REVIEW: Eat Sweat Play - Anna Kessel


So, recently I've been going through a bit of a reading slump. By that I mean I only read one book this week and lately I haven't been writing reviews all that much. Maybe that's a result of reading a load of 4/5 books because Eat Sweat Play demanded not only my attention but my response. 

This is going to be an immediate impression because I only turned the final page 10 minutes ago and here I am, desperate to take up every sport under the sun and wondering if I can encourage all of my friends to have a crack at the Olympics.

The premise to Eat Sweat Play is personal, not just to the author but to everyone in our society. Anna Kessel is a sports journalist and has been for 20 years. In that time she's faced a heap of sexist abuse about being a woman in a "man's" domain. Anna asks the question, who decided that sport was exclusively for men? And why, when women get involved, does a whole load of chaos happen? 

Most people assume that non-fiction books lack the emotional rollercoaster of a novel but Eat Sweat Play is an example of how untrue this is. I was deeply saddened when I read about how in recent years and present day women have been banned from participating in sport or watching it. I related to Anna's descriptions of how many women view their bodies and exercise with low self esteem. Exercise is only to look good, right? Body first, health second and enjoyment dead last. But why? It sounds stupid but I'd never given it much thought before. I related again when Anna talked about being a woman in a stadium full of men supporting a sport. How your high voice can feel out of place, how you stay quiet even though all you want to do is cheer. 

This might all seem petty but when you think about it in terms of the obesity crisis, mental health, the gender pay gap and discrimination against women on their periods, through pregnancy, as mothers, it becomes so much more. Shockingly, there's so little research done on women's sport that everything is just guesswork at the moment. This needs to change and the only way it can is by changing our mindset about sport - men and women alike.

I loved how Anna broke her research down into fascinating interviews with a heap of stunning facts and personal anecdotes. Most importantly, I loved how the book emphasises the fun of sport and the the inclusiveness that should be achieved. What stood out to me most was a section in which Anna chats to Jacqui Oatley - the first  woman to commentate on Match Of The Day back in 2007. Her experiences were illuminating and a lesson to the world. 

For all the women out there who say they aren't a feminist because "sexism only exists in third world countries", for all the women who hated P.E. at school and never want to exercise again, for anyone who wishes women were celebrated more in sport - read this book. I promise you won't regret it.

Love, Jess

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