My brother-in-law told me about a product that’s very hot right now in Britain: It’s called a Shewee. Yes folks, it’s a device that helps girls pee like guys. Personally, I’ve never felt the need or desire to pee like a guy, but apparently a lot of ladies in Britain do, and these things are selling like hot cakes. They’re very popular at outdoor festivals such as Glastonbury, where the bathroom facilities are less than desirable. The company that makes them even sent Kate Middleton a Shewee in case she might find it challenging to pee like a girl while wearing her wedding dress.
I’m amused and bemused by this product. I can’t think of a situation in which I’d need to use a Shewee. Then again, I’ve never been to the Glastonbury festival. I did wear a wedding dress once and don’t recall peeing while wearing it posing too much of a problem, but I got married at Meadowlark Gardens which has sufficient bathrooms. Apparently Westminster Abbey only has one unisex loo with seven cubicles…
How about using a Shewee while running? Well, first of all you have to carry the damn thing around, and I don’t think it’s small enough for those teeny weeny shorts pockets. Also, can you imagine all the looks you’d get while using this thing in a race? Next thing you know, you’re being hauled off to the drug testing tent to find out what gender you are.
While we’re talking about gender, I do have a more serious topic I need to get off my chest (ha ha ha). And that’s racing as a female. The other day a friend mentioned that her husband won his first triathlon, which was Worldgate. While it wasn’t my first tri (it was my 3rd) I also won it when I raced it. Well, I didn’t “win” it, of course. A male won it. I was first female. When it comes to racing, I don’t compete against men. However, if I “win” a race, meaning I beat all the people I was competing against (i.e., women) I still didn’t really “win.” And if I say to someone “I won,” I then have to clarify that comment because, well, I wasn’t 1st overall. Another friend did actually win a 5K outright one time, beating all the women and men. When she mentioned that she’d won, I had to ask for clarification, “women or overall?” This is what it’s like to race co-ed. You can be 1st, but you rarely win.
Of course, there are “women-only” races, but many of them are more about the cute bling than the racing, and they effectively dumb-down women’s racing until it’s more about the hair, nails, and outfits than the performances. Show me a women’s race that doesn’t involve excessive use of pink, or entice women to sign up by promising a necklace at the end or men in bow ties to “assist” the ladies out of the water, and I’m in. I wonder what men think about women’s races? And why do we even need them? I mean, if we’re gonna start peeing like the guys, we may as well race against them, right?
Finally, there’s often a debate about gender fairness in Boston qualifying times. Several guys I know have contended that it’s easier for women to qualify than it is for men. When the BAA announced it would revise the qualifying standards (don’t panic, the new standards don’t go into effect until the 2013 race!), many people speculated they would raise the standards for women, but not for men. But the BAA made a sweeping across-the-board change, requiring that everyone run 5 minutes faster to qualify for Boston.
I used WAVA calculators to see if it really is harder for the guys, or if they’re just whining. WAVA (World Association of Veteran Athletes) is the world governing body for Master’s track and field, long distance running, and race walking. They came up with these tables as a way for athletes to compare their performance with other athletes, regardless of age or gender. With the WAVA calculator, you input your age, gender, race distance and time, and it gives you a percentage that you can compare with others. The percentage is a value relative to a mathematically derived ultimate performance (100%). In other words, 100% is world-record performance, and anything over 90% is considered world-class.
I entered into the calculator my Boston marathon qualifying standard, which is 3:45:59, and my age – 38 – and got a WAVA of 62%. If I put in the standard for males, which is 3:15:59, and the same age, the WAVA is 64.3%. So, based on the WAVA, a female my age has to run 62% as well as world-record time to qualify, while a male has to run 64.3% as well as world-record time. Looks like it really is harder for the boys.
Of course, this is just one way of looking at it. Consider also that the male world record in the marathon was broken in 2008 (Haile Gebrselassie, Berlin, 2:03:59), while the women’s world record still stands from 2003 (Paula Radcliffe, London, 2:15:25). Or the fact that this year’s Boston Marathon had 13028 male finishers compared to 8935 female finishers, suggesting that a higher percentage of men qualify anyway. I’m sure we could debate this for hours but if you’re not bored already by all these stats, I certainly am. Time for a Shewee…