Can a women’s event be “too pink”?

teaparty-2I love women’s events. The Kincardine Women’s Triathlon is my favourite triathlon. And, so far anyway, the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon is my favourite half marathon.

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.

hh-pre-race-editTo 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”?


3 thoughts on “Can a women’s event be “too pink”?

  1. Guess we all have different preferences of what is “fun”. Any sports event where it’s dressing up silly in costumes that doesn’t en masse of many people making fun of another gender, race or ethnicity, is fine by me.

    I used to organize women’s bike rides in Toronto and belonged to such a group. We never did much pink stuff…maybe we were too practical in the 1990’s. Or not enough fun. But definitely the organizing committee of women I was with wasn’t into pink EXCEPT we did have water bottles and T-shirts with a bit of pink and deep mauve design.

    I’m all for all women’s events if they want to cycle in high heels, etc. if it gets them out on the bike. I personally don’t like nor want to cycle in high heels.. The cycling world in big cities offers prom, tweed rides which I regret for donating all my bridesmaid dresses to Goodwill…those rides are co-ed and can be fun.

    Like some here, I’m more practical for cycling events, with the occasional splash of fun –I just like meeting others without much pink frippery.

  2. My instinct is a big “please no”. It’s not only that it’s heternormative. It’s a very two dimensional view of femininity. I also think it’s trying to counter something that shouldn’t need to be countered. Women athletes, whether professional or amateur, struggle with being labeled unfeminine. I don’t actually think these events help that. Perhaps the original intention is ironic, in which case I’d be more okay with it. I just don’t pick up on an ironic vibe. It’s more, “look! I can dress like Barbie AND run a half marathon! You CAN have it all!” Blech.

  3. Two of my co-workers competed in a Divas half-marathon and had a blast. They put on the tiaras after finishing. I think the theme of the race is actually poking fun at the idea of the “diva.”

    Worries about “heteronormativity” are just taking it all too seriously. Most of day to day life is not about politics. Certainly the color of your workout gear isn’t–it should be something that pleases you (says the lifelong feminist who frequently wears pink in the weight room).

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