The ‘Girl Power’ Olympics: are we inspired or given false hope?
August 10, 2012
By: Helen McCartan
Jessica Ennis. Sophie Hosking. Katherine Copeland. Victoria Pendleton. Olympic champions hailed as heroines for Team GB. This in turn, has led to this Olympics being called the ‘girl power’ Olympics; inspiring thousands of young girls to participate in sport. ‘You go for Gold Girl’ wrote Barbara and Shannon Kelly of the Huffington Post in an article instructing women to achieve their dreams. In an era where reality stars such as Lauren Goodger and Amy Childs are seen as acceptable role models, the success of the women Olympians had provided a welcome boost in the right direction. Reach for the stars. Here come the girls. Realise your potential. These are phrases repeatedly said in the hysteria of optimism that has gripped London since the Olympics.
Then on Monday morning the mood of female empowerment was cruelly crushed when Conservative MP Louise Mensch announced her resignation. Elected in 2010, Mensch was seen as a rising star within the Conservative party. However, resigning today she said she was putting her family first. Her husband, manager of the band Red Hot Chilli Peppers was living in New York, with Mensch planning to eventually locate there with her two children. No! Screamed the feminists. Why did poor Louise have to compromise her career for the sake of her husband’s? Why couldn’t HE resign?
So there it was, the stark reality of a woman’s career. Reaching for the stars had become crystallised in the dull appearance of circumstance and constraint.
But what is the honest reality for women obtaining a successful career? The Olympic fairytale idyllically shown on our TV screens or a life plagued by difficult choices and sacrifice? More importantly, what does the future hold for us young ambitious students?
A study conducted in 2011 on a generation of women born between 1965 and 1978 revealed that of those who were university educated, 43% were childless. Another poll this year revealed 66% of women compared with 59% of men considered a high-paying career was ‘one of the most important things’ or ‘very important.’ Look at Karen Brady, co-owner of West Ham football club, who took only three days maternity leave. Though more women are being successful career-wise, the statistics show it comes at a price.
So there it is, the gloomy conclusion that it is impossible to ‘have it all.’ Sacrifice, pressure and restraints are still inevitable elements to a woman’s career even in 2012. As young idealistic students our career path seems so straight and carefully formulated we often forget the difficulties we will encounter. While our celebrated women Olympians do provide us with inspiration, Louise Mensch reminds us that it sure as hell won’t be easy.