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This Girl Can - why periods don't have to stop play

Our strategic lead for campaigns, Kate Dale, reflects on the new This Girl Can ad campaign, and talks about why 'periods don't have to stop play'.

03rd February 2020

by Kate Dale
Strategic lead for campaigns, Sport England

We’ve always described fear of judgement as the golden thread that runs throughout This Girl Can – connecting all our work and focusing it on helping women tackle the real or perceived judgements by others (or of themselves), telling them they shouldn’t or couldn’t be active. 

In January, it was more about a piece of string.

Two women running up stairs within a housing complex.

This Girl Can is now five years old and we celebrated our birthday with a new ad campaign – Me Again. It brought back some of the iconic women and images from the last five years and introduced new women who are getting on their own terms and for their own reasons. 

As always, we showed the undoctored reality of women getting active - red faces, jiggling bodies and sweat – but this time we added in the unfiltered reality of women’s lives too. Whether we’re going to work out at the gym, the court or just our living room – we’ve all had to deal with stuff along the way – short and long-term distractions, hurdles and reasons to put it all off for another day. 

Sports marketing and fitness content typically doesn’t show this – and we knew that if we were to encourage even more women to get active, we had to do better. 

So, along with the joy, attitude and kick-ass soundtrack (thank you Little Simz) followers of This Girl Can have come to expect, we’re telling deeper, more complex stories. Glynnis, for example, is rediscovering her childhood love of swimming and building up her confidence in the pool. While Farrah has found acceptance and belonging in the climbing community, something that, as a trans woman, has been vital for her mental health.

And it’s the everyday stuff too – motherhood, menopause and most memorably, menstruation. 

Which brings us back to the piece of string.

Periods are normal

It’s ridiculous that in 2020 the practicalities and embarrassment of something that half the world’s population goes through every month for most of their lives is still a huge taboo. Periods are normal and natural, and exercise can help alleviates the cramps and mood swings involved. Yet research shows that many women still avoid getting active during their period due to a sense of shame.

This taboo also contributes to society’s collective judgement of women – that we must behave and look a certain way. 

Showing a tampon string so matter-of-factly towards the end the ad is our response to this. Hannah – who uses yoga to alleviate bad period cramps - is getting on with her life without worrying about what other people think. Periods don’t have to stop play and it doesn’t have to be embarrassing if other people know you’re on. 

A shot of the tampon strong, shown as hannah pulls up her trousers before she does yoga.

We knew it would get people talking and we wanted it to. It’s conversations that lead to change, not ads on their own. I don’t think we were prepared for how much there was. Delightfully, most of it has been overwhelmingly positive and a recognition that we were just showing the truth of women’s lives. The handful of complaints that were submitted to (and rejected by) the Advertising Standards Association, underline why felt we needed to include it. Judgement clearly still exists. 

This Girl Can is however about more than string. We’re working hard with our partners and supporters to normalise activity for all women of all backgrounds, abilities, shapes and sizes.

We’ve got lots planned this year and we’d love more organisations and individuals to get involved. If you haven’t already signed up as a supporter you can do so here and check out our latest insights, images and other materials. Don’t forget to tell us what you’re doing and keep using the #ThisGirlCan hashtag.

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