Imagine this. It’s a beautiful summer day. It’s 30C outside. Humidity of 85%. The sun is beating down on you. You’ve picked your outfit, you’ve lathered on the sunscreen, and you head out the door.
Now pause. Take a moment here to imagine your outfit and the people you run with. What do you see? I see a mix of men and women. I see various lengths of shorts, mostly on the shorter side of things. I see hats. I see sunglasses. I see bare chests (men) and sports bras (women), maybe some tanks, definitely no tees. It’s the kind of day where to really get into your zone you will need to feel as cool as possible.
Now picture this. You are at your place of practice. You are spinning laps with your teammates. Someone walks out to the women and demands that they leave because the sports bras the women are wearing are interrupting the concentration of a team that is practicing on the infield.
I would love to say that this is a fictional tale, well more like a fictional nightmare, but it is reality. And no, it’s not reality that I dug up from a lifetime ago, it is reality right now for the women of Rowan University Cross-Country Team.
The cross-country team has been banned from using the track during football practice, not because a flying football might present a hazard but because the women running in sports bras are too distracting for the men’s football team.
Some would say this is rape culture talking, others would argue something different. What I think we can all agree on is that it is no one’s place to tell us what we are to wear or not wear when running.
In 2011 I was subjected to something similar at the University of Toronto; we were told that when running on the outdoor track we were to be in ‘appropriate athletic attire.’ Apparently “appropriate athletic attire” included wearing a shirt. Thankfully this was not as a targeted women’s issue, but an issue across both sexes; you would be mid workout, drenched in sweat, and a facility person would walk up to you, state ‘you are not wearing appropriate athletic attire,’ stand there until you donned a shirt, and then walk away. Thanks to the Sweat Science of Alex Hutchinson we were able to defend our position to have this rule over-turned.
Last December I put together an issue with iRun on this very issue, that running is for every body. The elite runners may have made the crop-style racing tops popular, but it’s amazing to see everyone out there racing in this style of top. The science supports that wearing something that allows us to sweat is important, not only are these tops trendy and comfortable, but they are also empowering.
Stand with me and say ‘not today Rowan University.’ Stand with me and say ‘I demand equity, equality, and diversity.’ Stand with me and say ‘I support the Rowan Cross Country Team.’ Women I ask you to post pictures of yourself in your crop top, men without a shirt on. Together we can fight the good fight and support women’s rights.
[Editor’s note: since this issue became news, the university issued this response.]