Thursday, May 2, 2013

Harassment at a Half Marathon?

I recently read this post after being asked my opinion of it.

I'm appalled.

Not at the signs, or at the fact that random men were paid by a corporation to hold them out there.  To me, that seems like it's actually a pretty brilliant marketing scheme by a makeup company.

I'm shocked by the fact that a spectator (also someone that a quick search on athlinks reveals has not ever run a race) would believe that they have the perspective to complain about such a thing.  The author of that post called it "sugarcoated and corporate sponsored street harassment."

She complains about the signs and states that they objectify women, and asks if we we see these signs at a men's marathon.  Her answer is no.  (I giggled about that one.)

Now I've been at countless mixed gender races, and I can tell you that a sign saying "Hello Gorgeous" would be pretty damn cool at mile 24 of a marathon when I'm digging deep for every last bit of what I've got.  I can also tell you that the signs get better. They are one of the best parts of racing.  Years down the road, we laugh about what some of the signs say.  My favorite (I forget the race now, but it was during the run of a mixed gender half iron distance triathlon) said "You have stamina, Call me."  At whatever point of the race I was at, I laughed.  And at that point, I needed it.

The author of the linked post has no perspective on what those signs out there mean to endurance athletes - and yes, you would find something VERY similar at a men's half marathon.  You'd probably find signs that you'd consider worse.

If you continue this rabbit trail, you might endanger one of the best parts of our races.  The signs from our kids, our husbands, our wives, our parents.  The ones that say "Hello Gorgeous,"  "You're beautiful when you sweat," or "Cute Running Shoes."  The ones that keep us motivated because someone is watching.  It gives us the strength to dig deeper in ourselves.  To find strength when we thought we had none.  Guess what? Our families that are out there to cheer us on are all random people to all but one person.

And you, you may think you've done something wonderful.  Stood up for women that you think are being harassed.  But thousands of racers will resent that their families can't put signs up for them because one spectator once, with no perspective on what a 24 inch by 36 inch piece of cardboard meant, took offense to something that is part of a culture they couldn't possibly understand.

And don't even try to school me on feminism, sister.  I've been entrenched in a patriarchal career for almost as long as you've been alive.   This is one female keeping your assumptions in check.

Those signs?  They were brilliant.  Women are gorgeous at every point in their athletic path.  They are beautiful when they sweat.  And running shoes - well - the good ones are getting cuter.  So dig your panties out of their twist and lighten up.  Go for a run.  And at 13 miles - see if you wouldn't like some random stranger encouraging you.  Because that is what that sign is.

If anything got objectified out there that day, it was the guys holding those signs.  Thanks, Bare Escentuals - and also thank you to the guys that held those signs for all those beautiful women.  A half marathon is hard.  You probably made it just a bit easier for them.

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