13 March 2012

Running, Fashion and Feminism? It Is A Well-Read Trifecta!

Having read and mostly enjoyed the book Run Like A Mother, I now read the Another Mother Runner blog.  I highly recommend this blog (and the podcasts...OMG the podcasts) if you are a runner.  Even if you only fit the definition very loosely like myself.   The most recent post was about organizing your running gear.   Now, as we start on the long slow path to this being about feminism, I realized that I don't organize my running gear because it is really hard to see the line between running gear and my every day gear.  As a SAHM I generally pull on the sports bra and some kind of workout pants to hit the road.  The goal here is that when the chance to run occurs, maybe at nap or maybe if Chris gets home before 8pm, all I need to do is grab my shoes/tech tank and go.  Of course this means I spend 90% of my weekly waking hours in running gear. (I know, it is ridiculous.)

This line of logic reminded me of the Runner's World article from forever ago that I have been meaning to blog about for quite a while.  The basic gist of Fastinista! is that there is so much cool, fashionable and functional gear out there for women.  Long gone are the days where split shorts and a singlet were the only choice and heaven help you if you were not 5'10", 120lbs. and tanned.   The clothes are now flattering, functional and useful for more than just logging the miles.  Of course the comments immediately went to how the "fashionification" of women' running devalues us as athletes.  We shouldn't care how we look, we should only care that we can run sub-3-hour ultras.  Clearly only "joggers" (spoken: not real runners because only people who run marathons are real runners) would care about such things.  Many voiced the other opinion that if you are out running then hooray for you and if a skirt gets you out there, then grab a skirt and run.

However, no one caught on to, or talked about, the real subtle theme behind all this high fashion.

Women like gear that looks good because they are often in said gear when not actively running.  Women are required to get a workout in around everything (an everyone) else so there exists a need for running gear that can go from work to gym to grocery store to day-care pick-up line.  The real question is not "why do women need pretty stuff?"   It is "why do men not face this same challenge?"  There is no "Run Like a Father" book because it is not fathomable that a man would have to juggle his running with family.  Chris doesn't care what his running gear looks like because he is going to just change, run, cool down, shower and head back to his desk fully uniformed and ready to tackle the afternoons tasks.  I care about my running gear because odds are I will be rocking those capris at the dentist's office, juggling a cleaning and two kids on the loose, while hoping that Liz sleeps long enough while Charlie is at school for me to run and shower.

Seems like a simple thing, just running clothes, but yet again, there is a lot more going on here.  Wear whatever you want.  Run however you want.  Just never forget that the only reason we are even having this discussion is because anything that women do, even if it is identical to what men do, is considered second class folly.  Even your workout is not as important because it is not being done by men.  Of course, as soon as men do vocalize caring about their running fashion (and they do, for sure, just no one will dare frame it that way with an article about cute running shorts for men) then it will be normalized by the lenses of maleness and all will be well.  Then we will all have permission to care about looking good while working on looking good.