“You want women to be attracted to the sport, but sex sells”

// 9 October 2012

Former England cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent has made a bit of a niche for herself as a television and radio pundit.

Today she’s quoted in an article on the BBC website entitled “Sexing up key to boosting profile of women’s sport“.

In it, she says:

“You want women to be attracted to the sport, but sex sells…Some of the biggest barriers for young girls playing sport is the image and being sweaty or a bit masculine, so if you can make the sport more attractive for females to play then you will attract more girls in.”

She then adds:

“You also need females to support women’s sport and you see successful sports like netball, which has a lot of female followers, and women’s tennis which attract female crowds because the players look feminine, but they are very sporty. Women’s cricket also has a good advantage in that we have very feminine looking and good players, but when we started playing we wore the England men’s kit which was very baggy and heavy and didn’t look great.”

Lottie and girls (1).jpg

Well, sorry, Ebony, but this is just a very short step from Sepp Blatter’s brilliant idea about getting women footballers to play in tighter shorts, or perhaps waving a big banner that says, “WE MIGHT BE GOOD AT SPORT BUT WE’RE NOT ALL LESBIANS, HONEST!”

The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation tweeted the link to Rainford-Brent’s interview, and after receiving what seemed to be a lot of negative responses, asked: “Isn’t there a difference between ‘sexing up’ for men & ensuring kit makes participants feel good?”

Well, perhaps. But this emphasis on ensuring that girls and women can deem themselves to be “feminine” while playing or watching sport is troubling – because that definition of “feminine” is invariably “conventionally sexually attractive to men”.

If Rainsford-Brent was solely making the point that women cricketers needed lighter kit than their male counterparts in order to perform at their best, then yes, absolutely, that’s necessary.

But she’s not. She’s saying it was baggy and it didn’t look good. So it didn’t look good to whom? Presumably when the England team were on the field, they had more important things to worry about than what they looked like. I can only conclude that she’s referring back to her opening quote – yes, you might want women to be attracted to sport, but in the end it’s sex that sells. You need to make your players “feminine-looking” so that men will fancy them (and so that nobody thinks they’re lesbians, of course, because that just isn’t feminine).

The WSFF, for all the good work they do, seem to be asking the wrong questions. It’s not just about encouraging this generation of girls to play and enjoy sport and remove the immediate barriers that they perceive to be holding them back.

It’s about a long-term view. It should be about changing society so that feminine CAN encompass being sporty, being sweaty, and even wearing a baggy shirt.

Comments From You

Laura // Posted 9 October 2012 at 3:40 pm

“It should be about changing society so that feminine CAN encompass being sporty, being sweaty, and even wearing a baggy shirt.”

EXACTLY. Also, pushing the idea that sex (for which read “conventionally attractive women”) sells just reinforces the idea that women have to be sexy/attractive to men all the time, which in turn puts some girls off playing sport.

Does she really have such a low view of women and women’s sport that she thinks no one will want to watch it if the players aren’t “sexy”? The Olympics proved that people love watching women’s sport – she and the WSFF should be building on this, not promoting harmful stereotypes and policing gender.

Shadow // Posted 9 October 2012 at 7:12 pm

Perhaps that is why lingerie football is so popular – because the women who participate in this pseudo sport are forced to play almost naked! Note the female players are all ‘feminine’ and not wearing outlandish baggy clothing! Guess which sex is being sexually titilated and which sex is once again being sexually exploited for men’s sexual pleasure?


But whole issue of women engaging in sport is about the fact women apparently must not be seen or even perceived to be autonomous human beings because ‘femininity’ is the supposed essence of biologically born females. Males are supposedly from another planet in that the difference between males and females must be maintained at all costs wherein it is the male which is the subject and females must never be seen or perceived to be just as capable as the default human who is always male. This is why ‘femininity’ is promoted by malestream media, a powerful tool of Male Supremacist System, because we females are all supposedly innately inferior to males and that is why we must always be ‘feminine’ 24/7 because this does not threaten men and male power.

Reality is if a female/male engages in sport then the participant will exude ‘sweat/perspiration’ because if they did not they would experience medical problems. News flash females are human beings not ‘feminine sexualised objects’ whose only reason for existing is to sexually entertain/sexually service males 24/7.

Wrong – ‘sex does not sell’ what does sell is endless male created misogynistic propaganda that females are not human but merely mens’ disposable sexualised toys whereas males are not ‘sex’ but autonomous human beings.

Multi-national male owned corporations constantly promote the misogynistic lie that females only asset is being sexually attractive to males, whereas males are always portrayed as autonomous human beings who just happen to want to buy products which will reinforce their male power over all women.

Paul Frame // Posted 9 October 2012 at 9:59 pm

Claire Taylor’s excellent article backs this up.

Just look at the ridiculous clothing that England were playing with in the 1993 world cup. ( http://www.espncricinfo.com/db/PICTURES/CMS/146200/146289.jpg )

Now compare that to the kit that Ebony was celebrating the 2009 world cup win in ( http://www.espncricinfo.com/db/PICTURES/CMS/100900/100973.jpg ) and I’d far rather that they were wearing the same design and type of gear that the men do.

We should be talking about how sexy a player’s cover-drive is, or how a bowler like Jhulan Goswami ( http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/53932.html ) can at times make the ball talk with her command of swing & seam movement. Cricket doesn’t need sexing up. What the game needs is strength-in-depth at the international level, so that sides such as England and the World Twenty20 champions Australia can be challenged from without as well as from within.

There’s a World Cup coming in February, it’s due to be hosted in India, currently though there are no publicly available fixtures for this major tournament ( http://www.icc-cricket.com/events_and_awards/wwc/fixtures.php ) which is only 4 months away. Woe betide any fan who might actually have wanted to travel to India for the tournament (I probably couldn’t have afforded it anyway).

awoman // Posted 9 October 2012 at 10:13 pm

I think comment ought to focus on what was said, not so much how you can twist words into something you want it to say. Once you move into that territory.. things all too easily become misinterpreted. As the first comment on the article immediately falls into the accusation of “a low opinion of women”. Clearly, thats a jump and does not serve any purpose, other than an attempt to undermine Rainford-Brent as a person.

Firstly, someone who has played for womens cricket, a lifelong dedication to female sport of all kinds and who in her work on and off the field has voiced and supported women and sport (and women in sport) as agents of change and progress – rather points to the fact that Rainford-Brent does not have a “low opinion of women”.

Secondly, the only person talking about looking attractive TO MEN, or TO anyone in fact is the author of this article. Looking good is not confined to being looked upon, but a feeling within yourself. Are we going to deny that if we look good, we feel good irrespective of audience, in fact, in spite of it. Rainford-Brent does not mention attraction to the opposite or same sex, she phrases it incredibly badly (or her quotes were specifically chosen – who knows) yes, but the link between a man wanting to watch sports becasue the women have skimpy or sexually provocative clothing is not made.

Onto the actual point of the argument. Womens sport is not as popular as mens sport. Fact. Why? Because the IMAGE and PERCEPTION of female sport isnt working. Firstly, why were women cricketers wearing mens sports clothing in the first place? Because it was conceived as an add-on to mens sport. Not becaus eit was specially designed for women that way. Female cricketers got to uniforms of a sport whose image was created for men, and by men. What is wrong with women re-styling it? What if all female cricketers, in consensus, want to run around in bikinis or burkhas because they feel good, better even, when the play? The point is not actually whether they look sexy. (That was the wrong term to use, as it causes people to veer off the point).

The point is that the very female sportswomen who dedicate their lives to sport and all its related activities, deserve larger and wider support from the communities and nations they represent. They deserve younger generations of women looking up to them, and being motivated to follow in their steps.

How can this be achieved?

One possible step in this long-term view is supporting women who want to make changes so that more women can be involved. One of these changes may be to not merely accept a male hand-me down uniform in which to represent their country.

Sex Sells

No, it shouldnt. I agree that it isnt by making girls look like page three models that female sport will be more popular and widespread. But I do agree that the image of female sport isnt attractive enough to young girls and women. (N.b: Attractive *not in the sexual sense. ).

Will wearing a modern, specially designed uniform for women work? Quite possibly, yes.

Will men suddenly be drawn in hoardes to watch and fantasize about these newly discovered nymphs in lycra? Quite unlikely, there are plenty of ridiculous tv programmes that keep them occupied in that sphere.

Will funding, marketing, increased visibility, re-styling female sport to look more pro bring in more support? I think yes.

Mr. Rude Word // Posted 10 October 2012 at 1:17 am

Shadow said “Perhaps that is why lingerie football is so popular – because the women who participate in this pseudo sport are forced to play almost naked!”

Popular it may be in the USA, but it’s hardly considered a “sport” & does not exist in the UK, where it would undoubtedly & rightly be ignored.

Professional darts has included female players in their ranks for decades without any concessions to “sexing up”. The women dress the same & compete on the same stage against their male counterparts…all this in a sport that has the biggest “image problem” of all.

lindsey spilman // Posted 15 October 2012 at 10:12 am

This is sexist and homophobic. I think that its good that some womens sports players get to play sport in the same gear men do, i think i would have tuned out of womens boxing if they had been wearing dresses. Femininity is not natural, if it was it would not vanish when a woman wears the same clothing as a man. Why is it that when men wear womens clothing there seen as men in dresses and never feminine, but women can be viewed as masculine the second they step out of preforming drag. Im sick of feminine being the standard for women and i want a place in this society where women can be praised for being masculine, because thats what is missing. No matter how high a woman climbs in any area of life, if she has to be feminine to get tokens to get there in the first place, then it is not freedom. And so what if some lesbians are more masculine by choice, theres nothing wrong with taking advantage of the extra freedom not having to attract men brings. When your a lesbian you can afford to be masculine, many tomboy straight women have to tone it down to get a man. Most women today have become slaves to femininity again, after a time when they no longer had to. Many women of my generation and below gave up the rights and freedoms that feminism gave, just for a quick buzz of male attention. If the reason why women stay away from sport is because they dont want to look masculine, then the answer is not to give sports women femme uniforms. Its to fix the big problems in society, a big problem of gender. I know that some kind of warfare is going on, its about not allowing women to feel empowered, and its done by making women be feminine. Feminine is a false state of none self, where its not possible to have any inner confidence, all approval must come from outside. The longer women appear feminine the more dammage to the persons inner confidence, in the end ones own ideas and opinions are removed and the person walks around in a constant pose. Masculine is a state of inner confidence, where what someone else thinks is only the other persons opinion. Outside approvel is less needed but will come anyway if the person is male. For the masculine person its not about how the world sees them, its about how they see the world. This state of being is denied to women, and expected in men. This is how women are kept down. Every woman is afraid of not getting a man if she was to become her true self, so she puts on an act when young, and is bitter about all she missed out on because of it when old. Its been said that older women envy womens youth and take measures to stop younger women using it. I will tell you the real reason older women are bitter sometimes to younger ones, and it has nothing to do with them getting more male gaze. The real reason is because they have to stand and watch her put on the act, knowing she will end up missing out on being her true self by defering all her power to men. Older women also are prevented from helping younger women from getting there own power, as they know that everyone will call her a bitter old hag who has lost her own youth and does not want anyone to have theres. Younger women think older women are out to get them, so often play up the feminine thing as a way of getting back at them. And while all this is going on men are taking back everything feminism gained.

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