Height, weight, body shape, body type. On a daily basis women are confronted by what the supposed ‘ideal’ body looks like, across all walks of life from Instagram to the cover of magazines, and England cricketer Tammy Beaumont wants to shift the narrative towards what a body is capable of, rather than what it looks like.
Women’s sport is bigger than ever before and it will only continue to grow. But there are still articles written debating a players’ choice of eyelash extensions rather than their performances, and on the biggest stage and the pinnacle of women’s sport, it was a sexism debate involving the president of a football federation that overshadowed the achievements of the players themselves at the recent Women’s World Cup final.
However, the issues surrounding women’s sports stretch far beyond the actions of one man, even if it dominated headlines across the globe. There are problems of access and representation, including the fact that Nike – only after extended continous pressure, finally agreed to sell Mary Earps’ goalkeeper shirt.
It is not just the availability of replica kit that is a problem, every player across a range of sports will have memories of ill-fitting kit and facilities designed only for men, including a lack of changing room space or bins in the toilets.
Over the last few years there has been profound change, for example England Women’s football team now play in blue shorts, and women’s football boots are available, but it is not the same across the sports, or for those further down the pyramid.
“I don’t feel like kit necessarily fits every body type and I think it’s just one of those where I just don’t really care anymore,” Beaumont tell the Independent.
“In some ways I kind of like that I maybe represent a demographic that isn’t always seen on the cover of magazines or on an athletics track. I kind of like that maybe a young teenage girl that’s got hips and curves looks at me and goes ‘I can play sport’.
“Ideally I’d be a little bit slimmer, but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day, it’s about how I can perform and what my body can do instead of what it looks like.”
This year, Beaumont has been outstanding with the cricket bat. Having once described her reinvention as version 3.0, but since being left out of the T20 World Cup squad in March, Beaumont has reached a new level. She became England’s first woman double centurion during the Ashes, and hitting the highest score in the Hundred, and the first by a woman.
Women’s cricket has reached new levels in recent years, especially after the inaugural Women’s Premier League in India in the spring, where players were auctioned for eye-watering sums up to £340,000.
One of the biggest problems facing women’s sport is the drop off at around age 14, when girls stop playing. It is true across the board for several reasons, but one of the issues often spoken about is kit. Few 15-year-old girls want to have to make the choice between a boy’s large or a men’s medium when playing in any sport.
The ECB’s flagship competition the Hundred made new ground in some ways, kicking off the entire format with the women’s competition, but issues over kit were often spoken about in dressing rooms, even when the women’s game was headlining the spectacle.
“I mean there’s so many horror stories over the years of different bits of kit. I reckon I’ve had one cap fit me the way that I’d like it to fit me for playing, maybe two now,” Beaumont said.
“Our Test caps have been specially made with a hole in the back and still in the traditional style. But ‘one size fits all’ does not fit all or ‘fits most’ - it literally does not.
“You see how many times a bowler has to rearrange their hair when they take their hat off every time to bowl an over. I think we haven’t necessarily got that part of the game right at all.
“I think there’s nothing worse than when you’re trying to run around and just feel free and able to move freely and you feel restricted. Or you’re going on TV, and you think ‘if I lift my top up you’re going to see my stomach, and someone will probably comment that you look fat’ or the one I get is ‘you look pregnant’ and not at all.
“So, I think particularly in this day and age when everyone is so judgemental on social media it definitely is in the back of your mind what you look like instead of what your body can do and how you’re playing and how you’re performing.”