Thursday, April 9, 2009

Women in Triathlons

This week's topic unexpectedly crept under my skin and managed to get me a bit flustered. Women now compete in what once were male-dominated areas. Triathlons present a different path. Combining three sports into one means tripling the endurance. The question remains: are women made to do this? The Ironman competition is not called Ironman for nothing, although many choose to overlook the name and deem it an equal opportunity competition. Another competition which has risen out of this competition is the Irongirl. But isn't this competition called the Ironwoman?

The fact remains that women are portrayed smiling while men are fiercly conquering each event. As agenda setters, the media aid in the fact the traditional women's role is preserved. Susan Williams, the Bronze medalist in the 2004 Olympics, is portrayed holding her daughter in most pictures associated with her title. This ensures that she is a nurturer first and foremost, and then an athlete. For some reason women are not allowed to be fierce; that may be too threatening. In addition images of women crawling over the finish line of the Ironman competitions dominate media in order to portay women failing in a men's event.

It is said that the Ironman is not about winning, it is about battling against one's self. But again it seems that women have a different mission. The training video we watched during the lecture revealed some of the main reasons women join a triathlon training team: aging, break-ups, and weight loss. These reasons appear to be different that simply putting your body to the test. I asked a male friend who has completed several triathlons why he competes. His reply was that he simply wanted to push himself to the limit. Female triathlons seem to have a different motive. A popular short triathlon for women, the Danskin, is driven by profit and marketing. This "warm and happy event" does not seem to be about pushing yourself to the absolute limit. Some may even ask where is the pain?

Finally we were forced to consider what a female triathlete was. What did she look like? As most other "models" in society, the female triathlete was much leaner and more fit than the majority of the population. Not only do women have to be thin to fit the profile of a triathlete, they have to wear the right gear. The sexy tri-suit. Fitting the profile comes with a price, both physical and monetary.

Those who do not fit the profile of a female triathlete will find themselves in the Athena category. As someone who is tall and over 150 pounds, it came as a reality check to me that I would be considered over weight in this particular event.

Overall triathlons are a whole different kind of animal. This is a place where eqipment, weight, and age matter. They are the ultimate markers of success.

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