Sunday was International Women’s Day and, besides the fact that I had a hard time getting into a manufactured holiday that allowed brands to jump on board with pseudo-pro-women messages that they could and would quickly move on from and forget, I actually thought the #50WomentoKona campaign used the moment interestingly and effectively.
I haven’t been incredibly vocal on the internet about the fact that a world championships, of any sport, needs to have equal spots for women and men to compete. That’s not because I don’t think someone should fight the equal-spots-at-Kona battle. I do. It’s more that I haven’t gotten into it for the same reasons I wasn’t that into International Women’s Day as a whole. I’ve been trying, for my own mental health and with some success, not to fight the obvious fights. Because they shouldn’t even be fights in the first place.
I don’t need a specific day to tell me that the contributions of 50% of the population should be valued. In fact, I find doing so implicitly allows that they don’t need to be valued the other 364 days.
And I don’t feel like rationalizing why women should get the same right to start a race as men, because that implicitly allows that there’s some reasonable argument as to why they shouldn’t.
Yes, I know that there are fewer women in the sport of triathlon than there are men. That’s true across most sports. Ironman has claimed they’d like to fix that, if for no other reason than self-interest. It is also true that female participation in all sports historically has increased when opportunities for those women have increased. It’s as if no one has ever heard of Title IX and the growth in female sports participation in the decades since. (Arguably, I think Title IX should now be changed and/or amended, with the collegiate sports climate having changed so much since, but different debate.) I was going to list more examples of how opportunities at the highest levels have increased the number of women participating from the bottom up, both because they had something to shoot for and because they had role models to follow, but there’s too many examples. Google.
I don’t really know, either, if the women’s triathlon field at the top is deeper or less deep than the men’s. That seems like a rather arbitrary argument, the type of which I tune out of on sports talk shows because of its inanity. What makes something deep? What makes it competitive? A race could be close and slow; is that better than if one person runs away with it quickly? Some decent analysis suggests that the women’s races are at least close to as deep as the men’s. But, even if they’re not. Even if you want to argue that women’s racing sucks balls (because you’re a moron), are you arguing that you’re going to make it better by restricting it?
These are all the same arguments that have been used time and time again to stop women from competing in the same events as men, to limit them to shorter or smaller versions. You know, so as not to damage their reproductive systems. Oh, is that not the argument anymore? Well, it was originally. And now, after women weren’t allowed to do those things for centuries, we just can’t, for the life of us, figure out why there aren’t more women doing them currently. Guess we’ll have to wait until a competitive women’s field emerges in order to grant them permission to compete in the thing they have to first prove they have developed sufficiently in. Why didn’t women get to compete in ski jumping until this past Olympics? Why do women race the 6k instead of the 8k in collegiate cross-country? Why don’t female swimmers get to contest the 1,500 meters at the games? Because, the old white men say, they just don’t have the competitive depth to earn a right to be here. They don’t deserve it.
So, no, I’m not having that debate. It’s not a debate. It’s already been had, these battles have already been hashed. I can’t get myself excited about posting a race photo in my support of #50WomentoKona because my photo doesn’t change the facts; it shouldn’t tip the balance of what is right. I’m having a hard time getting outraged, because it’s an obvious fight. It’d be like if a company told you that only people whose eyes were blue got to do this race. You’d know that was dumb. Clearly, people with brown eyes can race too, but there’s not much point in arguing with that. Instead, you’d just start to question other things about that company, start to wonder who was running things around here and what are they thinking. Maybe you’d start to think there must be better races, where people with all kinds of eye colors get to stand on the same start line.