Saturday, March 26, 2011

If You Let Me Play

The first time I came across Nike's "If You Let Me Play" ad campaign was in the mid-1990s, when my mom came home from a teaching conference with this poster. The print on the poster is difficult to read in this image, but its text has a simple, yet extremely powerful, message. The text reads:

If You Let Me Play

I will like myself more

I will have more self-confidence

I will suffer less depression

I will be 60% less likely to get breast cancer

I will be more likely to leave a man who beats me

I will be less likely to get pregnant before I want to

I will learn what it means to be strong

If you let me play sports.

Soon after I saw the poster, I saw the television ad for the first time. It reiterated the message from the poster, with a very simple, powerful format... no music, no effects, just little girls looking into the camera and telling the audience how to make their lives better. Here is the television commercial:

Growing up with parents who coached a number of sports, and three sisters who all played university sports, I saw first-hand the power of sport. My sisters are all strong, grounded women, and I firmly believe that growing up playing sports has contributed to that.

The issue became even more important to me when my daughter was born; I fully intended that she be given the opportunity to play sports. Her options down that road became somewhat limited a couple of years ago, however, when she was diagnosed with a blood disorder that greatly restricts her blood's ability to clot. Any sort of contact sport went out the window at that point in time; still, there are a number of sports that she can take part in, including tennis and swimming, and I am determined that she will be able to play sports, if she chooses.

Using a number of the resources we have touched upon over the length of this course, I am going to go into some detail about how and why these ideas are important for children, especially females.


I first used the transcript of the television commercial to complete a word web, using the website It's not the first word-web site I have come across ( is another good one, but it is the easiest to use; in fact, my wife used it to create a number of birthday cards for friends, within days of being shown the site.User-friendly, and extremely useful as well.

I was extremely happy with how this web turned out... the words I wanted were highlighted, and I think the intended message is the one that comes through.


In today's world, we are constantly assaulted by images that show what a woman is 'supposed' to look like: rail thin, scantily dressed, and usually highly sexualized. Even as women's rights are in many ways at an all-time high, expectationson women are in the same spot; today's women holds down a full-time job, manages her home and her family, and looks great doing it. That is the standard that is being held up, and the fact that it is a construction not based in reality does not matter; if you are not Martha Stewart in the body of Brooklyn Decker, then what is wrong with you? You still look like you had a baby 2 months after your child was born? Do you not care about yourself? It's no wonder that anorexia is at an all-time high, along with divorce rates. We are a society where Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, while universally mocked, are also universally held up to be admired: stupid, shallow, beautiful women who are famous for... well, for being rich and stupid, really.

That image of what a woman, or girl, should look and dress like is everywhere, can not be escaped. Even animated images of women look like them; this became clear when we tried to create avatars for this class. Liz complained that all of her avatars from one site were inappropriate to use, and she was not joking. I went into IMVU to create an avatar, and every option they had was young, beautiful, thin, and underdressed. Here was the finished product I ended up with..

This image of what a female is supposed to look like is absolutely horrifying ; the thought that in a few years my 6-year old daughter will be dressing like this, wanting to look like this, terrifies me. I have to do my best to instill in her a sense of self-confidence, a sense of self-esteem that will ensure that even as she goes through the pressure and drama of her teenage years, she has learned enough to make the right decisions, decisions that I will be unable to make for her, at least actively.


I have always come out very strongly in opposition to the idea that athletes should be held to a higher standard of behaviour than society in general; a society where Kobe Bryant or Terrell Owens are held up as the standard we should try to emulate is one that is in serious trouble.

That said, there are certainly facets of almost every professional athlete that can be admired, and taken to heart. To become the best in the world at anything, not matter how talented one is, takes years of hard work and dedication to your craft, whatever that craft may be. Kobe Bryant can be admired for how hard he has worked at his game, for his determination to be the best basketball player ever, even as his off-court problems can be condemned.

Within the same context, there are many female athletes who can be admired by girls young and old for certain things that they do, and do well. Serena Williams has done some regrettable things in her life, but she has also succeeded in a sport that is historically almost entirely rich and caucsasian, despite coming from a low-income, African-American family. As well, she has shown the world that it is possible to be muscular, strong, and sexy, blowing away many stereotypes in the process. I see the downside of this, as well... she, like many others, has been seen as a sexual object, but I would certainly rather my daughter attempt to become strong, fit and sexy than to starve herself to be seen as attractive. Mia Hamm, to me, is one of those few athletes who deserves the title of role model; intelligent, classy, a great ahtlete, if you are going to emulate an athlete you could do far worse than her.

I included both of these women in my next artifact; a Glogster page ( While not the easiest site to work with, there were a number of handy, interesting tools in this site, and I am happy with the finished product.

The third woman I included on the Glogster page is not nearly as famous as either of the first two, but the story is a lot more personal to me. Kaila Mussell is the younger sister of an old friend of mine, a woman who I first met when she was 12 years old. She has since become the first female saddle-bronc rider in North America, and was featured in a music video by country legend Reba McEntire. I knew her as a strong (physically and mentally), determined teenager; she has obviously kept all of those qualities as she has grown up.

Here is the Glogster page:


I came across this tool a few months ago, when it was used to make fun of a certain former Vancouver Canuck. While the first one I saw was very funny, I certainly saw its potential to be used in a more serious way. I plugged a number of the ideas from the Nike commercial, and after a little playing around I was happy with the end product; you can also choose your own music, from a number of options. These mini-movies can be created at


Finally, I have included links to a number of kids' sports programs across Vancouver. We are in an area where virtually any and every sport is available for children, but it can sometimes be difficult to find a starting point; well, here it is.


BC Golf Junior Links:


Vancouver Youth Soccer Association: Burnaby Girls Soccer Club:


Tennis BC Schools Program: Kitsilano Community Centre Tennis Lessons:


Steve Nash Youth Basketball League: RBL Youth Basketball:


Vancouver Minor Hockey Association:


Vancouver Parks and Rec Swimming Lessons:


Baseball BC Youth Leagues:


Vancouver Phoenix Youth Gymnastics:


Volleyball BC:

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