Saturday, January 26, 2013

In which I am a curmudgeon

Also known as, the one in which some marketers ought to be taken out back and shot. (In a manner of speaking.)

I made the mistake of signing up for the Venus Run. (I wanted a timed 5K and other people to chase. Don't judge.) Now, there are all-women's runs and there are all-women's runs. The Great Eastern Women's 10K is a stellar example of an excellent one.

I have, depending on how you look at it, very high or very low standards for a race.
- Is the distance correct?
- Was the course smooth?
- Did the race start on time?

But a race organised specifically for women? That's a nice thought. In Singapore, and in Asia in general, you don't find a lot of serious women runners. That's due to all kinds of things: historically, general poverty and agricultural societies meant nobody ran for leisure (what a concept! to be running while you could be working); it's very hot; it's not culturally acceptable (dainty? ladylike?) for a woman to be wearing very little in public and sweating copiously, etc. That's shifting these days, but we don't have the same level of enthusiasm about women in sports that the post-Title IX US does. So yes, I appreciate the effort to get women moving.

The Great Eastern Run does this very well, and its message is very clear: women, you need to be fit for the health of your heart. (Great Eastern is a very large insurance company, and they have a big financial incentive to do this!)

But then there's the Venus Run. And I present to you THIS GODAWFUL SHIRT:

It's going to have THAT PROBLEM isn't it. The one in which it's too short for my hilariously long torso. 

Aesthetics aside, there's so much wrong with the things on this shirt.
I am not sparkly. I am not bioluminescent. I AM NOT A SQUID.
Squid, btw, are amazing.

 I do not want to be exhorted to sparkle. If I want to sparkle, I will wear nail polish, gosh-darn it. (I enjoy sparkly nail polish.)

The bigger problem is this: Don't define me in relation to all these other people. Sure, I'm a daughter, (ex)girlfriend, sister, wife, granddaughter and proud of it. Sure, I love my family - but I'm me first, capisce? I'm also a runner, a writer, a journalist, many other things that you can't stick a convenient label on.

That and, let's see you put all these things on a men's version of this shirt. (What? Unimaginable? EXACTLY.)

I am not trying to discourage women's participation in sports and outdoor activities. In fact I will be your biggest cheerleader and better yet, run with you. And I very much respect the people who run marathons dedicating each mile to a person they love. I just don't think we need to be defined by all of these other people in order to find our motivation to run.

Suffice it to say I will not be wearing this shirt.

It gets worse. There was one last year, the Shape Run, that featured male pacers. (Unless you are trying to break a world record, there is no need for male pacers. In fact, these days, the records people don't accept women's record times from mixed-gender races. Which is a whole nother kettle of fish.)

What do you think of all-women's runs and the Venus Run marketing? Is there a good way to sell these things to women without being demeaning or reducing us to a series of limiting labels? 


  1. I think your comment: "..let's see you put all these things on a men's version of this shirt..." pretty much says it all.

    And if I were out here during the Shape Run last year, I would've been on my email high horse to the organizers. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Ugh.

    I don't think it has to be sparkly and pink to be sold to women, honestly. I think it needs to be well organized, efficient, and fun (fun isn't synonymous with sparkles). As someone who has trained a lot of new runners - most female - I think it added benefits would be to make it feel approachable, empowering, and encouraging. There are about a zillion ways to do this without pandering/demeaning/DIS-empowering women. BAGH.

    And as much as this stuff really gets me going, I am still laughing about the squid bit over here. Thanks for that.

    1. Thanks Holly! It's not just races. The entire outdoor-gear industry, too, has the 'shrink it and pink it' problem. Ugggghhh.