Lay off the women in running tutus (and that includes you, SELF)

You’ve probably all seen that list of the top ten professions that attract psychopaths going around by now, right?  I’ve seen it a few times, mainly because I run in circles with journalists and TV news people, and those professions both cracked the top ten.  As much as I want to lodge a protest on behalf of my profession and say that we aren’t all heartless jerks who view people as little more than fodder to fill our various news holes/magazine spaces/on-air times, sometimes I see a decision made by a media outlet that is so heartless, so cruel that I cannot help but think that the psychopath-career list is more accurate than I am comfortable with.

One of those instances just happened with SELF magazine.  SELF is getting called out in a big way because, well, here:

Monika Allen says she was excited to receive an email from SELF magazine asking for permission to use a photo that showed her running the LA marathon dressed as Wonder Woman and wearing a tutu in an upcoming issue.

But when the April issue came out, Allen said she was “stunned and offended.”

The picture appears in a section of the magazine called “The BS Meter,” with a caption that refers to a “tutu epidemic” and basically makes fun of the women’s outfits, she said.

“A racing tutu epidemic has struck NYC’s Central Park, and it’s all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster,” the caption reads. “Now, if you told us they made people run from you faster, maybe we would believe it.”

Allen said the photo was “really offensive for a couple of reasons.” The marathon came right in the middle of chemotherapy, and she says the outfit gave her motivation.

“The reason we were wearing those outfits is because this was my first marathon running with brain cancer,” Allen explained.

Allen goes on to say that the tutus are actually made by her company, and that the company donates proceeds from the running tutus to Girls on the Run.

How very Regina George of you, SELF.

But you know what?  This story would suck even if Monika Allen didn’t have brain cancer and even if she had just picked up the skirt at a running expo.  Because I don’t know about you, but I am so sick of hearing people mock running tutus (and also, running skirts) that I could just about puke blood.

In the interest of fairness, I will admit there was once a time when I used to cut some side-eye at running tutus.  They seemed silly and frivolous. I was a serious runner, dammit, and serious runners do not wear frilly shit around their waists!  (Never mind the times I wore a running skirt while racing…consistency was not my strong suit.)  But around the time I hit my thirties, I found it increasingly impossible to care.  And really, why did I even care in the first place?  What other women wore while out running affected me approximately none percent.  I was just psyched to see them out running and racing.

The idea that serious runners didn’t wear tutus was already whimpering its way to a well-deserved death in my intellectual landscape when I went to cheer on Brian during Ironman Florida.  The day afterwards, we found ourselves standing in line in front of a pair of young women, both of whom told me they had worn glittery tutu-skirt things during the marathon leg of the race. They said they decided to wear them because they thought people would be more enthusiastic about cheering for them, which would help motivate them to finish the race.  And sure enough, they both kicked ass.  One of the ladies ran her marathon in a 4:08. Just let that marinade in your brain for a second.  She was wearing a sequined running tutu while she ran a 4:08 in the marathon leg of an Ironman.  What was that about “serious athletes” again?

I’ve got to say, it doesn’t escape my notice that the race gear deemed most mock-worthy – running tutus, running skirts, pink and purple gear, flowers and sparkles – are almost always things that are overwhelmingly embraced by women.  It’s like there is this refusal to take a woman seriously as a runner and an athlete unless she presents herself in clothes that are similar to those worn by guys.  Running skirts and dresses are prissy, gear with pink and flowers encourages women to be less assertive, women who wear makeup to the gym are insecure…the criticism seems to be endless, but the end message is clear: that things normally thought of as feminine are inherently frivolous, silly and stupid. It’s basically textbook femmephobia.

What’s more, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of the criticism is being leveled by women against each other.  Perhaps athletic women are tired of feeling like they have to meet some quota of girliness to offset their athleticism and physicality before they are considered a proper woman?  Maybe it’s defensiveness about being part of a culture that still struggles to take female athletes seriously?  Maybe it’s frustration with a larger system of thought that says women should value the way they look above all else, even if it affects their ability to do things?  I don’t know, these are all just theories, and I think these are all valid ways to feel, and I would like to continue to talk about them.  But where I draw the line is when that frustration with larger social trends spills over into mocking individual women for their sartorial choices, which is exactly what SELF did.

It’s possible – and necessary! – to keep talking about gender and athleticism and femininity but please, let’s find a way to do it without tearing each other down.


107 responses to “Lay off the women in running tutus (and that includes you, SELF)

  1. I mean seriously, does anyone REALLY think the tutu makes you run faster? No! I am not AT ALL a tutu person, so it is very unlikely that I will ever wear one in a race, but I have worn a cape while running a half marathon. Because it added to the fun of the event, which is really why most people are doing this. It helps you stick out, and maybe get an extra cheer from the spectators!

    I am not at all a fast runner (I too ran the LA marathon and finished just under 5 hours) so it irks me when there is any sort of “you don’t belong here” discussions. Do you run? You belong.

    • Couldn’t agree more Stephanie, just participating in a marathon, tutu or not, fast or slow, is a huge accomplishment. But I have to say, based on the placebo effect, I can see the outfit actually speeding up race time for psychological reasons. It depends on the person.

    • Yeah, I thought that was a willful misrepresentation as to why people wear costumes and dress up during races, and for what? For the sake of being snarky? Meh.

  2. Awesome post. Slow clap. I especially like your connection to femmephobia. I never made that connection before, but it seems pretty spot-on to me. What stuck out to me about this was the women-on-women hate. Why did SELF think that was OK to do??? As you pointed out, it’s very Mean Girls … even though we’re all presumably adults, it’s immature and a form of bullying.

  3. What has increased my annoyance about the situation is lame “apology” that the magazine gave .. it was something along the lines of “I had no idea she was a cancer survivor. We wouldn’t have run it if we knew.” So it’s ok to mock women as long as they aren’t cancer survivors? I’m just baffled by that.

  4. Self Magazine is saying tutus make people not-serious-runners? The magazine that exhorts people to “Build a Sexier Butt” , “Score Flat Abs Fast”, and is asking on their front page right now “Is That Easter Candy Worth It?”. Somehow I feel they and their readers would be offended if, say, Muscle and Fitness Hers said their pink handweights made them not serious exercisers just because. Ugh, mainstream women’s fitness magazines.

    • WORD! I was thinking the same thing!!! Shame on you, SELF! I think anything that makes people want to work out and exercise should be applauded. Even if you choose not to wear a tutu (like me) I LOVE LOVE seeing them on the course. You see a lot of tutus, costumes, matching running gear at womens races and the thing that I love about womens races is the positive energy. People are usually a lot nicer in my opinion. Anyways, I won’t be picking up a SELF magazine anytime soon.

    • We need a “like” or maybe a “love” button for Amber and Lilbrowngirl’s comments.

  5. Pingback: My Two Cents on the Self Magazine Tutu Debacle | Diva on a Diet·

  6. I completely, 100% agree with your aversion to SELF’s move regarding the person in the Wonder Woman outfit— and I agree with the generalized contention that we should be able to undertake political critique without putting down specific women. But your post goes further than that: It takes an obviously, unquestionably nasty and wrong thing that SELF did (i.e., humiliating an individual, identifiable woman in the pages of a magazine without bothering to do their homework on her) and links it to unindividualized, general criticism of women running skirts, tutus, and tons of pink running gear as if these two things were comparable because you can say of both, “What other women wear does not affect you or me.”

    The thing is, arguably, it does— not on a direct, individual level (which is part of the reason that directly humiliating an individual woman in a magazine is an inappropriate response to the trend). You list several reasons why it kind of DOES affect all of us when ever more women wear these things when they participate in races: It reinforces the idea that we “have to meet some quota of girliness to offset [our] athleticism and physicality”; it undermines our position within “a culture that still struggles to take female athletes seriously”; and it is symptomatic of “a larger system of thought that says women should value the way they look above all else”.

    It is true that no single female athlete wearing a tutu should be made to shoulder the responsibility for all of this (which is yet another reason that SELF’s move vis à vis Wonder Woman was deplorable), but I do think these are valid criticisms— not just “valid ways to feel,” as you put it (rendering them rather dismissible), but valid social criticism.

    I “draw the line” exactly where you do, but I think almost all of us would. Where I take issue with all this is that I think one can absolutely critique the politics of the trend toward hyper-feminized running gear without being nasty to or humiliating any given individual, and I think you conflate those two things a bit by implying that what SELF did is representative of the entire conversation about running skirts, etc.; by implying that only immature women (i.e., those in their twenties) care; and by eliding the extent to which individual choices about how to dress actually are political (whether we want them to be or not) and actually do affect others (if only indirectly and in the aggregate). I guess I feel like this post does a bit of the very thing it’s condemning— i.e., blurring the lines between political critique and bullying…

    • Really interesting comment. You say (quoting from the OP): It reinforces the idea that we “have to meet some quota of girliness to offset [our] athleticism and physicality.” I think there’s a difference between how elite female athletes are viewed in this way and how the rest of us ordinary runners may experience the girliness / athlete tension. The message I got growing up (although this may be generational) was that girly girl / serious athlete is an either / or choice – you can’t be both. I love to see kick butt runners wearing tutus because I personally like glitter and hair ribbons and tutus and sparkly unicorns AND running, but the pressure I’ve felt is not to wear anything that could be perceived as too girly for fear of being taken less seriously – the femmephobia point raised in the OP.

      In the context of running and athletics, I think the trend towards offering more “girly” apparel options has the effect of making the sport more inclusive and fun for a wider spectrum of women, not less so. Girly attire shouldn’t mean you get treated less seriously as an athlete, and I’m struggling with the idea that choosing to wear it, when I think most of the pressure in the running community is NOT to wear it, somehow negatively affects other female athletes.

      • I think most everyone would agree with the comment that “girly attire shouldn’t mean you get treated less seriously as an athlete,” — you’re missing the point. Of course traditionally feminine clothing shouldn’t be seen as silly, or weak, or ridiculous. But this is about as irrelevant as me saying that there shouldn’t be poverty. Of course there shouldn’t be. But there is. And hyperfeminization of running apparel is a major part of the industry. Buy this skirt! It’s so cute! Hide that muffin top! Show your girly side! Just because you, Doobie Doo, personally do not find the current trend in the running clothing market toward skirts and dresses and lots and lots of pink offensive, or limiting in any way, doesn’t mean that it is not systemic of bigger gender issues in the sport. Put another way, it is not the pink that is the problem, but the way pink and dresses and skirts are marketed for women, and what they represent.

        The problem with Caitlin’s post is that she just sounds tired. She declares that caring what other women wear is something of the past, for catty 20-something women to bicker and moan about, and if you are mature and self-confident, it won’t make any difference if every single woman in the 5K is wearing a ruffled lululemon skirt and you are not. Of course it does NOT MATTER what the ONE woman next to me is wearing (like wonderwoman in the tutu), but what does matter is this discussion of women’s clothing, how it is marketed, what is available, how companies view and treat their consumers, and the environment we raise our athletic daughters in.

    • Agreed. Great post and discussion here too. On the topic of tutus and running I was unaware and femmephobia is a new term for me. It inspired me to write on my blog as well, because this is bigger than just one woman in a tutu. I drew some parallels with the pink ribbon movement which also seemed to champion the fight against breast cancer, only to have the media and then national chains hijack it all for their own brand and profit benefits. It should never be profitable to put a woman down. This is a case of the dissection of women, be it tutus or lip-stick or running skirts.

      • I think you nail it in your post: It’s not “hatred of the feminine” to feel uncomfortable with the way femininity— when well-meaningly and authentically but perhaps at times uncritically embraced— is co-opted by people and entities who use all that to tell us for the 8,000th time in some new (or old) insidious way that the only thing about us that matters is how we look, and to stoke our insecurity about that (so that we buy things). Some people’s gender expression— and some people’s expression of their authentic selves— is extremely, traditionally “feminine.” There is nothing wrong with that, but it shouldn’t be used as an argument for not thinking and talking about why something like this might be more than harmless “fun”.

    • Thanks for the comment. I have to say, I imagine we’ve been witnessing two entirely different sets of conversations around running skirts/tutus. I’ve only seen a couple of instances in which I would characterize the conversation as thoughtful political critique. Mostly what I’ve seen is just “omg those dumb tutu runners.” I’d like to consider myself thoughtful enough and capable enough of nuanced thought to recognize the difference between the two and not conflate them all into one big amorphous category of “bullying” (which is generally a word I don’t even like to use much these days because it has been used so much as to be meaningless, much the way “shame” has been). I really feel like you have read a lot into my post that just isn’t there.

      Regarding the rest of your comment, I was thinking about it a lot over the last couple of days, and my response would be this: that yes, we absolutely should talk about all of these things in a wider social context, but that my experience with these kind of conversations is that there is this implicit expectation among those of us who have them that a woman thus enlightened by these conversations will see the light, so to speak, and abandon the girly/feminine/frilliness/etc. A lot of times I get the feeling that many feminists do not feel comfortable with the idea that there are women – and also men and genderqueer people – who legitimately enjoy and appreciate these things, and that it’s not merely a matter of being conditioned or pressured to adopt these behaviors and preferences, but that they actually like them.

      (And also, let’s not pretend like the people who don’t take female athletes seriously feel this way because of women in running tutus. Even if every woman everywhere ran only while wearing singlets and split shorts, there would still be people out there who will not take us seriously as athletes, and that’s because we are WOMEN.)

      Personally, I don’t feel having these wider political conversations goes far enough. Sure, let’s analyze it and talk about these things, but then let’s take it a step further and work to become more accepting of a wider variety of gender expressions instead of just accepting the paradigm that says femininity is inherently silly or that all women must behave up to our standards if we are going to get the respect we feel entitled to or that the actions of a small group of women make the rest of us look bad. I mean, what good is all the talking and analysis if we don’t have a vision of where we’d like to go? My vision is one of liberation, not of instituting another kind of orthodoxy for women to adhere to in order to be considered proper.

  7. dang, I love your blog!

    regular/baggy running shorts don’t work for me (riding up, chafing, ugh!), and my running skirt (with built-in compression shorts) was the first piece of running clothing I bought in which I could run comfortably for more than a mile or two. (these days I often just run in straight-up compression shorts or tights, but I gotta admit I didn’t have the guts to do so when I first started running.) I love seeing runners of all genders in costumes and “fun” clothing. it makes me smile! the straw man that runners think such things will make them faster is ridiculous. that’s clearly not the point.

    • I wore a running skirt for a while but I actually had a different experience, as the shorts underneath kept riding up and causing me to chafe. (I probably needed to size down.) I have seen some really cute running dresses, though, that I could see wearing with compression shorts underneath. They are very Artemis and/or Kathrine Switzer-esque. But yeah, long way of saying, it’s fun to see how people put their outfits together for a lot of events, and racing is just one of those events.

  8. I’m a little torn. First, I think SELF was absolutely wrong in using a real picture of a real person to make fun of, and to not disclose to said person they intended to mock her if using the picture.

    On the other hand, I agree with their general position on costumes. I am sick to death of women’s events that involve wearing a stupid costume. I went to an event at a scientific conference a few years ago intended to support and celebrate women in the industry, and someone met me at the door and tried to put glitter on my face, and the first announcement the emcee made was to express regret that the feather boas didn’t arrive on time. Another women’s event in the outdoor industry “required” wearing, alternately, a prom dress, a bikini, and a tutu. I don’t want to dress like a twelve year old just to participate in women’s events and I think doing things like that really degrades the efforts we make to be taken seriously in our professions and our sporting activities.

    If an individual really, really likes costumes and glittery silliness, good for them and they should just carry on. However, I object to the growing (or even, entrenched) implication that women in sport are going to want to involve tutus, tiaras, glitter, and to generally play dress-up. Some do. A lot don’t.

    For the record, I think it’s just as dumb when men wear costumes in races and other sporting events. A forty year old man running around dressed like a bee just seems so…uh….incomprehensible.

    • I think costumes, like everything else, should be a choice – and there are certainly times that they’re an inappropriate choice. Since when should a scientific conference require that you wear glitter? Damn stuff gets everywhere…

    • I would be so pissed if I went to a professional conference and someone threw glitter on my face. Actually if anyone did that to me, ever, I would not be happy about it. (And I say this as someone with a drawer full of glittery eyeshadows.) That you are running into these sorts of things at professional events is really troubling to me, and I can see why you would feel as frustrated by it as you do.

      I personally don’t mind the costumes and actually enjoy them a lot, even though I never wear them myself. I find them to be too much of a pain in the ass. However, I have never felt like it’s expected of me, even at coed Halloween races or the handful of women-only races I’ve done. That’s how I think it should be. Evidently there are a lot of people for whom wearing costumes is very appealing – and I suspect this is more of a “human nature” thing than a “U.S. female” thing – and I respect that, provided it’s presented as optional and not required of everyone.

  9. That is terrible of SELF to do that. Because, seriously, who the f cares? That’s something I’ve learned in the world of fitness. No one cares what you wear to work out or run or whatever. It literally only matters to you. If you want to wear a tutu to a marathon go for it. If you don’t want to wear one, go for it. But neither of you should make fun of the other for wearing or not wearing a tutu because it doesn’t matter.

    Also, SELF should have told Monika specifically what they were going to use her picture for.

    • But of course they weren’t going to tell her “we’d like to use to use your picture to make fun of women running in tutus”, because she would not have given permission. They knew exactly what they were doing.

      • I know. Which is why, personally, if I’m ever approached for something like that I’m not giving them permission until I see their copy and layout.

      • If they had been clear about what it was they were trying to do, they would have had to admit that what they were doing was particularly cruel. I mean, how can any halfway decent human being say, “We’d like to use a race photo of you so we can make fun of your outfit?” I doubt that even they could have refused to acknowledge their assiness here.

  10. Femmephobia isn’t feminism, and thank you for making me think about the difference! I’ve run a mud race in a pink sparkly tutu before – I was also wearing a dinosaur hat – and it was FUN. That’s all. Simple, really. 😉

  11. I feel something we excel at in this country is criticizing other people. Criticizing and mocking. That usually points to some insecurity we see in ourselves, but can’t find the courage to admit.

    I wasn’t aware that SELF Magazine wrote the article you mentioned, but somehow it doesn’t surprise me. They may have been doing it to make a point, or maybe it was just a striker to cause a stir and pull in more readers. I don’t know that I will ever understand how, in this case runners, criticize other runners about how they dress, or run. Most runners I know don’t take themselves so seriously that they can’t find the joy in running. I love seeing costumes or any sort of vibrant clothes when I’m out running. They make me smile, and I have to figure they are making the person wearing them smile too.

    I consider myself to be a serious runner—I put much thought into my training, and set goals for myself on a regular basis. But at the same time I will go on a training run, or race, in a little skirt or dress. I do it because it’s comfortable, and it makes most people smile. The people who don’t smile, probably wouldn’t have smiled if I wore shorts and a t-shirt either. So I’ll do what makes me happy.

    • “I feel something we excel at in this country is criticizing other people. Criticizing and mocking.”

      Oh man, the various comment sections of the internet are like exhibit #1-190,000,000 to back up that statement. And I’m not talking about thoughtful, reasoned criticism or even funny snark. Most of the time I read/hear what people have to say about what other people do and create, and I’m left with the sense that intelligent design cannot be right, if only because there is no way that humans are the pinnacle of creation in the universe.

  12. Isn’t it possible for us all to encourage each other in fitness, regardless of what we wear?? People often wear tutus simply for fun. Apparently it bothers some people that others are having more fun than them?

  13. I’m not a jogger so not aware about the sometimes divisive judgement of women joggers and tutus.

    But yea, as a cyclist I get that in some cycling circles one isn’t taken as seriously as a cycling riding 100 km. or miles if one isn’t wearing spandex and cycling jersey.

    The opposite happens too: chic women who cycling high heels and skirts/streetwear and look down on cycling women who wear a cycling jersey. So the cycling-spandexed woman in such circles is accepted or deemed as foolish or over the top.

    Meh, I don’t want wear my $100.00 business dress pants cycling…it’s expensive to wear out business wear and stain dresses while cycling often.

    • Your comment makes me think about some conversations that have unfolded recently, both in discussions on a previous post of mine (about elitism in fitness) and also in a conversation about recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. The common thread in all of these things is that you have a group of people who does a certain thing in a certain way, and that way really works for them, but instead of recognizing the variability of the human experience and understanding that what works for them may not work for someone else and vice versa, they instead use it as proof of their way’s inherent superiority over all other ways.

      Personally I never wear nice clothes when I ride my bike for the reasons you cited, but I know that others are really into fashionable cycling. The Tweed Rides are really popular around here, and that’s basically a fashion show on two wheels.

  14. I read this and had to have a think about my own anxieties. For a long time I was afraid to wear running skirts – the thinking being, I am a slow enough runner without someone judging me and assuming I’m slow *because* I’m one of those skirt-wearing women. Nope. I’ve come round. It’s a piece of cloth, people. A piece of cloth with room for (a-ha!) an extra pocket. Life is too short for me to worry about being judged for my tutu.

    And sure, the runner in the tutu may be a 10-time Boston qualifier and 3x Ironman finisher. But who cares if she isn’t? Why do you have to be an elite athlete to be taken seriously if you’re wearing a tutu or a costume? Does my enjoyment of costumes need to have some bearing on my enjoyment of and performance in running? Can we de-link costumes and athletic performance the same way we already know how to de-link running and food?

    Also, Isn’t running a broad church? The person who runs to push through their own limitations and perform and the person who runs to be social and have fun are both getting something out of running – why is one any less of a runner than the other?

    • Also, Isn’t running a broad church? The person who runs to push through their own limitations and perform and the person who runs to be social and have fun are both getting something out of running – why is one any less of a runner than the other?
      This sums it up for me, too.

    • “And sure, the runner in the tutu may be a 10-time Boston qualifier and 3x Ironman finisher. But who cares if she isn’t? Why do you have to be an elite athlete to be taken seriously if you’re wearing a tutu or a costume? Does my enjoyment of costumes need to have some bearing on my enjoyment of and performance in running? Can we de-link costumes and athletic performance the same way we already know how to de-link running and food? ”

      Excellent point, and I agree completely. I used the example of the lady I talked to mainly to poke holes in the idea that no serious athlete would ever wear such a thing, but you are right, that shouldn’t matter at all. If you’re out there participating in a sporting event, you deserve some degree of respect for that, no matter what you’re wearing or where you are in the pack.

  15. I’m fat and slow. I am already a spectacle whenever I try to exercise, but I do try to keep on with it.

    I also like glitter and would wear a tutu all the time if I could (the fluffy tulle hides my hips). If people are going to judge and stare, then I may as well be dazzling while I sweat.

  16. Reblogged this on Kate Ming-Sun Online and commented:
    This is a great post. Do what you need / want to do to make running fun. We need more active women and men in our society. I’d also add we need to stop the trend of women bashing women.

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  19. I’m so grateful that you’ve blogged such a fantastic response to this story, and that so many have come out in support for this woman. My cousins daughter wore a pink tutu to complete a 5km fun run …. a lovely lady also gave her a pink baseball cap during the run to stop her head getting sunburnt…..she’d already had 3 rounds of chemo at that point and had lost all of her hair. She finished that run but eventually lost her battle with blood cancer aged just 19; she was a passionate advocate for charitable fund raising through exercise and running and if she had to wear a bright pink tutu to draw attention to her chosen charity she was more than happy to do it despite being so ill. What I found really astonishing when I read about this article was its focus on women when the majority of races I’ve entered (here in Australia) have been filled with costumes much more outlandish, full length cheetah onesies and often worn by men! (as another blogger has also pointed out in this comments thread) and let’s face it, a lot of the men wear the tutus as well. When I ran my very first marathon in 2011 there was even a man running whilst also carrying AND playing a brass French horn (he was drawing as much attention as he could to fund raising for the tsunami disaster in Japan at the time). There will always be people running to race money for charity, from the small distance ‘fun’ runs to the longer distances, and there will always be the elite pack who can start from the front and run their own race…..with or without tutus. I’m something of an introvert so I just don’t ‘do’ dress up and fancy dress, but I honestly don’t find it offensive, silly, or stupid when others do, it brings a smile to my face and I think good on ’em for being brave enough. I don’t think it’s important how you get to the finish line just as long as you do, and anyone who trains and puts in those long k’s deserves respect, love, and support just for getting their arses of the couch and taking part in the first place, and they deserve to have FUN whilst they’re doing it whatever they’re wearing and whatever their circumstances 🙂

    • I once ran a marathon in Perth a short way behind a man dressed as a unicorn. Who was with a man wearing a tutu.
      I think what this says is that Australians are just so much more open-minded and have way fewer anxieties around these things than Americans!

      • Absolutely, I can’t imagine any of our onshore running magazines ever being quite as touchy about it, we’re serious about sport but don’t take ourselves quite as seriously maybe? Both countries have epidemic levels of obesity and I just think people should get over how others participate and just give them applause for actually running anywhere, hardest thing I’ve ever done but if I’d worn a tutu maybe I’d have had at least more laughs doing it?! I’m so glad this post got Freshly Pressed and that the story has generated so much discussion about what is essentially a bit of snobbery and elitism. Just run, be healthy, cheer the winners, and support those running for charity, or just for fun xx

      • Thank you! I actually had just written a post the other day about getting the elitism out of fitness, and I’m totally with you in that I would rather see the boundaries open up so that more people feel comfortable being active in whatever way they choose instead of feeling like they have to meet some preconceived idea of what an active person/athlete/fitness enthusiast is before they can take part.

  20. Reblogged this on Running for Baby and commented:
    “It’s possible – and necessary! – to keep talking about gender and athleticism and femininity but please, let’s find a way to do it without tearing each other down.”

    • “It’s possible – and necessary! – to keep talking about gender and athleticism and femininity but please, let’s find a way to do it without tearing each other down.”

  21. Good discussion going on here. Clearly I am out of the cool running loop because I had never heard of a running tutu until reading this post.
    First of all, I didn’t think the costumes were lame, I thought they were cool. If superwoman and wonderwoman ran by me in a race I would have given them a high five and said “sweet outfit!” I’m all about costumes and always have been… if something you wear can make something more fun for you, then by all means, go for it.
    To me it just came across as lazy and really embarrassing for Self, because come on.. could you honestly not come up with something more constructive or original or more productive to put in your “BS Meter” this month? THERE IS SO MUCH BS STUFF OUT THERE TO CHOOSE FROM! It’s pretty clear who the lame one here is Self… and it’s not the girl in the cool costume.
    Monica, you should be proud of yourself, because if something as lame as Self Magazine thinks you’re lame, then you are clearly very, very cool.

    • When I first saw the headlines about this story, it said “Women’s running magazine” and I was like, “Oh god, please don’t be Women’s Running! Please don’t be Women’s Running!” But then I saw it was Self and I was like, “Oh, of course it’s Self.” I do not have high opinions of that magazine. I’d say this worked out in Allen’s favor in the long run, though. Evidently her business is now swamped with orders, so way to go Self, I guess?

      And yeah, the overall costumes those ladies put together were pretty sweet. I’m not a costume wearer but I do love me some Wonder Woman gear.

  22. I just think it’s funny why people care so much about what others wear. I believe that if your life is about making fashion statements, or even showing people how stylish you are at every occasion, then I’d say that being criticised is sorta part of it. However, most of the people I know who run and take it seriously, don’t really care about what other wear – or do they? Should they?

    • I don’t really care all that much, to be honest. I usually only notice when I think someone has put themselves together really nicely, but that goes for everything, not just racing. In my case it’s mostly because I feel pretty secure in who I am so I don’t really feel the need to tear others down in a futile attempt to elevate myself, and instead prefer to notice what I do like about other people. I can’t speak for others, though.

  23. Self thought it was okay to run the story because we are in a culture that has allowed it in the past. I am glad to see that we are moving past this in the online communities at least. It is indeed true that we as women have not treated each other the way that we should. You turned what was a mean act taken out against one individual by a big magazine into a defense of our gender and a call to respect one another. You’ve made a difference with this piece, maybe you’ll inspire Tina Fey to call the magazine out Mean Girls style!

    • Thank you! And I totally hear you. When I catch myself doing it – because it does seem to happen without even meaning to – I want to cry. I’ve had to make a pretty considerable effort not to become totally coarsened by this industry.

      • I’m glad you’re even aware of that as an issue. I love writing and I love telling stories that matter — but I have rarely felt at home emotionally in newsrooms. I hate the macho bullshit that we’re all supposed to sign up for.

      • My newsroom is heavily female-dominated so there’s a tiny bit less of the macho bullshit, but two of my coworkers are old school newspaper guys, and the stories they tell me…I’m sure I would have been able to handle it, but I probably would also drink and cry a lot more than I do now.

      • LOL! I have perfected the art of writing flawless, AP-standard copy while silently crying behind my monitors. But not because of my coworkers, just because writing Florida crime stories can be really tough on the heart sometimes.

  24. Reblogged this on All Things Come to Mind and commented:
    if you’ve worked hard enough to run a marathon, you can wear a damn tutu! I think Monika Allen looked beautiful in her Wonder Woman outfit (and was going though chemo at the time? She’s a fucking superhero!) color me inspired

  25. Very very true. I think you hit the nail on the head with the femmephobia comment.

    It is women tearing each other down. I suspect, though, it’s women tearing each other down because we’ve all been told that there is only one correct or acceptable way to be a woman, and if someone else is being a woman in a different way than we are, then maybe the way WE are being a woman isn’t the one correct, acceptable way–so we have to make sure that we convince ourselves that those other ways of being a woman are actually just plain horrible and wrong. It makes us feel safe in our own choices.

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head, imo! You look around and see this everywhere – in every day life and in online groups. Why have I been taught that in order to build myself up, I must tear someone down? Why haven’t I been taught that I can be myself and you can be yourself, and we can be as different as night and day and still be okay?

  26. Especially because tutus are worn , empirically, by some of the fiercest women athletes out there – ballet dancers. I’ve never been a dancer any day of my life except on “special occasions” but those women are fierce competitors. They bring their bodies to the breaking point in training. I’ve recently started running half marathons and a few times i have worn a tutu. It’s a symbol of competition and victory in my book.

    Also, just food for thought: 9 out of 10 runner probably run with a baseball cap or equivalent on their heads do they not?? Does that mean they all think they are baseball players except they arent and therefor this is ridiculous? no. we are terrible as Americans at making Objective things Subjective.
    to use your loaded verbiage: It’s time to get over our SELF.

    thanks for the great article
    ~Miss Fit

  27. Pingback: Femmephobia, Tutus and the P Word | findingexpression·

  28. Pingback: #TutuGate | The Running Thriver·

  29. I have actually worn a full length (mid calf) tutu – one that I actually danced in – on a stage with a full symphony orchestra. I wore it for a Halloween 5k:) I have always subscribed to the “i really do not give a f*ck” (pardon my French). Whether I have been training or even racing – i figure it is my body, my workout, my race, my challenge – it concerns no one else but me. i am not hurting anyone – so what is the big deal? great post:)

  30. What SELF did is just awful. To ask to use a picture, not explain and then go ahead and make fun of them is wrong.

    On another note just read that top 10 jobs article. You’re not alone, I’m in number 9. I’m also torn because I’m not like that, but know PLENTY who are.

    • I don’t know much about working in kitchens but what I have heard scares the crap out of me. I can definitely see the parallels between your field and mine, that’s for sure.

  31. Love, LOVE LOVE it! Thank you for calling that out! It shouldn’t matter what people look like or wear, what should matter is that someone is making a conscious effort to do something healthy. I didn’t hear about the article in SELF but I thought their main goal was to better ones self. How does tearing down a female for what she wore empower anyone? If I want to run in a hula skirt and a flower crown, get over it, the point is, I’m running! And for a cause greater than myself. And THAT’S more empowering than any article judging what I wore while I did it-get your mind right SELF!

  32. I’m new to all this, I love the message that we need to stop bashing each other. What do you all think about Pole Dancing Fitness?

    • Funny you ask about pole fitness, because that’s something I enjoy even though I’m aware of its controversial place in feminist discourse. My best friend owns a studio in Tampa, and I took some classes there, mainly because I wanted to see what it was that had captured her attention so much, and I was really surprised by how much I loved it! My upper body became quite strong after a few months. I really need to get back to it. Do you do pole as well?

      • I do pole!!! I’m obsessed. Not just for the artistry of strength and dance but for the amazing sisterhood of love, support and friendship. They feel like my soul mates. If there is anything that can dispel feminist discourse it’s pole sport. We transcend age, body type, gender, race and more. We heal each other from the damage of society’s demands and find freedom in dance and camaraderie.

  33. What a runner, or any athlete for that matter, decides to wear to a race or competition has nothing to do with their athletic ability or how “seriously” they take their sport. We are all individuals, and some people choose to show their inner spirit or personality in different ways. I think that running tutus and costumes in races (especially when people dress up as super heroes), show a level of excitement and fun. Isn’t the point of competing in a sport supposed to be for excitement and joy?

    SELF should go check out the Disney Princess Half Marathon at Disneyworld…there are more runners in tutus and costumes at that race than there are without costumes. It’s supposed to be enjoyable!

    • “Isn’t the point of competing in a sport supposed to be for excitement and joy?”

      That’s my take on it! And I recognize that we all have different ways of expressing that excitement, and I’m cool with whatever those ways are provided they aren’t actually hurting anyone. I mean, we aren’t talking about people who are celebrating by shooting guns in the air or rioting after their team wins a championship. A piece of fabric is really not a big deal.

  34. I never laugh at those people anymore after a clown in full makeup ran the marathon faster than me! He was smoking a cigarette and chilling as I barely dragged myself across the finish line.

    • I…I…this doesn’t even compute. When I smoked I could barely even walk two blocks! Forget about running a marathon while dressed as a clown. He must have lungs of steel.

  35. They’ll get my running skirts when they pry them from my cold, dead thighs. Those things are comfy and frequently have pockets that will hold supplies for a long run. I am secure enough in my femininity to wear whatever I want, and I don’t know anyone who considers me prissy.

  36. I loved reading this! I run in whatever I feel like and don’t judge anyone else’s gear. I wore compression shorts and tank for a race and a tutu for ORFB. Had a blast in both! I have seen kilts, whigs, hamburger costumes and more. Whatever inspires you, motivates you, go for it!

  37. The tutu just isn’t functional. It’s a piece of extra fabric that’s unnecessary. If a woman in the middle of chemotherapy is running a race, and wants to wear a tutu, then more power to her. But if you’re wearing a tutu, you’re probably just doing that race for fun and you’re likely not a serious athlete or runner. And 4:08 for a marathon is not a serious athlete. It’s definitely a person who is in shape, but a 9:27 mile really isn’t anything to write home about. If she went under 4 hours then we can talk. Someone who is wearing a tutu probably was more focused on their outfit rather than training for their race anyhow.

    • The only thing I will say regarding judging someone’s seriousness and dedication to their sport based on their time is that I completely disagree with you.

      Also I’d like to point out that, if you had read a little more carefully before responding, you’d see that the 4:08 marathon was the marathon leg of an Ironman, run by a woman who finished near the top of her age group. Now, you may still not consider that to be the performance of a serious athlete, but a lot of people – myself included – disagree with you here.

    • To say that someone is a serious athlete only if they are going through some sort of challenge, like chemotherapy, is ridiculous. Every runner has their own challenge. Sometimes there’s a mental challenge, sometimes it’s a physical one, and sometimes it’s a very serious physical ailment that may not make a person the best at running. A serious athlete is someone who makes the commitment to do something challenging.

      The seriousness of a runner based on time is also ridiculous. If a runner is able to do a 9:30, it may not be a huge accomplishment to someone who is able to do a consistent 7:00 pace, but it is a huge accomplishment to someone who can only do an 11:00 pace.

      Why does it matter if a piece of clothing is on necessary? People wear unnecessary clothes all the time, even serious runners. I consider myself to be a serious runner, but I don’t have to have compression shorts, I could run in larger baggy shorts. A cotton T-shirt would work, though it’s nice to have a tech shirt even though it may be unnecessary.

      The question is how does it affect you what someone else wears? And how do you do you judge someone’s challenges when you don’t know them personally?

      • I never said that someone was a serious athlete only if they were going through chemotherapy. The chemotherapy comment was that if someone is going through that, they should feel good enough about themselves that they’re well enough to even compete in an event like that while they’re ill and going through a struggle like that. The tutu is ridiculous. Growing up a ballet dancer, I danced for almost 20 years and it’s pretty disturbing and ridiculous seeing a bunch of weirdos wearing them running. If you want to look like an idiot, by all means do it, but don’t get mad when people talk crap about it. We all judge because we are only human and that’s what mankind does.

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