Have you ever been told you “Run like a girl”? Think it’s an insult? Author and athlete Danielle Brown is changing that narrative with her new book Run Like a Girl.
With the 2021 Olympics behind us and the Tokyo Paralympics launching, female athletes around the world are showing us that they can run, climb, jump, throw and win like a girl while turning the pejorative trope on its head. To that end, Brown has documented the inspiring stories of 50 female athletes from around the globe in her book Run Like a Girl. From Simone Biles to Susie Wolff and everyone in between, Brown’s solo debut is a veritable who’s-who of women in sport — a playbook of incredible athletes with indomitable spirits who refused to take “no” for an answer.
About Danielle Brown & Run Like a Girl
In her own right, Brown is an inspiring woman; a double Paralympic gold medallist and five-time World Champion in archery, she was World Number One for her entire career and made history when she became the first disabled athlete to represent England in an able-bodied discipline at the Commonwealth Games.
Run Like a Girl features amazing women like long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox, shot putter Dame Valerie Adams, soccer star Marta Vieira da Silva, rock climber Sasha DiGiulian, and tennis legend Serena Williams to name but a few — these women have broken world records, achieved world firsts and achieved professional excellence. What’s more, they serve as inspiration to future generations of young women to continue breaking records and barriers.
“There are so many reasons I wrote this book,” Brown tells Parentology. “When I was growing up, I can’t remember seeing many other female athletes on TV. I didn’t read about them in books, and I didn’t hear about them in the playground. There were no visible coaches, referees, or support staff either. I wanted to increase visibility on the amazing things that are happening in women’s sport, as well as changing the way we talk about it.”
Brown says there’s a considerable drop in girls’ sport participation around age 10. Without adequate representation, the numbers will continue to decline. “Getting more women involved in sport at all levels and roles helps to show that sport can be for ‘someone like me’,” says Brown. “It’s really important to highlight the diversity of sports out there, too. Understanding that there is a whole range of activities that you can get involved with, you can succeed at, and you can enjoy is really important.”
In addition to lack of representation, Brown cites lack of coverage among the biggest barriers facing female athletes. In the US, there are 1.13 million more sporting opportunities for boys than for girls. “Figures like this are driven by the position sport as something for boys,” she notes. “There is a big expectation that boys should enjoy playing and watching sport.” The same messaging, she says, is not given to girls.
“Stereotypes are difficult to break. Change takes time, and we are seeing some positive momentum. It’s been fantastic to see more female athletes in Tokyo who have had children in the last Olympic cycle and the push, for example, to get better maternity cover. It is important to celebrate how far we’ve come, whilst looking ahead and seeing where we want to go,” says Brown.
These frustrations make Brown’s interviews with the athletes featured in her book all the more rewarding. Each athlete has common traits: grit, determination and passion. “One of the most heartwarming things I found was how many of these women are trying to put something back and support the next generation,” says Brown. “So many of them have set up charities or got involved in projects that support children or other women engaged with sport, and it is great to see how they are using their platforms to make a difference.”
Nowhere was this more evident than during Simone Biles’ exit from competition to focus on her mental health, a move that stirred controversy about the prioritization of mental health in professional sports. “It was fantastic to see Simone putting herself and her team first in Tokyo,” says Brown. “When athletes step up and talk about their mental health in the same way they would a physical injury, those messages are incredibly important and it is great to see that female athletes are leading the way with these very important conversations.”
“Of course, we still have a big mountain to climb until we see true parity,” Brown says. “I really think we will get there with more trailblazing women who are changing narratives, breaking barriers, and showing what is possible when you strive to achieve a dream.”
At its heart, Run Like a Girl is about more than women in sports; it’s about the triumph of the human spirit and the power of sport to lift up those who are displaced, underrepresented or marginalized. These women have all achieved remarkable things and excelled at their chosen sport while refusing the limitations that so often restrict them. So the next time someone says you run like a girl, tell them with a lot of practice, they can too.
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