Sweaty schoolgirls scold 'sexist' MP

24th September 2004 at 01:00
They may not like being called sweaty, but the remarks of an MP have got Britain's schoolgirls hot under the collar.

Andy Reed, the Labour MP for Loughborough, has been sent to the sin-bin for suggesting that girls are getting fatter because they are too image-conscious.

His comments came in a debate in the House of Commons about female participation in sport.

"A lot of girls give up sport in school because of an image thing," he told MPs. "It's not particularly cool to look all sporty and sweaty. We need to change that perception."

What Mr Reed failed to make clear, though, was that his remarks were a reference to a report by Nike, the sportswear giant.

As a former parliamentary private secretary to Kate Hoey when she was sports minister, he should have known better. Mr Reed's well-meaning words have back-fired spectacularly.

Luan Lowther, head of PE at Sir Jonathan North, an all-girl school in Leicester, said: "It's not the case that girls are too cool to exercise here.

"Give them a session of aerobics and soon they're sweating and asking to do more sit-ups to become toned."

A 14-year-old basketball player at the school branded the MP's remarks as "a bit sexist" while another said that "playing sport makes you look cool".

But Mr Reed told The TES: "What I said in the House are not my views.

"A study conducted by Nike, showed there was a range of reasons why there is a 75 per cent drop-off rate for girls taking part in sport between the ages of 13 and 17.

"It was one little comment among a range of reasons."

Still clawing his way out of difficulty, he added: "It's difficult because you've got to try and say as much as you can in the shortest time possible.

"I'm annoyed that all these girls are thinking it was me saying this. It was the Nike report, not me."

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