Thursday, May 02, 2013

Sexual harassment at a (half) Marathon?

Or a case of (fully) super-sensitive spectators?

I've often spoken on Twitter and elsewhere about the "Outrage Prism," which many (apparently) joyless people hold over their eyes 24/7, allowing them to find offense at any/all things they encounter in daily life.

But recently, the Nike Women's Half Marathon was run in DC.  And, DC being DC, it managed to attract controversy.

Some company/product, "BareMinerals by Bare Escentuals" engaged in a viral marketing campaign where "Frat Boys" cheered on the runners with signs saying things like "You Look Beautiful All Sweaty," and "Cute Running Shoes."  As discussed below, according to women runners on the course, the "DC Frat Boys" were not obnoxious or negative in any way, and instead cheered the runners along their 13.1 mile course.

But one group doesn't see it that way (cue Outrage Prism): 

Linky:  Trigger warning:  WTF-ness

The group "Collective Action for Safe Spaces DC" is focused on ending Street Harassment in DC, and certainly elsewhere.  They are focused on a noble cause.  But on THIS front, they're just way off base, and provide a great example of the Outrage Prism taking hold. 

Notice that the people complaining on that FB page didn't actually RUN the race.  The people complaining simply WANT the women runners to be offended. But one women commenter actually ran the race, and pointed out their folly:  

Katy Cavanaugh By mile 8, I want to see someone holding a sign telling me my shoes are cute and I'm still looking good. I ran the race. I remember seeing them. They were not acting obnoxious or violent in any way. They were cheering on the runners. Does this mean the women holding the "you don't sweat, you sparkle" we're equally as offensive? Pick someone else to be angry at this week. People out there cheering for runners one week after Boston should be applauded, no matter why they were standing there.

Katy makes a great point - you will see signs saying how "Sparkly" you look from the sweat all the time at Marathons, Half-Marys, and even some Triathlons.  Moreover, spectators shout "You look great!" to men AND women. They say things like, "You look awesome!" along with a host of other cheers, not just related to looks.

Are they saying it to harass?  To OMG INFLICT THE PATRIARCHY?  No.

They're cheering on the runners.  Context, people.  Context.  CONTEXT.

Finally, let's discuss the finish line at the race.  There were tuxedo'd men holding platters of Tiffany's Medals, and lots of women gleefully grabbed at the men to have photos with them.  Also, I don't see a lot of people protesting the "hot" guys giving out TIffany's Medals.  

And let's also point out the Diva Half Marathon in Myrtle Beach was that same weekend, which my friend Bang ran, and featured beefcake giving out medals.  No complaints.  Street harassment is one thing.  Getting pissed off because you don't like how runners are supported is another.  Because CONTEXT.

In fact, I actually thought:  "Why don't they produce RUNNERS who saw these men and were offended?  Hmm, I wonder what women who DID run the Half thought of the cheering section of (pretend?) Frat Boys?"

So first, I texted a woman I know who ran it.  She saw the cheering section, said that she smiled/waved, and didn't give it another thought.  She felt like this was all a bit silly, and that was that.  But obviously, apart from her and Katy, I needed more women to survey and ask.

GOOGLE TIME!

I'm going to cite to some bloggers who DID run the race, and who also posted race recaps with photos.  I'll link to their recaps, along with their Twitter pages.  But I'll say this:  NONE of the bloggers I found mentioned, much less complained, about this oh-so-offensive cheering section (assuming they even saw it).

First, I did a little Googling, and found this race recap from Anne, who ran the race along with a friend.  I posted a couple of comments on her page, asking her take on it. 

Then, I did a little MORE Googling, and found this race recap from Molly.  I didn't post any comments on her blog asking for her take, but I plan to ping her on Twitter and point her here.

Then then, I did even MORE MORE Googling, and found this race recap from Allie.  Same as Molly.  After I left the comments for Anne, it just seemed easier to get my thoughts out, and point them here to ask their views.

I did . . . well, you get the idea.  Here's a FOURTH race recap, this time from Amy.

I plan to update this blog with their takes, assuming they answer me about the cheering section, and to see if they felt objectified/harassed or appreciated the attempt.

One thing you'll notice in all their race recaps:  NO mention of the "Frat Boys" and their Evil Patriarchal Attempts to Objectify (cue thunder/lightning).  Again, the ONLY complaint I've found about this marketing campaign has come from people who DID NOT run the race.
I actually Googled to see if I could find anyone complaining about the "Frat Boys" cheering section.  The only links?  Complaints by . . . guess.

Oh, sure, there are complaints on Twitter . . . from people who (1) didn't run the race, (2) didn't see the cheering section, or, (3) weren't even IN DC for the race.  Which is why I thought, you know, let's ask women runners what they felt when/if they saw the cheering section. 

Of course anyone can offer their opinion on a matter, but it seemed to me that it would be helpful if the folks who actually ran the race, and who may have seen the cheering section could offer their input.  Because, you know, their opinion might matter.  In fact, it DOES.  If there is no groundswell from women who actually RAN the race, and actually EXPERIENCED the cheering (or "street harassment"), then maybe -- just MAYBE -- this group is off-base.

But there's a happy ending in all of this . . . KIDDING!  There's not:

Bare Minerals informed Safe Spaces that, due to their joyless bullying protest, they would stop the marketing campaign.  But, that's not good enough.  Safe Spaces wants Bare Minerals to grovel.  They are demanding an apology.

Here's the problem:  To whom do they apologize?  Runners?  The only runners I've seen have said they didn't mind, didn't see, or outright LIKED the cheering.  So Safe Spaces wants an apology to . . . people who didn't participate in the race?  Who?  All women?

Outrage.  Prism.
 
P.S.  I wish Safe Spaces well.  I support their goals.  But nonsense like this protest, featuring utterly context-blind views on such an innocent matter, just undermines their credibility.

Update #1

Bang, of Run Bang Run has pointed something out to me in a Twitter DM.  What if these signs were held up by women?  Would this group protest it?  Sure!  If they were INSANE.  Realistically, of course they would not.  So, Bang points out, there is the question whether the words really offended them, or if it was because men were holding the signs.

Thanks, Bang!


Update #2

Allie got back to me -- she didn't notice the cheering section.  Thanks for letting me know Allie!


Update #3

I've now heard back from Anne.  She also did not notice them, but thinks this is all silly, and I'll link to her own words on the matter.


Update #4

The responses are rolling in!  Now I've heard from Molly, who DOES remember them, and states (over two tweets):

---"if I remember correctly, they were after a long stretch of silence. I was begging for a cheering squad!  Didn't mind at all that they were cute boys telling me I was beautiful!  Haha."

I really appreciate all the responses!  I put up this blog post last night (it's about 10-11 hours later as I write update #4), so I had NO idea what takes these linked bloggers would have on the matter.

Update #5

I had a real "V8" moment when I remembered my friend Cedric's wife, Tisha, ran the Nike Half as well.  I asked, she answered:

---"yep saw them! I chuckled & appreciated the word play! Not offended at all. This is stupid."


There are real problems in the world out there.  Street harassment is real.  But for a group like Safe Spaces to freak out over THIS thing just (1) discourages companies/sponsors from coming out to support runners, and (2) belies that this group is a "single issue" entity that views everything through (you guessed it) their own Outrage Prism.

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