Not one to exploit the obvious fact that I’m a woman — I have some permanent fixtures that make this an inescapable detail — I’ve chosen to lead my life and my career genderless-ly. This is not to say that I don’t see the gaps between men and women in industry. I do. I just elect not to focus on it, as it has always been my opinion that women who do so with fervor are the ones that make us seem different, unequal and somehow more fragile.
So I don’t join women’s groups. I don’t write about the plight of women in the workforce. Instead, I encourage women to follow their dreams and work hard, like everyone else. Not to shudder or shrink, but to ask for the salaries and the positions they deserve. To shuck the inevitable assessment that she is “bitch” when she is stern and driven. To plow forward and be proud of her accomplishments. To assimilate rather than segregate.
And so we arrive at pink. I am saying it out loud and in public: F*CK You Pink. I hate you. I have always hated you. I hate that a pretty pastel has been ascribed to me without my permission and without my input. I hate that you, in a single swipe, make me somehow more delicate, softer and less capable. And f*ck you most of all for invading my safe place — sport.
When I was little, I hated dresses. I didn’t adorn my body with feathery hues or florid things. Instead, I wore t-shirts and holey jeans. I rode my bicycle, ran in the mud and got dirty. This is not to say that I didn’t play with dolls, but rather to illustrate that I was more than that. Like everyone in this world, I’m a complex human being that cannot be defined by any single measure.
Now, as I continue my love of sport as an adult, something truly exciting is happening. Thousands more people have found the thrill and reward of running and cycling. Triathlon has taken off, with nearly 60% growth from 2008 to 2011. Among the fledglings are droves of women, representing more than half of newcomers to the sport. And while it would be difficult to pin down exactly what is motivating this growth, it is clear that women are discovering their potential and are excited about challenging their bodies and minds alongside other women. It’s also easy to imagine another aspect being that women feel empowered by their newfound potential and the ability to compete around people, not genders.
The more women that participate, the more balanced the world of sports will be; the more opportunity there will be for everyone, men and women, to make a living doing what they love; and the more revenue there will be for manufacturers of sports equipment. It’s just good all the way around.
Yet, something horrible is also happening — pink has invaded. Not only that, manufacturers have found it somehow necessary to gender-define designs for things that don’t need it. Certainly, shoes, shorts, saddles and bike geometry all benefit from customization. But, when it is purely aesthetics, I take huge insult. Women’s cycling skirts? Because women must be somehow stymied by leg holes? Is it the 1930’s?
Pink bikes. Pink shoes. Pink shirts. Pink, pink, pink, pink, pink. For this, men and women are equally culpable — both are designing and flooding the market with these products. And women are buying it. Sometimes because there is no other option, and sometimes because a turbid and confusing marketing effort suggests we should.
Not all women want this. And frankly, not all women should be wearing it. Instead, we need to imagine a sport where more than a color sums us up. Imagine a female athlete in your mind. Now take out the inevitable ponytail, the flowers and the (bleck) pink. What’s left? An athlete.
So, for all the women out there who want to be defined as an athlete, unregulated by a color, this is for you.
Stop it with the “Women’s Gear Guides” that weave a ribbon of pink through the whole damn thing. End the assumption that we are feeling left out because we can’t get a GPS display highlighted with pink. Or, that we need a cycling skirt, if only somebody would make one. Or, that our cycling saddles are inferior because they don’t have a fierce cheetah print running down the gusset. It’s chicanery.
Stop perpetuating the notion that women need to feel pretty, feminine and delicate. We’re not all flowers. Some of us also enjoy the sweat and the grind, and gutting it out. We want clothes that function, that protect us, that perform, that help us beat people with a smaller number scrawled on their calves, and that allow us to cross the finish line and look good doing it — and that isn’t defined by a color.