And in general I think there are all sorts of good reasons to have women’s events. I’ve blogged about why they’re not sexist and are good for women.
But they walk a fine line sometimes, hitting the right note to appeal to women and create a positive space where more women might be willing to take risks, while at the same time avoiding stereotyping women by being presumptuous about what appeals to them.
Kincardine, in my view, gets this exactly right. We don’t get swag bags full of make-up. No, you get useful stuff like water bottles and, this year, a really excellent red racer back tank in technical fabric. It’s become a staple part of my summer active wear. Kincardine is a race for women, but it isn’t preoccupied with normative femininity.
Niagara teeters a bit closer to the edge. Women like wine, right? So not only does every race kit include a bottle of wine (and lots of make-up), but the start and finish lines are called the start and finish “wine.” And then there are the fire fighters. As a straight woman, I’m happy enough to have a fire fighter hang my finisher’s medal around my neck. But the assumption that this is everyone’s preference assumes a connection between women and heteronormative femininity.
Still and all, I do like Niagara and it’s not overdone.
But tonight I heard about an event on Toronto Island next summer that would have appealed to me if not for the fact that it is just a bit too pink for my taste. The Divas Half Marathon sounds amazing for all sorts of reasons. It’s on the island. You get a ferry ticket. It’s for women. I know some friends who are doing it. It would be a new experience, and we’re always looking for new events to try. It even looks like fun.
But, but, but. Among other things, every participant gets a pink tutu (I get the impression you’re supposed to wear it on race day), a cool medal (I’m okay with that even though it will just hang on the back of my closet door), a boa and tiara on the course, and “shirtless hunks.” I don’t know what the shirtless hunks do or at what point they make their appearance, but between them, the pink tutus, the feather boas and the tiaras, it’s just a little more normative femininity than I’m willing to pay money for.
I’ve blogged about the social meaning of pink (see “What’s So Bad about Pink Anyway”):
what’s the social meaning of pink? It’s all about feminine—girlish, dependent, a little bit silly, a little bit soft, a little bit fickle, cute, and just generally weak. I don’t mean that girls and women are actually this way. I mean that femininity as a cultural ideal likes to represent us this way. Add a bit of zip to the pink, going for neon instead of pastel, and you’ve got sexy too.
To me, and I realize not everyone will agree, these qualities are not my preoccupation when I’m trying to complete a half marathon. Some might say that I’m just no fun — what could be more light-hearted than a pink tutu? Hey look, I’ve run a 10K dressed as a witch before (a personal best, no less!), so it’s not that I’m against playing dress-up for an event.
Sam has written about cupcake rides and heels on wheels. Do they help or hinder the cause of women’s cycling? She says…
So if Cupcake Rides and Heels on Wheels rides work, more power to them, I guess. I’ll swallow my queasiness and rejoice at the sight of more women on bikes. I’ll be the woman not in heels, not eating cupcakes, heading out on my bike for coffee…I’d love for you to join me.
I guess I feel similarly about the type of women’s running event that promises to be a celebration of pink. If it gets more women out, okay, good good. Maybe even if there was some choice — like instead of a tiara, can we opt for witches’ hats? That cobweb stuff instead of feather boas? What about capes instead of pink tutus? Like, can we have a nasty woman option?
What about you? Do you think that women’s events can be too “pink”?