#50WomentoKona and a Quasi Conservative

I will say it. I consider myself a quasi-conservative when it comes to politics. *GASP* Okay keep reading, it’s not like that.  Let me give you a better explanation of how I view the world in general:

“socially, do what you want,everyone has their choices to make, no one is less or better than anyone else, financially, I work hard for the money I make so please let me keep it and save it how I’d like. I respect your freedom to your opinion and I can graciously agree to disagree about things and still go have a beer with you”

Given that thought I am surprised at how strongly I have reacted to the inequality that we see at the professional level in Ironman’s headline event each year, The Ironman World Championships.  I’ve never really gotten worked up about gender equality issues in the past. Perhaps that makes me a shitty female or perhaps I am just a product of the things women have fought for before me. Either way, I am fired up now.

I am a huge fan of the Ironman brand. I’ve finished 9 Ironman races and am still pursuing Kona  This inequity in opportunity starts to tarnish the view of a dream I have had since 2008.  I am someone who doesn’t like government intervention socially, but the passage of Title IX in the ’70’s is something that provided many women OPPORTUNITY to succeed. I realize that drawing this comparison also draws the counter argument to #50WomentoKona in that Title IX deals with a proportionality of opportunity based on gender distribution.  I don’t disagree that women do make up less of the participating Ironman racers but it’s not just about the ‘right now’. It’s about down the road…

The NCAA has done an amazing thing by pursuing Triathlon as an emerging sport.  THIS IS HUGE. We’re saying YES young women, we want you to become elites and here is our new pipeline. We’ll see how many schools end up adopting the sport, but this is the perfect time for WTC to say, you know what, YES let’s take advantage of the fact that eventually these short course athletes will become the stars of the future. Let’s start to put in place the programs and standards that will help them succeed and drive more female participation. Talk about opportunity to grow your business? What, women comprise like 30-35% of Ironman competitors?  I don’t know about you but I would be working my butt off to capture as many women as I could to make those numbers change. Women SPEND MONEY. IRONMAN COSTS MONEY. Sure women will buy IronWife shirts but hell, get them to finish an Ironman and they’ll clean out the gear tent before the gun has gone off on race morning (just look in my closet).

Outside of the collegiate pipeline though there is a new wave of young women coming up through the ranks right now. I know because I race them. I have several friends who could go pro and decide not to because they enjoy winning their age group and they don’t think that it is ‘worth’ going pro. Are you kidding me? How in the world are we in a place where excellent female athletes who could be the next Rinny are electing to ‘stay behind’  in the age group races because it allows them to race Kona each year? (and don’t give me the ‘if they were that talented they’d outshine everyone – you NEVER know what can happen with the right pressure and time)  These women could go full force into training if they went pro. Instead they balance their regular jobs with training and pursue what excellence is in their world because going pro isn’t all that attractive.  I’m sure those hardcore athletes out there are thinking “well that’s their own fault. If they don’t have the determination to go pro that’s their own damn fault.” I hear you. I do. If I was that talented I would take every chance I got to go pro and throw caution to the wind. But I’m not listening to you right now because I am the one writing this blog, not you…sorry. I will give you an equal opportunity to respond on my Facebook page.

As women and as a triathlon community as a whole we need to be pushing all of our organizations to DO BETTER. WTC – give women more slots if not make them completely equal to men.  If you’re really that worried about the size of the Kona pier why don’t you limit the number of human interest slots or even cut back on the lottery. Don’t touch the legacy program though – that was pretty genius. Athletes – Push your alma mater to support the creation of an NCAA Women’s Triathlon Team. Be vocal about what you want to see change otherwise it never will. We do this sport to be our best, to learn things about ourselves we never knew. We want to change – to evolve. Between every starting line we toe and finish line we cross we are not the same as before.  We’ve crossed the starting line in the gender equality discussion and we can’t stop until we reach the finish line. It’s time to really see if “Anything is Possible”.