I begin with a couple of short stories:
When I began running regularly after college, I ran around the track at a local high school. One day I ran into a "running club" that would meet at the track once a week to do some speed work. I had never heard of such a thing as a "run club." Get this: you can join a group of strangers who also like to run? Wow. *mind blown* (This was in the young days of Google Groups, Yahoo Groups, and Meetup.com.)
One of the guys from the club sees me taking an easy lap, and joins me on the track to tell me all about their run club: which days/times they meet, which events members train for, fun activities they do on off-days, etc. It just so happened, that all of the members that day were men, so I asked, "Do you also have women in your club?"
"Yes, we have girls. The girls kind of form a group and do their own thing. They are a little slower than us."
It almost sounded like the girls just can't keep up with us manly-types. No offense dude, but not everyone from their club that day looked like a svelte athlete. We are not "girls." Secondly, why are the fem-bots doing their own thing? Perhaps the guys think the cowering females will get lost making loops around a 400 meter track so they need to herd together for comfort. And finally, are all of the vagina's really slower than the penises? I doubt it.
Much more recently, I went window shopping at a bike store, and what was the first bike the sales boy showed me? Well, it was pink. It may have been a nice model, but I was slightly offended that he would show me a pink bike before any of the other models. It's like going to the car dealership and they show you the vanity mirrors. I asked him, "So, what kind of model would you suggest if I'm on a budget, and I want to do hills and maybe a century?" Then he showed me an Italian-made small men's bike.
During Barb's Race this summer, I shared the course with some of the full Ironman competitors during the run portion. They were doing twice the distance, and had been up since 6am, but were still going strong on their marathon. These were not the pretty good guys, but the guys in the lead with a motorcycle leading them in to victory. Hotties! I remember giving some of them kudos on their way past me (because they all passed me), and none of them returned my enthusiasm. I was hurt and offended that they wouldn't recognize my athleticism as well. Doesn't everyone want to be cheered?
So, now I can hear my female friends all riles up and screaming, "Yeah, men are mean, and they don't take us seriously! We will revolt, and form our own clubs and have our own events, and we'll show them what we women are all about!!"
Here is my dilemma:
I don't presume that women and men are created as biological equals (yet *wink*). Currently, the fastest times in men sports greatly exceed the fastest times in women's sports. But, in an amateur setting, there are just as many slow dudes as there are fast chicks. Personally I feel that competing with men makes me a better athlete! I know I'm not going to place in the men's category, but man do I feel good when I finish with some 50-year-old bad ass dude who looks like he's been in the sport for at least 30 years.
Remember the pink bike? Well, I went to an all-women's triathlon the following week, and there were at least 10 of that exact bike on the course. Women will buy it if it's pink, so we feed into this separate but equal phenomenon that we also seem to complain about. I like pink just as much as the next gal, but I don't necessarily go around to sporting events yelling, "Look at me! I'm a girl!" I think (hope) people realize that I'm a woman. I don't get it. Does the pink make women feel good? Or do we think that a mob of pink is going to intimidate the men? By the way I'm wearing a pink shirt today.
Just like the men who can't stand being "beat by a girl" (whiners) women shouldn't be offended if they don't offer back a compliment or notice our pink tutu. Everyone has a different motivation for competing. And, now that I've done an event that takes over 6 hours, I might have limited my "You go girl!" and "Awesome job! s" to maintain a little more energy.
Perhaps we women are still making up for the past, when men dominated sports and determined, well, everything else too. In sports, Title XI afforded female college athletes to participate in sports that were previously deemed male only. Out of that, it is safe to say that this has changed the face of sports in American - look at the females who dominated the medal count in the Olympics this year!
I've been writing this over a few days, and had the opportunity to run some of my anxieties by a few friends. "I just don't really like being in large groups of women." This is a really hard thing to say in front of other women because I feel like it's the absolute wrong thing to say. I want to be clear I am not one of those people who like to hang with the guys or only has guy friends. I like groups of women - my group of women, like my friends and the women that I chose. It is fun to compete with a group of women once in awhile. Women definitely seem to have a better sense of camaraderie than men do in individual sports. But, I want to be an athlete, not a female athlete.
It is truly sad that in 2012 we have to have a War on Women and I will do everything in my voting rights to make sure women are taken care of. But, I still like men. They are not the enemy, and it doesn't make a difference to me whether they are at an event or not.