BRITISH boxer Stacey Copeland has a modest proposal she believes will spark a seismic shift in equality in sport.
Britain’s first female Commonwealth boxing champion is a firm believer in the power of simple actions as she urges clubs, fans and the media alike to change the way they distinguish men’s and women’s sport.
Simple actions form much of Copeland’s work with Pave the Way, the organisation she launched in 2017 to give people the freedom to pursue their passions by knocking out gender stereotypes, but now she wants to see others follow suit.
“It came to me after watching the Sports Personality of the Year awards on the BBC,” she said.
“They were saying on BBC breakfast what a brilliant year it had been for cricket and I was thinking about the women’s team.
“When it’s women’s we have to say ‘women’s’ but with men’s we never do unless it’s the Olympics. The default is that it’s men’s.
Since starting #PaveTheWay in 2017 there have been lots of positives. But taking my 9yr old niece Ruby to see our exhibition of female role models in sport felt particularly special. It’s important to inspire the next generation, especially when it includes those we love most❤️🌟 pic.twitter.com/ZixxsxGpvO— Stacey Copeland (@scopelandboxer) February 3, 2020
“I think we should start putting the word ‘men’s’ in front every single time, because that suggests there is another. And there is.
“Things like that seem small but they’re significant. It’s like we’re invisible otherwise.”
Copeland was speaking at the launch of Women’s Sport Trust’s Unlocked campaign, which will pair 40 of Britain’s most successful female athletes with leading figures from sport, business and media.
It’s hard to ignore the 38-year-old, the Manchester-based boxer having advocated for women in sport at the United Nations and the House of Commons.
During her Pave the Way campaign she has spoken to over 100 groups, organised sports inspiration days and hosted events for women in male-dominated professions.
The super welterweight, who was also capped for England in football at U18 level, grew up around the ring. Copeland’s dad was a boxer and her grandfather owned a gym.
As a teenager Copeland was called 'she-male' and asked why she wanted to be a boy—all because she dared pick up a pair of gloves at age six.
The scary thing is she’s seeing it happening still and wants to dismantle barriers to help encourage everyone – male or female – to take part in whatever sport they enjoy.
“It’s the same whether it’s a girl or it’s a boy at the Royal Ballet School,” she added. Stigma stops them from doing what they love and that shouldn’t be acceptable.
“The idea that things being better for women somehow takes away from men is ridiculous. It’s just not true. It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s better for all of us.”
Copeland also suggested a tiny attitude shift could have a massive impact.
She said: “If we’re constantly comparing women’s sport to men’s we’re going to hold ourselves back.
“It’s like a 100m race where women are at the start line and men are already 80m ahead. Half the sports we’ve been banned from we’ve only just been able to do for the last 40 years.”
“It’s never been a chicken or the egg thing for me. You put it out there then sponsorship and spectators come. People see the best of the best and it changes perceptions. If you never see it, how can it happen?”
Stacey Copeland is part of Women’s Sport Trust’s new Unlocked campaign, powering up 40 of Britain’s best sportswomen. Find out more at www.womenssporttrust.com