In The Mixed Zone’s third and final contribution to Women’s Sport Week, Laura Winter discusses the partnership between Women’s Sport Trust and photo agency Getty Images to produce guidelines for the type of images that should be produced of our sportswomen. Alongside, some of Britain’s top performers pick their biggest sporting moments of the year
Women’s Sport Week never fails to inspire. You find yourself surrounded by like-minded, passionate and tenacious men and women determined to boost the coverage of the nation’s sportswomen. The future looks bright and women’s sport is in safe hands. It is an unstoppable and forceful movement which will not be silenced.
This year, Getty Images showed themselves to be the leaders in their field in more ways than one. As the world’s largest photo agency, they have taken responsibility and joined Women’s Sport Trust to produce guidelines for the type of images we should be producing of our sportswomen. What we consume visually plays an enormous part in our expectations of what a woman should look like.
Images of sportswomen are often sexualised, focusing on looks instead of skills or performance. Now, Getty Images and the Women’s Sports Trust are celebrating the diversity of our female athletes with honest and very real portrayals. These images are going to be available for free for schools so the next generation of Helen Glovers, Laura Kennys, Kadeena Coxes and Sarah Hunters will not only be inspired, but realise they have an identity and that they belong, too.
Rebecca Swift of Getty explained why they had become involved. “We’ve decided as an organisation to become more courageous and we felt like we had to make this bold move. As the biggest organisation out there we have quite a lot of power and therefore we are able to give other organisations the courage to do the same. It was time to lead by example. Other voices were not big or loud enough.”
She also laid out the reasons why photographing women in sport is so important. She said: “We have a motto at Getty, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’. That’s why partnering up with the Women’s Sport Trust is so important. The key is to be representing a range of sportswomen and at the moment the photographic industry is missing a large part of that range.”
Rebecca believes the initiative will make a big impact on female sports coverage, and “hopefully for the better”. She went on: “I think it will be a two-part process. Firstly, we [Getty] will need to be at the events in order to take the photos, but secondly, and crucially, it will be the distribution by journalists and the media that can really implement the change. This is why the partnership between Getty and the Women’s Sport Trust, alongside The Mixed Zone, is so important. To make the step forward that we need, we must take the photos, while knowing that they are being distributed far and wide and alongside their male counterparts.”
Hurrah for that. There is much to cheer and much to be excited about in women’s sport. We saw that this summer. Given the chance to tune in to all things women’s sport at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio, our nation did it in abundance. They lapped up the quality, the drama and the excitement. Nine million watched the thrilling women’s hockey final, where Kate Richardson-Walsh and her gang, including the indomitable Maddie Hinch, beat the Dutch on penalties to win Olympic gold.
Eleven million watched Laura Trott (now Kenny) win her fourth gold medal in the Velodrome to become the most successful British female Olympian of all time. And just this week, one of the most-read stories on the BBC website was an interview with Annemiek van Vleuten, who not only survived a horror crash which robbed her of a chance to win gold in the road race, she is also back on her bike and winning races.
It is hard to pick my best women’s sport moment of the year – there was such a wealth of history-making, ground-breaking performances. Trott winning that fourth gold medal in peerless fashion in the omnium is up there, as is Katherine Grainger’s silver medal against all odds in the women’s double sculls with Vicky Thornley. Vicky Holland winning bronze in the triathlon, in an all-or-nothing battle with team-mate, housemate and best friend Non Stanford was also thrilling.
But the stand-out moment for me has to be that hockey final. Firstly, I love penalties. As cruel as they are, nothing beats the drama, the agony and the ecstasy of a penalty shoot-out. But, more importantly, as the GB squad belted out the National Anthem in a prime-time Friday night slot on BBC One, I imagined hundreds of girls around the country turning to their parents and saying: “I want to be like Maddie Hinch, I want to be the next Kate Richardson-Walsh.” That is progress. The implications of that one moment are far-reaching and will be felt for years to come.
But there is also so much more to do and we can all make a difference. Keep watching women’s sport. Watch more of it. Watch rugby, cricket, netball, football and hockey. Talk about it with your friends. Read about it. Shout about it on social media. Support your local grassroots clubs. Challenge sexist comments. We all have a part to play.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Winter is a sports journalist, presenter and event host. She worked in sports communications for the International Rowing Federation for two years, before working and training as a journalist in Gloucestershire, covering a variety of sports including rugby, boxing, football, and triathlon. She then turned freelance at the end of 2014 and is part of the team who founded Voxwomen, a women’s cycling show that seeks to give the female elite peloton the coverage they deserve. Laura’s latest articles.