Wednesday, March 5, 2014

International Women's Day

When Jan reached out to me to ask if I was interested in participating in International Women's day on March 8, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to promote a very important cause, but I was a little apprehensive. What would I write about? Had I not commented on Jan's writers block blog post a few days ago that I had too many things I wanted to write about, so why now was I suddenly stuck?

Surely an elite level athlete and coach should have plenty to write about to inspire change? But, this day is not about me. It is about encouraging all women to be strong, without either sounding like a self centered egomaniac or a bra burning feminist.

I wish I could write a post as inspiring and creative as Pavement Runner's Yes, I can post a few weeks ago. If you have not read it, you need to check it out! Unfortunately, I am not that empowering, so instead I thought I would tell you about my experiences.

Last week, I read lots of incredibly inspiring stories from women who had struggled with (and always will) eating disorders. Some posts almost brought me to tears, and I realized how important of a topic this is. Sure, I have close family friends and know many athletes with eating disorders, but I was unaware of just how many people it affects. Kim from Busy Bod posted some facts on a post that were absolutely shocking. Here are just a few:
  •  Of elementary school girls who read magazines, 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight
  • 42% of 1st-3rd graders (6-9 year olds) want to be thinner
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat
  • 70% of 18-30 year olds don't like their bodies
  • 50% of girls use unhealthy weight control behaviors
    • skipping meals, fasting, smoking, vomiting and taking laxatives

This HAS to change.

As part of the National Eating Disorders Awareness week, La Salle showed a documentary called Branded that was premiered on ESPN in 2013. To those of you who have not seen it, I highly recommend it. The documentary focused on the way female athletes are viewed. Many of the athletes featured: Anna Kournikova, Danica Patrick, Lolo Jones have been criticized heavily in the media for flaunting their sex appeal, when in fact that is often what the sponsors are interested in. Female athletes are not given enough recognition for being good athletes. This is one of the major reasons that women's basketball is often rejected; it does not fit with how our society wishes to view women even though they are incredible athletes.



For any athlete (or person in the media) to be able to make a living off what they are good at, they must try to extend their brand, create relevance, and news, to keep people talking when they are not playing. This was a point brought up by one of the speakers in the documentary, and the problem is that for women, sex appeal is a huge part of that: it is what keeps half of the population interested. 

There was a panel discussion afterwards, where one of the speakers said that we are not living in a mans world, but looking through a mans lens. I thought this was a great way of putting the message across. There is an unease, maybe even a fear of a strong women by many, and the easiest way to overcome that fear is to trivialize these women until she too, breaks down.  The final concluding point was that if we are climbing a mountain to bring equality to women, we have come a long way, but we are only midway; there is a long way to go before we can reach the top!

I got to thinking that I am a female role model. I am in the top percentage of female distance runners in the US (or the UK), I have a reasonable twitter following, and a blog to let my voice be heard. I realized that I am not doing enough to help females reach equality, especially within the sporting world. If I am not trying to make a difference, then who am I to expect us to move any higher up that mountain. Like the famous quote from Gandhi says "Be the change that you wish to see in the world", I should use my voice to reach out to people, while I still can.

I am going to make this into a Thinking Out Loud Post to join Amanda, these thoughts were inspired from the Branded documentary.




I hope this does not come across as preachy, and I hope I do not seem arrogant, but I just want to use my voice (well, my writing voice, but you can hear my British accent telling you this if you wish) to be a leader, and inspire change as best I can.

If I was going to inspire change I would tell you.....Since I first started taking my running seriously, I have come a long way. It has taken years and years of consistent training, doing the little things, and believing that I am good enough. Like the women's equality mountain, I have a long way to go before I reach the top of my athletic mountain. I WILL run for Great Britain, and I WILL run a marathon in a time I consider to be up to my potential (I would hope around 2:30). You too can reach the top of your mountain, if you just believe. 



If I was going to inspire change I would tell you....In races I often find myself next to guys who would rather drop dead than let me pass. That can be frustrating, but I know deep deep deeeeep down somewhere, I earn that guys respect as he finally lets me go. I also earn the respect of the women (or girls) watching and cheering on the sidelines seeing that women can compete with the men, women can be great, and run fast. I can only hope that I could inspire someone to go out there and give it a try.



If I was going to inspire change I would tell you......I would like to think that I am evidence that you do not have to be glamorous to be good, you do not have to look like a model to compete, and at the end of the day, running is one of those sports that finishing will always be pretty ugly. If it isn't, then you really shouldn't be doing it as you aren't trying hard enough. I have never been someone who cared about what I looked like as I crossed the finish line. I always just wanted to go out there knowing I gave it my absolute best and the result took care of itself. Through that I earned a scholarship to University in America, 11 DII All-America Honors, PRs I would have never dreamed of, and running for Saucony!



If I was going to inspire change I would tell you.......Looks will always fade. No matter how many creams/surgerys/magic solutions people come up with for preventing aging, it is unstoppable. It is going to happen, but those times you run, those accomplishments you have will be with you forever. No matter how old I get, no matter how my appearance changes, I will always be able to say I ran a 16:08 5k, or I finished 3rd in the Olympic Trials 10k. If I had cared about my sex appeal, that would never have happened. 


If I was going to inspire change I would tell you.....the people who truly matter, the ones who care about you love you for who you are. For being that wonderful person that you are with all you have to offer. They are the people who will support you no matter what.  They are the ones who will be most proud of you for succeeding, especially when going against what society tells you to do. Care about what they think, not what those who do not matter think. 




So lets change this perspective, lets prove that women's currency is no longer going to be how attractive they are. Lets show that through sport we can be an inspiration to the younger generation, and show our strength. We are in this together, and we can climb the rest of the mountain as a team.



In what ways do you try to inspire change? What do you think can be done to help the equality of women? What do you think about how female athletes are portrayed?

Would love you to follow me:

27 comments:

  1. GREAT POST! Yesterday when I was at the gym I heard a middle school girl who was on an elliptical say "I burned 9 calories already" I NEVER thought about that as a kid... so sad...

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    1. i agree. I never did either. maybe we can shift that focus again. Great post Tina!

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    2. That is crazy, and very scary Danielle! We need to make a change! Thanks for the support ladies, you are both very influential as female leaders of change!

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  2. Thanks so much for sharing the stats and for the shoutout. You are definitely out there inspiring change for women by being a role model for girls who want to be athletes. Not just when you are racing, but when you are coaching. I think it puts you in a unique position to help change some of those scary statistics, and to help change the way society views female athletes. You rock lady.

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    1. Thanks Kim, your posts have been so inspirational lately! Thank you for your support! I like to think I am helping, but sometimes I think people think I do not understand, I hope my personality shows that I am just as insecure, and have doubts like everyone else! Thanks for your kind words! YOU keep being the inspiration you are!

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  3. Tina--you rock! What an inspiration you are, even if you don't know it! Such a great, powerful post.

    Did you see the 30 for 30 on women's sports? It really got into the issues you talked about with women and how they must market themselves in order to draw sponsorship, etc. It pointed out that WNBA has not caught on b/c of the uniforms. If they were to "sex it up," it would appeal to the male audience. It really is a shame in this day and age that that's what it takes. It does need to change!

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    1. Thank you so much Amanda, I feel the same way about nearly all of your posts! I did not see the 30 for 30, but should look it up. Maybe it was part of what i saw in the documentary, sounds like it. Scary stuff, and we as influencers, need to do all we can to make this change!

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  4. Oh Tina, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with you...I think your post was just as inspiring, (if not more so) than Pavement Runner's. Well written and definitely inspiring, kudos to you!

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    1. Awwww what a wonderful comment, thank you so so much! That was so lovely to read! I look forward to supporting you in all your future adventures! I wish I knew your twitter handle?! Would love to follow you!

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  5. Tina you are just plain awesome. This post is fantastic and I wish every girl in the world could read it. The sex it up of everything is disgusting. We girls/women are more than that.

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    1. Thank you so much Angela, and again, for sharing on your Friday post! Those kind words make my heart swell! I am so glad we are connected! You are SO right, lets make that change together!

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  6. I wish everyone thought like you. You are such an inspiration to me, and I'm sure to many others! Keep it up girl, love ya!

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    1. Awww thanks Leigha! You are becoming quite the sensation online from what I see! I cannot wait to see what the future brings for you! You are going to be a huge influencer :)

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  7. Love love love this post! You so inspire change with what you do through this blog, through your training and through your whole attitude to life.

    As someone else wrote and I agree this post is just as inspiring as pavement runners one.

    I am so glad you agreed to join in as you are such an awesome role model not just for women but for everyone!! I hope you are enjoying Michigan <3

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    1. Thank you my friend! You know I feel the same way about you! I loved your post, and the whole linkup! That was such a wonderful idea, and I think we all did a great job of spreading the word, and creating awareness! Thanks for being the wonderful woman that you are :)

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  8. This is so fantastic. You are such an inspiration anyway, and this post just adds to it.

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    1. Thanks so much Cassie :) I really appreciate your support! You are such a great influencer in this world too! Keep up the good work :)

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  9. For being stuck and not knowing what to write, you sure did put out an awesome post, lady. I love how you focused on accomplishments rather than appearance. It really is sad that society seems to focus more on how we look than what we do. But it's good to see that amazing women like you are inspiring change :)

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    1. Thank you Amanda, You are right, but we are all doing our best to change that. I really appreciate your kind words! You are a much more powerful influece than me, but I know you are really making a difference in a lot of lives :)

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  10. Another great read Tina! You captured the essence of being a woman, true to you and an athlete!

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    1. Something you know all about, friend! Thank you so much!

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  11. YOU are inspiring and AMAZING. Fantastic job Tina! Your athletes are SO blessed to have you as a coach.

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    1. Thank you so much Tara! I look up to you so much, and those words mean the world to me! I really really appreciate your kindness :)

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  12. I'm late to comment, but wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this post. Those eating disorder stats are scary! Especially having a daughter. We can all be working to inspire and change this for the future.

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    1. Thank you so much Laura! You inspire change almost every day through your posts! I love seeing how much your loyal readers (me being one of them) appreciate every one of your posts! Thank you for supporting me too!

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