Runner's World ran a story on their site today that reminded me of a post I did in June 2012. The RW article is titled "Do Women-Only Races Still Have a Purpose?"and my post was titled "Are gender-specific races sexist?" In both posts, the point was made that the original reason for having "women-only" races was to provide a safe experience for women.
I didn't write my 2012 post to debate that reasoning. I agreed that women-only races were a good idea back in 1972 when women were marginalized as competitors. Even worse, women encountered hostility from men who were clearly threatened by female competition. But in 2014, gender plays no role in the outcome of an open race and I have never seen hostility directed towards women at any event. In fact, in 2013, almost 2/3 of participants in open races are women (per the RW article).
I think what continues to bother me about women-only races is the tacit suggestion that: 1. women are still disenfranchised, 2. women have not yet achieved parity with men in non-professional competitions and 3. women need to be treated differently. This type of exclusion would not fly in other circumstances where a population's civil rights have been restricted. Can you imagine if someone suggested a "gay-only" race to the LGBT community or a race that excluded all but one ethnicity? You can say this is different, but is it really?
Despite my arguments, I appreciate that many women seem to love the experience and the camaraderie of events like the Mini-10K and the Diva and Princess Half Marathons. But I still think it supports a double standard.