Women's World Cup and Ashes show anything men can do, women can do too - Christa Ackroyd
But I was as active as any of the boys when it came to ‘playing out’. I could outrun most of my friends whatever their gender.
I could climb a tree and on to the local cricket club roof when no one was watching as fast as anyone and was the kind of child who had to be dragged indoors whatever the weather in the summer holidays.
I was also competitive by nature. But sport at school and me never really clicked. I think it was a jealousy thing.
The boys were lauded for their achievements. The football team always superseded the girl’s netball team when it came to plaudits in assembly.
They were even given special sittings at dinner time and were always going off in the school minibus.
Balancing on a beam or with a bean bag on your head in an airtex shirt and navy blue knickers seemed pretty tame by comparison.
What we were allowed to play was ‘girlie’. And too limiting in terms of choice. So I chose not to.
Fast forward more decades than I care to remember and I am amazed at how women’s sport has evolved in the intervening years.
And a little envious. In my day the emphasis was very much on the feminine.
Ballet and gymnastics fitted in perfectly with the principles that girls were pretty and boys were pretty rough so with the exception of hockey, which I loved, contact sport was very much a no no.
Come to think of it we never even asked to play football or cricket. Not that we would have been allowed to if we had.
We just took it for granted that there were sports more suited to boys and sports more suited to girls. And for that I am disappointed in myself.
Today women are kicking it and not just in football. Never in a million years did I expect to come downstairs to see my husband glued to the telly engrossed in the ‘beautiful’ game of soccer played by women.
Never did I believe I would see the day when I would walk into a room to hear him to groaning or applauding every wicket to fall when it was a woman with ball in hand or stood at the crease.
And not once did I believe he would make a date with a televised boxing match where two women not only headlined but female boxers made up the entire show. And that dear readers tells me how far we have come.
Feminism for me has always been a two way street. If women choose to go it alone good on them. Their fight for equality has and always will be an issue worth supporting.
But going it alone never achieves anything unless they take their male counterparts with them and that is what is happening in sport now not because of shouting or threats of legal action but because of talent.
Glance around the stadia to see the audiences for women’s sport and yes there are a lot of women and young girls there but so too are the brothers, the dads and the granddads.
Take that most hallowed of male bastions the Lord’s cricket ground. It’s very title suggests the historically misogynistic environment it has been for so long.
Less than 30 years ago women couldn’t even be members of the MCC but now it has finally agreed that it will host a women’s Test match in 2026. As well they might.
At last the largely male powers that be have finally woken up to the fact they were being left behind not just morally but commercially. This year’s Women’s Ashes has been a triumph and not just for the standard of cricket on the pitch.
More than five million people watched the series (a combination of a test, one day games and T20) on Sky and terrestrial television ... and not just the highlights. They were watching live. There were 47 million views of clips on YouTube and Instagram. And 110,000 spectators attended sell out matches in person with 33 per cent being women. Talk about smashing the glass ceiling for six.
Recent publicity about women’s football and has led me to explore its history and the fact it was effectively banned for more than 50 years as a sport deemed “unsuitable”. I wish I had known that at school. I would have demanded a game.
Now girls have found their voice not just because that’s fair but because of all the Lionesses have achieved. Of course they should have the same bonuses as men and the fact that they are still arguing with the FA about how that will come about is actually brilliant news.
Firstly it means having spoken with their feet on the pitch in winning the Euros (you don’t need me to tell you the men failed to do the same), people and men in particular are being forced to listen. They have achieved parity in appearance money when they play for their country. The fight for parity in the professional game is a long way off with the average top flight player earning around £27,000 a year by comparison with their male counterparts earning three times that a week. But the gap will narrow and all the more quickly if they lift the World Cup too.
It seems a long time since I sat in a TV studio hearing the arguments from Yorkshire’s smiling Nicola Adams about why women should be allowed to box and be financially rewarded for it.
No wonder she was nicknamed the history-maker when she then won the first Olympic gold for the sport and went on to win professional world titles, paving the way for the top of the bill women’s fights that are now almost commonplace today.
But then she was always more than just a fighter in the ring. She was a trailblazer and a role model as are so many sportswomen who excel at what would once be boys only sports.
I care not whether my five grandchildren…all girls… play cricket, football or box. What I care about passionately is that they have the right to choose.
That they can now do so is a victory for the female warriors who were braver than we were in demanding the right to try.
But then you know what they say.. tell a woman she can’t and she will. Tell her she’ll never be good enough and she will be better than the rest.
So please Lionesses bring the World Cup home for every little girl who was told it wasn’t suitable, it wasn’t ladylike or worse still (as in boxing) it was against the law.
As last it’s coming home.. or at least finally hitting home, that anything he can do she can do better. Or at least quite as well.