If you are a runner (or in my case an injured runner), you have probably noticed that running skirts are becoming quite trendy, and for feminists like me, a little bit baffling. I’ll start out by admitting that I am a huge fan of running skirts, though I feel a bit guilty about it. When I was 11-years-old, my mom tried to convince me that I should play field hockey and I absolutely refused because tomboy Ashley could not bear the thought of having to wear a skirt to play a sport. I had always prided myself on playing sports hard and being able to compete with the boys so dressing up in a skirt to do that just seemed insane and ridiculous (Why should girls have to wear skirts to play sports? What was this 1953?). So, as I’ve been buying running skirts, I keep imagining 11-year-old staring at me and shaking her head, ashamed of what she has become. This is my attempt to try to explain myself to my tomboy side that thinks I’ve sold out. Here are some thoughts about running skirts, which I think proves how cultural norms and social constructions of gender can quickly make a person insane. Much like pink hats, etc, I think that running skirts definitely run the danger of sending the message that women are not interested in actually running, but would rather “be cute.” I’ve talked before about how Title IX debates are always packed with arguments about how women are not interested in sports, so anything that can add that fuel to the fire always concerns me. On the other hand, running is a total exercise in masochism, so it seems hard to believe that anyone would take up running simply because the skirts are cool. After all, it is much easier to buy attractive skirts for everyday wear and you don’t have to put yourself through a painful run to wear those. To me, this somehow makes running skirts different from pink hats, though I have to admit, I am struggling with liking the skirts and despising the pink gear. If there’s one thing about feminism that makes me crazy, it’s that it is so hard to be totally consistent and you always have to grapple with liking things like running skirts, even if you feel you shouldn’t. On that note, let’s move on to why I think running skirts are cool!
(A recent running skirt purchase, $19.99 at Target)
I will say that running skirts are WICKED comfortable. From an actual running perspective, they are also great because they tend to have inner compression shorts which reduce the always troubling “chub rub” problem. I find that this is especially important when you live in a sticky place like Washington, DC. So, I’m giving them a point over pink hats for having actual functionality. Also, let’s be honest, I would much rather run in a running skirt than have to slather my upper thighs in Vasoline or runner’s lube.
(Below: I don’t own a hot pink running skirt yet, but I think we all know it’s only a matter of time.)
I think I also like running skirts because let’s be honest, like me, they are not really fashionable at all. This means that I have pretty much totally embraced them for everyday wear on the weekends (and to be perfectly frank, if I could get away with wearing them to work, I would do that too). I think they look reasonably OK (though I’m sure my family would strongly disagree, as they do with most of my fashion choices) when paired with a tank top and they are great for hanging around in during the hot summer. Another point over pink hats for functionality. (A side note: I also love jersey dresses for this reason – they are like wearing a big giant t-shirt that looks a little more acceptable). In addition, I’ve found that running skirts tend to come in wacky colors. Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE wacky colors. So, while I realize that, yes, lime green and hot pink type colors are not meant to be worn outside of gyms or beds, I’m a huge fan of a zany color during my regular day. I like to keep it interesting and I’m into cultivating my own eccentricities, so bring on the crazy colors!
Running skirts are also a way to dress comfortably and sporty without looking like Sporty Spice (you know, long athletic pants and a tank top). This is key. It’s never fun when you look like a Spice Girl.
Now that I think about it, I have to feel like those tiny little underwear things that the elite runners run in seem a lot worse than running skirts. Man do those seem objectifying and like you would need to do some serious maintenance to wear them. I know you can go faster in those things, but can you imagine actually running in them? I know I can’t! Though, I think that’s mostly because of the aforementioned chub rub and the fact that the street harassment you would get running in something like that would be unbearable.
(This one is technically a tennis skirt, but in my mind they are the same thing. This one is also in the mail! WOO!)
Moreover, running skirts have the potential to make running races more fun. Each time I’ve run a half-marathon (the longest races I’ve ever done), I’ve insisted on crazy outfits for race day. If you wear a crazy outfit, people are more likely to cheer for you because you look different, and then afterwards, you have not only a hard-earned race t-shirt, but a funny shirt you wore for the race. For my first half-marathon, this resulted in bright blue and green outfits emblazoned with our “May Contain Nuts” team name. People LOVED it. My second race was all about singlets that were pink, yellow, and orange and looked like those hypercolor t-shirts from the early 90s. I can only imagine the potential for future races with this new skirt option! Plus, I played ultimate frisbee in college and I have to say, if that sport taught me anything, besides how to party like a rock star, it was that it’s always fun to do atheltic stuff in costumes/silly outfits with a funny team name. Makes you feel like a kid again.
As it turns out, writing this has been quite cathartic for me. Now that I’ve shared all of my thoughts on running skirts to people who probably don’t necessarily need to know my thoughts on such a silly topic, I have to say I feel a lot better about embracing such a stereotypically feminine item. Because you know what, sometimes it’s all about having fun and being comfortable whether working out or hanging out. Plus, you never know, maybe running skirts are helping people see that women can be women and be athletic at the same time. Also, I suppose it’s kind of cool that shorts have always been the more popular option, but just now, women are embracing the skirt. It’s like we really can run in whatever the hell we want or something?
For more information on running skirts, Kristin Armstrong (Lance’s ex) wrote an article on them (in the most recent Runner’s World – unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be online) and the magazine also reviewed some of the popular skirt options. I’ll also say that Target has some great cheap ones ($20ish) and www.runningskirts.com/running-skirts.html also has some great stuff including an awesome red and white polka dotted one.