One of my favorite parts of the movie "A League of Their Own" is the scene after tryouts when the women are introduced to the uniform they will be wearing in the new professional baseball league.
"It's a dress," one woman says.
"It's half a dress," another one says.
To which Mr. Lowenstein replies: "There are 30 girls with bus tickets home who will play in a bathing suit if I asked them to."
This scene struck me as I was putting away my racing gear, which now includes three running skirts. (I also have two bike-specific skirts but those aren't in the rotation at the moment.) In Miami, I saw many women wearing athletic skirts for the half marathon and full marathon. And it got me thinking.
Why do I like to run in a skirt?
There are some women who will never, ever run in a skirt, and I respect that. For some women, running in a skirt amounts to forced femininity. Not everyone wants to look girly. Not everyone wants to wear pink. And for some women, the whole skirt thing emphasizes them as "female" as opposed to "athlete."
I completely get this line of thinking. When we say "athlete" most of the time we think of men. Rarely do we hear someone say "male athlete" but "female athlete" is common place in our sports vernacular. There's no need to say "male athlete" because for most of American society, an athlete is by default male.
So in order to be taken seriously, many women put aside feminine things.
And yet, there are more and more options for things like running skirts and traditionally feminine athletic gear than ever before.
I'm not sure anyone has looked much into the "why" of that, although I'm sure there is a really good sociological thesis waiting to be discovered in that question.
I can only answer for myself: I like the option. I like being able to wear shorts one day and a skirt the next, And frankly, I find the skirt comfortable. Is there a vanity aspect to it? In a way, yes. I like the way the running skirts look, and if I think I look good, then I feel good and I'll have a better workout or race, because I'm feeling comfortable and confident and not self-conscious about how I think I look. Or how others think I look.
Should I be better than that? I wish I was. But we all do things that makes us feel better about ourselves, and for me in the athletic arena, I feel comfy and confident in the running skirt.
And, as an added bonus, it is way cool to wear in a race.There have been occasions in races where I was trotting along at my usual pace and came to pass a guy, who was taking a walk break. Upon seeing the fact that he was going to be passed not just by a girl but by a girl in a skirt he starts to pick up the pace.
Whether he finishes ahead of me or I beat him, the scene is priceless. It makes me smile.
I run in a skirt not to make some huge statement about femininity or sport or Title IX or the gendered power structure of athletics. I run in a skirt not to make apologies for being a "female" athlete. Not even to show solidarity with my fellow women runners.
I run in a skirt because I like to. Because it fits me and who I am.
And I celebrate the fact that I have the option to be who I am and that every day is an opportunity step further into the person I want to be and into the life I want to live.