A few days ago, I was reading online about the South Asian Games taking place in the North East. The report stated that the women who were participating in the 4X400 relay team had been put up in guest rooms in a local institute 20kms away from the venue while the men’s team was staying in a 4 star hotel. “Our coach and recovery expert are staying at the hotel while we are stuck here. How do you expect to us top plan for our events?” complained one of the athletes.
Earlier this month I sat in front of my computer system biting my nails and constantly refreshing the news website. I heaved a sigh of relief that the Supreme Court of India announced a curative plea on Section 377, a draconian law which criminalizes non peno-vaginal sex. It was a minor victory but this could mean that in the near future, a substantial part of the Indian population may no longer be criminalized for simply choosing who they love.
I have been running for four years now and I have been female for 27 years. I love to run. Most weeks I pull myself off my bed and stumble to Bangalore’s Cubbon Park (where this event is slated to take place) and run at least 10km. I listen to music and tune into nature. I meet my friends and we talk race strategies and sometimes we talk about our lives. Some of my friends are men, some of them are women and all of them are dedicated to running. While there aren’t as many women in the amateur running world as men, I have seen the numbers grow these past few years. Some of these women are married and some aren’t but they all work hard. They are brave too. Women who train in India often have to be wary of street harassers and eve teasers. I even know women who have been forced by their families to stop running. Women fight a lot of obstacles before they even tie their laces to go for a run.
Runners with Wife!
Two days ago I was scrolling down my Facebook feed when a running event caught my eye – Runners with Wife. The event was billed as a celebration of Valentine’s Day and would be held on February 14th in Bangalore. It features a 5k race where participants have to run for four kilometers and then carry their partners for one kilometer.
While the description is careful to use the word “partner” everywhere and even invites singles for the event (no you won’t win anything single people for you have lost in love), I couldn’t shake off its title – Runners with Wife. What on earth did that imply? Did it imply that only cis-gendered, heterosexual men are runners who have wives and only they can take part in it? Did it imply a Valentine’s Day event (a day meant for love, an emotion that has no gender) was meant for heterosexual men?
I commented on the event’s Facebook page to point out these problems out. And while the organizers directed me to the description in the event page that invites everyone, they also told me they wouldn’t change the title. I left the discussion when I knew it was a lost cause. But it didn’t end with me. Others had a problem too and when they raised the same issues, the organizers hilariously equated their Valentine’s Day event to No Shave November (no really). They also stated that they were encouraging men to carry the love of their lives who happened to be wives (yeah I knew all that talk about partners was hogwash right there). They shut down further discussions by saying – “Some folks have too much time on FB. You can utilise this time to address real world issues.” So, I have decided to utilize my time and address some “real world” issues to the organizers.
How everyday sexism in sports affects women
i. Sexism is unfortunately real and quite rampant in the athletic world. Female athletes are often shunted in favor of men. When you choose to close your eyes and ears to the pleas of those who want a more inclusive world, you are very much the problem that we want to eliminate.
ii. I know it’s shocking to you but runners come in all shapes, genders and sexual orientations. There is no real unifying factor amongst us other than the fact we all love to run.
iii. In my short four years, I have run with those who have battled cancer, amputees, men and women with hearing and visual impairments and those who stared at death in the eye and chose to keep fighting. They have all inspired me. They have instilled in me the passion for seeking the impossible.
iv. If you were actually part of the running world you would know that running is for everyone and it should be for everyone. And if you were actually human you would know, love is for everyone and it should be for everyone.
Really, why can’t the event be Runners with Love?