My freshman year of college I was in a women’s studies class when the professor asked us to go around the room and introduce ourselves, as is customary for the first day of class. It got to my turn and I smiled and said, “Hi, my name is Tatiana, I’m a first year Journalism, Public Relations and Advertising major.” I then smiled again.
Before the next woman could begin, another student, who had spoken earlier but whose name I could not remember piped up, “People like you disgust me.”
I was startled. What did I say? Oh my god did I accidentally say freshman instead of fresh-person?
She continued, “You call yourself a feminist, but you’re not. You look like they want you to, you act like they want you to, you even dress the way they want you to. And one day you will take a job, maybe even an important woman, and you will think you are doing something great for the women’s movement but really you are just a pawn in the men’s game.”
Wow, she got all of that from my name, year and major. I wanted to say as much to her, but I didn’t. She was ugly and wouldn’t understand.
By ugly I don’t mean she was actually ugly. Truthfully, she was quite attractive. But she was one of those women that believed if she brushed her hair and put on mascara she would no longer be taken seriously. She looked at me and saw my clean hair, my freshly glossed lips and my clothes that weren’t purchased second-hand and decided I couldn’t be taken seriously.
And that pissed me off, but it wasn’t the first time (nor would it be the last) that I ran into a woman like her.
I have also experienced a similar phenomenon -- I’m not sure if it is a double standard or a dichotomy or what -- in athletics. You know (or maybe you don’t) that I was a student athlete and it always got under my skin when people were surprised to learn I was attending school on an athletic scholarship because I was so girly.
Yes, I’m girly. I love being girly. I do my hair. I wear perfume. I get dressed up and put on shoes that aren’t comfortable but look really good. I just don’t understand what any of this has to do with my ability to row a boat. Or more recently my ability to run very far.
This is why I loved running Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco last weekend. Finally a race that celebrates being a girl. The slogan was “Run Like a Girl” the colors were all purples and pinks and teals. There was an entire mile where they handed out chocolate and in lieu of a finisher’s medal, we all got finishers’ necklaces by Tiffany’s, handed to us by firefighters dressed in tuxedos. The race also heralded girl power -- about half way through the 26.2 (because the point two is very important) race, the runners came to a bridge wearing a banner reminding us all that the god of victory is a goddess. How cool is that?
Instead of separating the woman and the athlete, the race (which was also open to men) appealed to the woman in the athlete and it was awesome. Not only the chocolate mile or the signs that said “Run Like a Girl” “Dance Like a Girl” or (my personal favorite “Overcome Like a Girl” but also the volunteers that cheered us on with signs that read “Pain is temporary. Tiffany’s is forever” or shouts of “After this run you are going to look so good in all your outfits, even the ones you don’t like.”
Because what is wrong with wanting to run to look good. I mean, in addition to all the other reasons we run.