(Editor’s Note: I actually wrote this post on Thursday morning, but held off posting it to make sure I wasn’t doing so out of blind snark. But after thinking about it and talking to some friends, I think I still feel strongly enough about everything I’ve written below to put it out there.)
Sadly, not a post about the BEST MOVIE EVER (but definitely an excuse to include a bunch of Mean Girls .gifs!).
But yesterday/this morning, I noticed some instances of extreme and unwarranted (in my opinion) runner bitchiness/cattiness, and as they both came from runners who I generally respect and admire, I thought we could all learn a few lessons from what I think we can all agree is one of the greatest films of our time. And look at more .gifs!
First, let me add a disclaimer that I am FAR from perfect when it comes to not being mean/snarky/gossipy/whatever. I love good gossip and snark more than a lot of people (remember when engaging in it less was one of my New Year’s Resolutions last year?). But I try to manage it as best I can, and I certainly try not to take to the wonderfully unrestricted world of the Internet to blast the entire world with my snark.
(And maybe you’ll think this whole post of criticizing others for being too mean is being unnecessarily snarky. In that case, feel free to skip this post and I’m sorry for offending you, but I felt compelled to get my thoughts down on paper about these things that have offended me.)
The first instance of “Mean Girl”-ness came from a blog post I won’t link to here because I don’t want to smear a blogger whose dedication and abilities I respect and admire. This blog post explained that the writer was feeling grumpy (and for perfectly legitimate reasons), and then delved into a list of running pet peeves. Said pet peeves included, but weren’t limited to, caring too much about looking cute while running, taking pictures while running, over-hydrating/fueling, and so on and so forth.
I will cut this writer some slack on ranting about people who run six people across on a narrow path or stop without pulling over to the side during a race, because that’s just bad etiquette and actually affects other runners. But the rest just seemed kind of needlessly mean to me. I agree that you probably shouldn’t sacrifice the integrity of your workout to make sure you look like a supermodel afterwards, and sure, it probably isn’t medically/athletically necessary to take a Gu before the 5th Avenue Mile or have flowers on your running shirt. But people who do those things aren’t hurting anyone else around them, and what’s important is that they are out there. For some people, it’s easy to work up the motivation to go for a run. Personally, I’m not one of those people. And if stopping during an easy run (and not in the middle of a speed interval — see my comment on workout integrity above) to take a picture of the gorgeous skyline as I run around the reservoir, or if wanting to wear my cute new running shirt (with flowers, ruffles, or otherwise) is what gets me out the door, what business is it of anyone else’s?
The second thing that offended me was, to me, more egregious and far more public, so I have no issues being more specific about it here. But let me start by saying that Oiselle is a brand that I completely love and admire. It’s a woman-owned, woman-run brand started by Sally Bergesen, who is a certified running bad-ass, and they encourage women to “Go Fast, Take Chances.” If my supply of money were endless, I would spend a lot of it with them. Their distance shorts are still my favorite shorts of all time. It’s an incredible brand that believes in the power of women to do incredible things and makes high-quality, functional, and attractive running apparel for women.
Which is why I was disappointed to see someone who works for Oiselle (and explicitly links her Twitter account to her affiliation there) tweet a picture of this Athleta catalog cover:
…with the caption “Haha. Because this is how everyone starts track intervals.” and a follow-up tweet of “I’m not trying to be a B. I’m just sayin’ if you serve a sport, get to know it. Be authentic.” Which struck me as about as effective in preventing actually coming across as a “B” as saying “No offense” before saying something completely offensive a la middle school in the 90s.
First, I was offended by a brand openly taking to Twitter to blatantly criticize and mock one of its competitors. Athleta is also a woman-focused athletic apparel brand (although they also carry everyday apparel/accessories) that encourages women to push themselves and be the best they can be. In fact, as of this writing, this is their home page (including the offending picture on the catalog above):
Sure, “Go Fast, Take Chances” might resonate more with me personally than Athleta’s “Power to the She,” but at least I can sasume that these companies both have the same ultimate interests at heart: giving women the apparel they need to push themselves and be the strongest, happiest version of themselves that they can be. But as a consumer, I’m not sure I want the brands I admire to mock their competitors on Twitter.
But I’m not really sure what is so offensive about the picture above, and why this Oiselle staff member (and several of the follow-up tweets those comments received, some of which were also from runners/bloggers I admire) was so offended by it that it needed to be mocked. Sure, you won’t see Olympic track runners out there in a purple tank top and running skirt. And this picture is obviously air-brushed (it’s a catalog, people. Let’s call a spade a spade.), but it’s not like she’s about to run 400s in a bikini. She isn’t wearing heavy eye makeup, her hair isn’t perfectly blow-dried, and honestly, she has tone in her arms and shoulders that I would sell my first-born child for (or I could just work a little harder in the weight room. But that’s really neither here nor there).
But again, what I see most is that she’s out there, training, running, getting stronger, and pushing herself (theoretically. Clearly this is a photo shoot. But most athletic apparel sites don’t have pictures exclusively of people actually training in their gear, so I will let it go and accept Athleta’s intention here). I guess I’m just not really sure what was so wrong with it.
This post is getting long and I have a dentist appointment and day at the office that I need to get to, so I will avoid the long-winded thoughts I have on how there are all kinds of different ways to be a feminist and a strong woman. In the interest of saving space/time, I’ll just say that I believe that women should support other women being the best version of themselves that they can be instead of hating on each other for not being the version that we want each other to be.
So I’ll end this by saying that I think that runners should support each other. Some newbie runners are intimidated to walk into a running store, sign up for races, or run their first mile. And 99% of the time, runners will (correctly) swear that the running community is welcoming, friendly, and encouraging. But I worry that new runners will see the above types of comments, tweets, and blog posts as saying that there’s only one right way to be a runner, or a strong woman, or both. Which isn’t true. And I’ll admit that I could stand to take my own advice a little more, but honestly, we should all just DO US. Whatever being the best version of yourself, a strong woman, or a strong runner (if that’s your thing) is, get after it. Go be you, and be awesome at it. Because we are all awesome, whether we run 0 miles or 50 clad in head-to-toe ruffled spandex or a cotton t-shirt we got for free five years ago. Or if we sleep through our workouts because of this morning’s apocalyptic rainstorm and spend half our morning writing this blog post.