Thursday, February 14, 2008

Women and Athletics

I'm reading Dagny Scott's Runner's World Complete Book of Women's Running and am rather surprised to find myself enjoying it. I suppose this is in part because of the rather demoralizing reading experience that is Nick Evangelista's The Woman Fencer, which, though it tries, still comes off as a sort of patronizing "I know you want to have kids and work in groups, but you can still fight!" I'm not sure how much of that is the fact that a man is writing the book or that he truly came across a number of women who still have problems seeing themselves as athletes.

Scott addresses this issue thoughtfully and realistically. It seems to all come down to empowerment - we run because it makes us feel good and it makes us feel strong, and we do not need to apologize for it. She also speaks on the difference between those who run for stress relief and strength and those who want to get out there and compete. I think this dichotomy is often missing in books about sports (or at least the ones I've read, which have been very fencing centric). There is a decided difference between the rec or club fencer and the fencer who is gearing up for a national or international medal. There is room for both in the sport (in any sport). It's striking the balance that seems to be the key issue: how do you design a club or a program that can cater to the advanced student and the beginner? Last night at open bouting there were four of us who were of the more beginner/rec persuasion, walking into the tail end of a competitive practice. I keep feeling like I'm on the edge - where do I belong?

This is still all muddled in my mind, so I apologize. I just can't help but feel that there needs to be a book for women fencers that covers all of this (including a diet and exercise and buying the right equipment - everything that Scott discusses her work). Is this something that I'll have to write myself?

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