"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Monday, August 13, 2012

Stop the YWCA Minneapolis Women's Triathlon!

I just heard about this event, though it is in its fifth year, because I don't pay much attention to triathlons. It is discriminatory against men and therefore illegal; it should be changed or forced to stop.

The very same people who are appalled that there was a time when the Boston Marathon did not allow women to compete now have events where men are not allowed to compete and they do not seem to see that there is no difference. Either one has equality or one does not; reverse discrimination is still discrimination.

This problem recurs frequently in local sports. In the late 1970's, there was a national series of running road races, the Bonne Bell 10K's, which were for women only. A Minneapolis runner, who happened to be male and an attorney, sued the local race for discrimination. The race was found to discriminate on the basis of gender and was discontinued. Only a few years later, the Melpomene Institute, created to "eliminate health disparities in Minnesota by empowering women and girls to lead active healthy full lives" held a yearly 5K race. It, too, was challenged as discriminatory, so a separate men's race was added ("separate but equal" apparently being legal in this case, though the year when it rained for one race and not the other shows separate is never equal). This race appears to have ended in 2008. The Bonne Bell race returned in 2006 as a co-ed race.

The Minneapolis YWCA's website proclaims their mission as "eliminating racism, empowering women." When empowering women happens because it precludes opportunities for men, it is wrong.

I am sure that some will declare, "If men want to do a triathlon, they have plenty of choices, why can't we have one race just for women?" That same argument was used in defense of the Boston Marathon's gender discrimination. It does not conform to laws regarding gender equity.


stillwaterrunner said...

Steve, I disagree with you when you infer this is a bad thing. I do think you are correct when stating that "women's only" events like this are discriminatory. Where I disagree is, I look forward to a day when "men's only" or "women's only" events are no big deal. Why not? Who cares? Men and women do not compete directly in the Olympics. Genders can have very different motivations, experiences and results. What I would hate to see would be when gender-specific events become the norm; that would sadly take away from amateur sports. I do not think this is the first step down that path though.

Alicia said...

I don't particularly like the idea of women-only events either, but it's not true to say that having a race just for women does not "conform to laws regarding gender equity"--MN law is actually very clear that gender-specific sporting events that "do not substantially reduce comparable athletic opportunities for the other sex" and "are necessary to preserve the unique character of the team, program, or event" are not gender discrimination. Federal law also wouldn't get you anywhere in a discrimination suit based on this because the race isn't a state actor.

Also, the Bonnie Bell race was only *threatened* with litigation; they were never actually found to have discriminated.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that the USATF won't acknowledge women's running records if there are men competing in the same event. If true, this would be far more sinister; it would basically mandate that women run in women-only events.

John K.

Anonymous said...

Plenty of races to get into, so no big deal if a local group wants to gender discriminate. As a counter, may I suggest that you start a new race, The Steve Quick Men's Only 10k trail race. I would be curious to know if any women complain.

Anonymous said...

Alicia, you are of course correct that there was no actual legal finding (I realized that about 3 AM, when for some reason, memory improves in sleep).

SteveQ said...

Alicia, you're right, of course; there was no legal finding.

My point is: if it were the other way around, there'd be a hue and cry. Perhaps I'll pul a "K. Switzer" and compete in it next year!