At the beginning of the month, Miami, Fla. hosted the latest race in the “Divas Half-Marathon and 5K” series. The series claims to empower its female participants by awarding prizes of Botox, laser hair removal and teeth whitening to the first, second and third-place finishers in each age group.
While the prizes themselves are concerning and problematic, it gets worse: participants as young as 18 may be awarded any of these prizes, while those as young as 15 may win anything except Botox.
The series’ website claims that “Divas” is “the most fun and glam women’s half marathon series in the nation,” noting that “this series is all about girl power.” These claims lead me to question why any racer, female or not, should desire that an athletic competition be “glam” at all.
It also concerns me that the Continental Event and Sports Management group can, as the organizers of the event, knowingly make the claim that “girl power” may be gained through the administration of a cosmetic surgery that inherently rejects natural beauty and places great value on the false “beauty” created by unnatural alterations to a woman’s body.
While it is admirable that the series encourages fitness in women, the prizes completely negate any positive effects created by this premise. Teaching young girls that these cosmetic procedures empower women gives them a distorted view of ideal femininity that is only perpetuated by images of unnatural beauty in the media. Because girls as young as eight years old are allowed to compete in the 5K, these distorted images will be presented to girls at a very young and impressionable age.
What’s more, the prizes are the opposite of empowering. Rather, they are quite demeaning because they encourage these women to rid themselves of the flaws that make them human. In awarding these prizes, the organizers also presume an inherent female interest in such unnatural beautification. Assuming that women need such incentives to enter an athletic event discounts and insults women.
In order for the race to actually be empowering to women, the prizes – if there must be any at all – should simply be the medals or trophies the other finishers receive. The cosmetic prizes take legitimacy away from the event and from female athletics as a whole. As a woman, I was very insulted and dismayed when I read passages such as this on the event’s website:
“Remember when you were younger and would stand in front of the mirror playing dress up? Well, just because you’re a grown-up doesn’t mean you can’t be a princess! Throw on a boa and tiara along the course for an instant pick-me-up, and remember to smile for the cameras when you cross the finish line!”
This is offensive to women for countless reasons. First, it encourages adherence to a very specific type of femininity with which not all women identify. Secondly, it demeans women by assuming that they desire to “play dress up” at all, especially in a race like a half marathon that requires a high level of athletic ability, endurance and concentration.
While claims like this are likely intended to be light-hearted, the organizers of this series should make more of an effort to consider the viewpoints of more diverse types of women and not simply assume that the gender as a whole holds one set of values.
Most importantly, they should show women the respect they deserve by refraining from passing sweeping judgments about and encouraging adherence to a demeaning view of the female gender.
Nina Haggen ’15 firstname.lastname@example.org is from St. Paul, Minn. She majors in English.