Archive for the tag 'gender'

Women-only events: sexist or sensible?

NS September 22nd, 2010

News that a handful of men are entering (and often winning) races and marathons put on mainly for women has created a bit of a stir. Are these guys douchebags who enjoy exerting their superior physical capabilities over The Ladiez, ruining the spirit of the event, or is it unfair for these races to be exclusively aimed at  only one gender in the first place?

Some people like to trot out the familiar argument that if women want equality with men, it has to be enforced in all areas. No female-only gyms, no ladies’ night drink specials, no women-only events or groups. Some go a step further and say that women shouldn’t expect separate toilets, exclusion from the military draft or even be eligible for maternity leave. You need to pee or have a baby? Well boo frickin’ hoo, you wanted to be just like the big boys and you GOT it, ladies.

This, of course, is called being a giant JERK.

The thing about this argument is that it assumes that women who fight for their rights think that men and women are exactly the same, with no biological deviances or differing practical needs. It’s also more than a little patronising. Men (and some women) often use this argument to try to ‘trap’ feminists into reneging on their arguments for equality. Much like the groups of white people who cry ‘Reverse racism!’ when minority groups put together an event celebrating their heritage or form a group exclusively for those within that minority group, there seems to be a wilful ignorance and refusal to acknowledge historical power structures in these protestations.

Reverse racism against whites is impossible because minority groups lack  the political or societal power to enforce their alleged biases. In the same vein, women as a whole lack the amassed authority required to actively oppress men and deny them their basic rights based on gender. So when someone cries ‘Reverse racism! Female sexism against men!’ they mostly need to be told to stick a boot in it.

On the other hand, I can see how the ‘women only’ thing can seem a bit unfair at times, especially if it has nothing to do with physical strength or biological differences (unlike sporting events and having babies). I’m no fan of ladies’ nights, when women get into bars and nightclubs free of charge while men pay full cover. That’s very unfair and also pretty gross since the only reason establishments do this is so that there’s more tits and asses in the bar for the men to ogle. It degrades both men and women.

Even if female-only races are, at their core, unequal, I still think that entering a race full of women just so you can win is pretty tacky and mean-spirited. Not only does it prevent a woman from garnering that top glory (since she is very unlikely to win an event that includes both sexes), it can take the sheen off that ‘we’re in this doing it together, girls!’ camaraderie that events like these can help foster.

What do you think? Would you be upset if a man entered a women’s running event for the sole purpose of winning, or do you think it’s his prerogative?

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