One-time couch potato Jen Offord is now a fully-fledged sportsaholic. Over the last few months, she’s tried out different activities for Standard Issue. Now she’s off to America on a “senselessly over-complicated journey of sporty female empowerment” with Beyoncé.
Anyone who’s been checking in with my sporty misadventures on a regular basis might have spotted the odd reference to a senselessly over-complicated journey of sporty female empowerment, and if you didn’t follow the link, you might have wondered what the jeff I was talking about.
Let me take you back in time, back to the summer of 2012 where I, sport hater and civil servant (I’m sure there’s no direct correlation) stood in St James’s Park, practically weeping as the London Olympics unfolded before me. Despite being a sport hater, there had been quite a lot of weeping during those weeks, and sure, yes it did later transpire that I’d actually been quite depressed at the time, but don’t let that detract from the amazingness of it. Don’t tell me you didn’t love the 2012 Olympics. Unless you’re the chief of G4S, I simply won’t believe you.
I was staring down the barrel of turning 30: terminally single as babies started to sprout forth from the loins of my nearest and dearest; hating my job; and feeling pretty shit in the round, actually. Perhaps it was this frame of mind which led me to follow the suggestion of my mate Maya to try EVERY SINGLE DISCIPLINE OF SUMMER OLYMPIC SPORTS and write a blog about it. Though I wouldn’t say I necessarily pride myself on many of my adult life-choices, I can honestly say this is the best decision I ever made.
“I love sport, it’s ace, but it’s a funny old world for women – it’s not sold to us at school, because PE was shit, then we get all bothered about our bodies, then if we re-engage at all, we probably do it a lot later.”
Less than a year after I finished, I was still all over this sporty shiz, nipping about town on my beloved road bike, Beyoncé, punching other people’s hands (in a controlled fashion), trying new stuff and writing for various sporty blogs, when an opportunity to get out of the job I had grown to hate more and more was presented to me. Having found a new sense of adventure through my ‘journey’, and generally speaking being a much happier bunny from all those endorphins and my newfound sense of confidence from actually being alright at something, I decided to take a chance and leave to pursue my childhood dream of writing. The main lesson I’ve learned from this is that children with dreams aren’t usually financially solvent in their own right, but hey ho: I’m going to work IN THE PARK this afternoon.
So sport: I love it, it’s ace, but it’s a funny old world for women – it’s not sold to us at school, because PE was (and quite possibly still is) shit, then we get all bothered about our bodies, then if we re-engage at all, we probably do it a lot later, so it’s not really marketed at us, which just exacerbates the whole problem. I don’t think I’d really realised, prior to my Olympics challenge, what a massive division in the sexes there was in this industry, and how undervalued were the achievements of women.
Perhaps it was something to do with the time in my life all this was happening, but suddenly I had this sense of how differently women actually are treated by society, in a way I’d not really noticed before. Then it was everywhere: women in knickers, being sexy in music videos or trying to sell me makeup, or in cardigans having babies trying to sell me mum stuff, but almost nowhere were they being doctors or lawyers or politicians or athletes. You know, all the shite little girls are exposed to that will stop them believing these are viable and desirable ambitions.
Suffice to say, this revelation pissed me off. In the reactionary style of the kind of person who quits their sensible career to spend their days hula-hooping and jumping face-first into a crash mat, and in the belief there were women EVERYWHERE doing awesome things no one ever hears about, I decided to get on my bike Beyoncé and prove women’s sport and women’s lives are just as bold, adventurous and exciting as men’s. And to find these women, I would have to go to the land of the free, the land where I reckon they’re actually quite a bit better than us Brits at celebrating what they’re good at (from my limited experience, they’re also really very good at peanut butter-based confectionery), the land of AMERICA.
Hailing from Harwich, the town that built the Mayflower – the boat with the pilgrims – I decided to start my journey in Harwich, Massachusetts, cycling all the way to Houston, Texas, hometown of my own aspirational role model, Beyoncé (sure she wears a lot of knickers, too, but she does it in such a fierce way), as an only slightly shaky metaphor for how sport has empowered me, Sasha Fierce style. That’s 2500 miles (roughly) of punctures, bears, ‘gators, mountains, amazing women, and in all probability, an awful lot of chat about my arse. You’re welcome. Stay tuned.941 Views
Jen is a writer from Essex, which isn’t relevant because she lives in London, but she likes people to know it. As well as daft challenges, she likes cats, cheese and Beyonce. @inspireajen