‘By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of this great world.’
Portia, The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 2
I’ve had a day of medically related appointments today, carefully planned to fall on the same date so I don’t have to take lots of bits of time off work. This means I’ve had the joy of sitting in lots of waiting rooms, reading tatty old magazines.
Sometimes I think we can get caught up on the obvious battlegrounds for women – stick thin models, airbrushed older actresses, mixed messages about living a healthy lifestyle while slimming down to the size of a grasshopper and beyond.
These things are important but they’re not everything.
For example, in Stylist today there was a news story about Paula Radcliffe. She has been stripped of her 2003 world record title by the International Association of Athletics Federations because she was not running in a women’s only event. Paula told Stylist, ‘The IAAF’s reasoning for the change is that, in mixed races, the men act as pacers, making us run faster. So now, any women’s performances achieved in mixed fields will be referred to as a “world best”, not a record. But when I ran 2hr 15min 25sec in 2003, I was racing the men, not getting help from them! This now limits the chances women have to set records. I abided by the rules. How can you now say they don’t count?’
Together with Nike, Stylist are naming this as a modern-day example of sexism. Based on the little I’ve read, I’m inclined to agree. If a woman runs a record breaking time, who cares if it’s because she’s chasing a field of men or not? She still did it.
Later in the day, I read an article in the New York Times about Julia Chase-Brand, the first woman to defy the authorities and join in with the men to run a road race. It’s not unusual at all now, but fifty years ago, running was considered damaging to women’s health, improper and not a ‘feminine’ thing to do.
Fifty years later, the results of a woman in a mixed road race are declassified and counted as nothing.
And we don’t need feminism?
The icing on my feminist rant cake I saw on the Guardian website’s liveblog of the discussions over the Eurozone. I don’t understand anything about it except that it’s serious, and what they decide will have a huge impact on the lives of millions of people. Somehow, though, both the blogger and the sub-editor found themselves distracted from the matter at hand to give a description of Christine Lagarde’s outfit.
Note, though, there is no equivalent comment on the tailoring of Nicholas Sarkozy’s suit. Quite rightly – discussions of politician’s clothing couldn’t be less relevant to the issue at hand. Still somehow it’s de rigeur to make comment or pass judgement on a woman’s appearance.
What can we do except daily stick up for ourselves and for each other. Come on girls, let’s get things fixed up.
To support Nike’s attempt to overturn the ruling, tweet #historystands