

It’s not always easy to be a woman in sport.

It’s not easy when there aren’t always the same opportunities. When there’s less funding, less sponsorship. When there aren’t always the same facilities, and it's harder to get hold of equipment and kit.

It’s not easy when you can’t get pitch time at venues, because the men’s sports get priority. When training is at inconvenient times, or even times when it’s unsafe to be travelling.

It’s not easy when time is so often squeezed. When, like for most women, the burden of responsibility for the housework or caring for children or the elderly falls on you.

It’s not easy when naturally women rate their performance more negatively than men. We might need a bit more encouragement rather than having to prove others wrong a lot of the time.

It’s not easy when we’re feeling self-conscious. Sometimes it feels like there’s an expectation to look a certain way, or to have a certain body, and many women feel like we fall short of that. It’s not easy to run around in sports kit when you’re self-conscious, especially when that kit doesn’t leave much to the imagination.

It’s not easy when once a month the cycle comes round which affects the performance of over 60% of women. It’s not easy when there isn’t enough access for toilets, and facilities aren’t set up to meet a woman’s needs.

It’s not easy when covid restrictions have had a disproportionate impact on women’s sport, when so much momentum has been lost, and so much will need rebuilding.

It’s not always easy to be a woman in sport.

It’s easy to feel left behind.

It’s easy to feel sidelined.

It’s easy to feel inferior.

So often that’s what the world says.

The world says this is a man’s world.

How can we break through these cultural stereotypes? This lack of opportunity, these challenges in our paths?

Well what does Christianity have to say about it?

Isn’t Christianity a patriarchal religion which also sidelines women, hindering them, holding them back?

That’s what many people think. Sadly, that’s the way many women feel.

But no - let’s talk about a man who broke through cultural stereotypes. About a man who valued women more than anyone in that culture - or even our culture, could ever have imagined.

This man never told Mary or Martha to get back to the kitchen where (so people thought) they belonged. No, he said. Come and listen to me, come and sit at my feet just like the men do. You’re a part of my work, my plan, my family, my people. The Kingdom of God isn’t a man’s world. (Luke 10:38-42)

This man never ignored the woman he met at a well, an outcast of her society, with whom culture dictated he should not associate. He speaks to her gently, and lovingly shows her a better way to live - and he reveals to her his identity as the long-awaited saviour of the world. (John 4)

This man was not ashamed to have female disciples or even to accept their financial support - unheard of in those days. (Luke 8:3)

This man treated women in such a way that they wanted to stand by him while others had forsaken him, even witnessing his excruciating death of the man they followed. (Matthew 27:55-56)

This man treated women in such a way that after he died, they wanted to come to his tomb and honour him. These women were given the incredible honour of being the first people to witness the event which split history in two - the resurrection of Jesus. It is women who had the honour of starting the spread of Christianity - women are the reason why 2,000 years later there are still billions of followers of Jesus today. (Matthew 28:1-10)

This man sees women as made in the image of God - the greatest stamp of approval anyone can ever receive. (Genesis 1:26-27)

This man sees women as in the family of God, and made a way for both men and women to be equally one in Christ. (Galatians 3:26-28)

Dorothy Sayers, one of the first women to study at Oxford (though she could not receive her degree until years later because at the time Oxford would not award degrees to women), wrote this:

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross.
They had never known a man like this Man—there had never been such another.
A prophet and teacher who never nagged about them, who never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated either as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously, who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be “feminine” or jeered at them for being female; who had no ax to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious.

They had never known a man like this Man—there had never been such another. Indeed!

What does this have to do with sport?

It doesn’t mean the difficulties will suddenly melt away.

But it is a huge encouragement to go and play, even when it’s not easy.

A woman need not feel she has less of a right to play than a man - we are all created equal in the image of God to use our talents and relationships for His glory - including in sport.

A woman need not be crushed what others might think of her - be that performance, or body, or anything else. A woman can have an identity which can never be stripped away by setbacks or sidelining or sexism. The One whose opinion matters most, the One who created everything, the One who created sport, the One who is in charge of the whole world - makes women in His own image and calls them worthy.

A woman need not define herself by her sport. If for whatever reason sport is hard, less accessible, less of an option in a particular circumstance or season of life - then that is not the end of herself. She is defined by something much deeper than sport - by the King of the universe who was willing to die for her.

It’s not always easy to be a woman in sport.

But do you know what? It’s worth it.

Because sport is an incredible gift from God - for both men and for women - and isn’t it worth it despite the setbacks to go out and run and jump and play? Doesn’t it make you feel alive, especially when you feel the smile of your Creator resting on you as you play for His glory?

Rosie Woodbridge

Rosie is the student worker at Inspire Saint Jame Clerkenwell. She used to play ultimate frisbee but is currently on a break due to her pregnancy.

You can read Rosie's other blogs on Living distinctly in a body obsessed world and A Letter to my body.

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