Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Girls, Women, and IRONMAN

I love the sport of Triathlon, especially the long course races that the IRONMAN Corporation puts on. And I really love the way the IRONMAN Corporation has taken the lead providing online race coverage in real time (and occasionally making it available on YouTube afterward).

I had something more important going on during the Kona Championship race this year, and I was not able to watch it in real time. I finally got a chance to catch up on the coverage over the last few days, and I was not disappointed. It was a thrilling event to watch. I especially loved the way they broke up the swim start to ensure that the four main classes of racers (pro men, pro women, age grouper men, and age grouper women) did not slam into each other. And that stunning ending with Mirinda Carfrae winning it after coming off the bike over 14 minutes behind... WOW!

One thing bothered me though, and I figured it was worth pointing out. The announcers, Michael Lovato, Greg Welch, and Matt Lieto, kept referring to the female athletes as "girls". I admit that I may have missed some of the coverage here and there, but I do not recall them referring to any male athletes as "boys".

I have been guilty of the same thing, but over time I became aware of how demeaning it is for men to consistently refer to adult females as "girls". It really is just as wrong as calling a black person "boy".

I am pretty sure the announcers are not doing anything intentionally wrong here. Listening to the rest of what they say, you get the very real sense that they have a great respect for the female athletes. You also get the feeling that the IRONMAN Corporation works very hard to provide equal coverage of male and female athletes.

I do not believe that the IRONMAN Corporation is providing equal time for "Politically Correct" reasons either. Female athletes create athletic drama just as compelling as male athletes do. They also run a completely different race than male athletes, with different strategies and race moves. If you like sports drama, each gender puts on a very worthy and unique show.

What I think is happening is a lack of awareness because not enough attention has been paid to this issue. It is a lot like the way my Grandfather used to refer to black people as "coloreds". I never saw a hint of racism from him, and I do not believe his use of such antiquated terminology stemmed from racism either. It was simply a generational thing that rapidly changed during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Granted, we still have a long way to go when it comes to treating all humans with basic respect, but it is an example of how paying attention to the way you speak can affect some very real change.

So in closing, I would simply ask that Michael Lovato, Greg Welch, Matt Lieto, and anyone else doing good work for the IRONMAN Corporation, keep this issue in mind.

When speaking of adult female athletes, please refer to them as "women". It is the right thing to do!

No comments: