Very excitingly, this guest post from author Tom Easton is part of the YA Shot blog tour. YA Shot is an all-day event, with loads of panels and workshops with YA authors, held in London. I went in 2016 and had an absolute blast, so I am so happy to be helping spread the word about YA and building up some online buzz in the run up to the event (which is on the 14th of April).
The guest post from Tom is engaging and very interesting – he’s discussing women in sport, as well as the value of sport in our society, a bit of feminism, and how this all ties in to his books. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
A quick side note: keep an eye on my Twitter for a giveaway of a copy of Girls Can’t Hit by Tom Easton!
EDIT: the giveaway is up and open till the 4th of April! See info in the post on how to enter.
Human Rights – The Right to Sport and Leisure.
Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child:
States Parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
Article 24 of the UN Convention on Human Rights:
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure.
Some people love sports with a passion, some people hate sports with every fibre of their being. Physical sports are often seen as the preserve of those with strong bodies, fast-twitch muscles, a sporting brain. The stereotype of the typical football fan is an overweight, foul-mouthed yob. Sport isn’t considered cerebral, and therefore not worthy of appreciation by those more refined.
But to me, sport is one of the rich strands of life; along with art, music, literature, food and drink. Sport, whether we play or watch, is part of being human. Playing games is integral part of our civilization, whether it’s throwing pebbles into a hole, challenging others in a pub quiz or hitting a cricket ball into the stands in front of 100,000 people at the MCG. The passion that can be raised when your side scores, the pain when your team is knocked out of the competition, the obsessive collection of statistics, or trivia about your favourite player. These seem fantastically unimportant to the outside observer, but to the person involved, these are hugely important. And why not? We all dismiss things that don’t seem important to us, things that we are ignorant of. We don’t have to share in the football fanatic’s passion, but let us respect their right to feel that passion. Let us rejoice that the human spirit can feel such powerful emotion about where a ball ends up on a patch of turf, or whether a figure on a scoresheet is a 1 or a 2.
We decry the closing of libraries by cash-strapped councils, quite rightly, but there is less anger when schools sell off playing fields. Many of us in the world of books were more likely to be in the library with our nose in a novel than charging at each other on the rugby pitch; or twisting an ankle on the netball court. But someone needs to stand up for sports. Kids need exercise, some kids don’t read, some kids need to burn off excess energy. Sport is too often seen as a luxury, the first thing to go when budgets need to be cut.
In my book Girls Can’t Hit, the school the protagonist attends has a motto: Mens Sana in Corpore Sano (A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body). Though Fleur is sceptical at first, she finds her sport eventually. And it turns out to be boxing, probably the last sport she’d ever have thought to get involved with. She’s a reluctant boxer, and maybe to begin with, a reluctant feminist.
I didn’t set out to write a feminist book. It just sort of happened. I was asked to write a follow-up to my 2014 book Boys Don’t Knit, a story about a boy taking up a non-traditional pastime (knitting, obvs). Girls Can’t Hit just seemed like the other side of the same coin. But of course a book about a girl who takes up boxing HAS to be a feminist novel, because there’s so much to deal with. Body shape and weight. Aggression and physicality. Parental concern. Shame.
I was nervous but my teenage daughters provided both inspiration and incentive to do my best. Girls Can’t Hit is dedicated to them. Of course my agent and editors were of enormous help. They told me where I was going wrong, they showed me where my bias or privilege was evident. Most importantly, they pointed out more than once that I needed to lighten up. In the first few drafts I was trying too hard to tackle all the issues and poor Fleur, the main character, ended up having to take on so much, the book became far too heavy. In the end it’s a (hopefully) funny, and (hopefully) uplifting, book about an ordinary girl finding herself in an extraordinary set of circumstances. That’s all. I’m not trying to destroy the Patriarchy (I would if I could), I’m not trying to mansplain feminism to the world. I’m just trying to make people laugh, to poke a bit of fun at traditional gender roles and maybe to provide a bit of inspiration for someone who wants to try something a little different.
A man writing a feminist text might be taking a risk, but as Fleur learns in the book, sometimes you just have to drop your guard and take a swing.
I really believe everyone has a sport. Whether it’s darts down the pub with your mates; or running an ultra-marathon across Death Valley. Some people are restricted in movement or by health, but there is almost always some kind of physical therapy or activity we can participate in, and it’s important to do so for mental health as well as physical health.
And who doesn’t love a film about a underdog fighter, or a plucky, misfit sports team rising to the challenge and overcoming the odds to win the big prize? It’s a brilliant, simple narrative structure that warms the heart and makes the skin tingle. Here’s a list of some of my favourites:
- Rocky (obviously)
- The Mighty Ducks
- Cool Runnings
- The Karate Kid
- Million Dollar Baby
- Major League
- Tin Cup
I noticed when compiling that list that there’s only one film with a female lead (Million Dollar Baby). So I tried to think of other sporting films focussing on women. I came up with of A League of Their Own, Bend it Like Beckham, National Velvet and Personal Best. But then I ran dry. Are there others? I’d love to hear from you with your suggestions.
And if, like me, you think there aren’t enough books or films about women in sports, then let’s make some more.
Thank you to Tom for that amazing guest post! I’d never really thought about how few films and books there are about girls and women in sport, but I think we can all agree that it would be great to see more of it. Here is a little bio of Tom (his social media links are as above):
Tom is an author of fiction for all ages and has had more than thirty books published. He has written under a number of different pseudonyms in a variety of genres. Subjects include vampires, pirates, pandemics and teenage agony aunts (not all in the same book). He lives in Surrey with his wife, three children and two cats. In his spare time he work as a Production Manager for a UK publisher.
If you enjoyed this guest post, then be sure to check out Tom’s books as well as other stops on the YA Shot blog tour!
Also be sure to enter the giveaway over on my Twitter to be in with a chance of winning a copy of Girls Can’t Hit!
Follow and RT to enter, open till 4/4.
Sorry international folks, but it’s UK only 🙂 pic.twitter.com/TbSeB5vWXa
— Jess (@bookendsendings) March 21, 2018