“Labels” Are For Cans

I. Love. Summer.  For me, it has been the season of most of the great times in my life. When I was a kid, it meant bike rides with your friends (and tying the bikes up with our jump ropes ’cause they were really “horses” & we were riding in the wild, wild west).  Summer meant popping popcorn and filling up the big paper grocery sacks, loading all the neighborhood kids up in the car and going to the drive-in (thanks mom).  Summer was sleep-overs, late nights, playing hide & seek in the dark and treks through the woods to find ring neck snakes (and not being afraid to pick them up-I wouldn’t do that now)! We weren’t scared of “stranger danger” back then because everyone knew who all the “weirdos” were and we all looked out for each other. Let’s not forget swimming. Who can forget that first bad sunburn because we thought cocoa butter was the best thing ever and was to be applied liberally to stay in the sun for eight hours (ah, the 70s)! Summer was bare feet, skinned knees, chasing down the ice cream truck and living life with “reckless abandon.”

summer 70s

There weren’t a lot of girls in my neighborhood-none that were my age anyway. Families moved in and out and the ones that stayed were the ones with boys. Several of them were my age mates and we graduated high school together. As a result of this lack of female presence, I usually hung out with my brother and the “boys.” I liked to play in the mud and dirt and collect jars of toads, etc.  As a result, I was often labeled a “tomboy.” Tomboy: 1)  A girl who dresses & acts like a boy, especially in playing physical games that boys usually play (Cambridge Dictionary). 2) A girl who behaves in a manner usually considered boyish (Merriam-Webster). 3) A girl who enjoys rough, noisy activities traditionally associated with boys (Oxford Dictionary). 4) A girl who takes part in activities & games that people think are more appropriate for boys (Macmillan).

Who comes up with this stuff? What or who gives people the right to make those ignorant claims?  It is not my intent to go off on a discourse of the physical differences between the sexes. We all know differences exist. What irritates me is that our society tries to fit everyone into a nice little mold of “how it should be.” You know, boys shouldn’t wear pink & such, or play with baby dolls. I wore pants and loved playing with hot wheels (who didn’t like racing those down the track), so I guess I did “dress & act like a boy”-ha!  Such insidious behavior! Have we come a long way in changing it? I would say somewhat, but we have a long way to go. Am I scarred for life for being called a “tomboy?” No, I am not-in my childhood innocence, I really didn’t understand what it meant anyhow (I didn’t read the dictionary).  I was simply being a kid-nothing more, nothing less. You can’t quit something you don’t know you’re doing-when you’re just being you. The trick is to not to let those labels define you.

Some people are on power trips and others’ determination rub them the wrong way.  Kathrine Switzer certainly rubbed Jock Semple the wrong way. On April 19, 1967 she “officially” (in violation of policy) entered the all male Boston Marathon as “K. Switzer.” Jock was the race co-director and it infuriated him that a woman was in “his” race! When she was discovered, he ran up behind her, grabbed her shoulder, and flung her back screaming, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” He was thwarted by her friend Tom, and she kept running. This is what she said in her memoir Marathon Woman:

…and for just a tiny moment, I wondered if I should step off the course. I did not want to mess up this prestigious race. But the thought was only a flicker. I knew if I quit, nobody would ever believe that women had the capability to run the marathon distance. If I quit, everybody would say it was a publicity stunt. If I quit, it would set women’s sports back, way back, instead of forward. If I quit, I’d never run Boston. If I quit, Jock Semple and all those like him would win…

Ironically, Jock Semple ended up overseeing the implementation of the formal admission of female runners in 1972 and became a staunch supporter. He also later publicly reconciled with Switzer (Wikipedia).

K. Switzer

Thank you Kathrine Switzer. Because of you (and those like you),  women are kicking butt and taking names in the running world. According to the website Running USA, the percentage of women finishing running events has surpassed that of men. There was a 5% jump from 2005 to 2010 with women making up 53% of total finishers. There has been a gradual increase each year since then. In 2013 the ratio was 57% female to 43% male. And I don’t think anyone’s uterus has fallen out.

Labels-there are so many aren’t there? We label people based on what they look like and/or what we think we know about them.  There are good labels as well as bad ones, but human beings tend to focus on the negative. Take body image for example. And sorry guys, but most of it is directed toward women. The female body has been the subject of much controversy over the years.  When did this become okay? Who is the so-called expert who decided what the “perfect” woman should look like? Makes me completely sick to my stomach. Did it start with the Barbie doll? Who came up with this “thigh gap” crap?! I don’t know about any of you, but I am SICK TO DEATH of the exploitation of women for the almighty dollar.

Females are confused and can’t be comfortable in their own skin. We’re too fat, too skinny, too, tall, too short, we have the wrong color hair, not enough hair, too much hair, we are too wrinkly, too pale, too tan, have too much cellulite, too many freckles and oh my good golly what about those boobs? The breast fetish rages.  It’s okay to bare those bad boys in public (from the male perspective), but don’t you DARE breastfeed a child! Irony of ironies.

It’s bad enough that we let men dictate how we should look, let alone turn on each other. Women can be very vindictive toward one another, tearing each other apart. Lest I be labeled a femi-nazi, I wanted to make that clear. I am simply stating observances of a lifetime of biased advertising. We are all uniquely different in body composition. Health and wellness should be the goal.  Concerning weight loss- there is no magic pill. Genetics have a lot to with it. My people are mostly Scottish/Irish descent, and immediate family members are/were not big people. I’m tired of people telling me I’m too skinny (another freakin’ label). Well, with my genetics and being a runner…duh! I am who I am and I don’t apologize for it. Neither should you. Ladies, let’s start supporting each other and build each other up. The world and it’s expectations do a good enough number on us without us baring our fangs on one another.

Am I living in a fantasy world? Maybe- but if I can at least make one person stop and think about it, that’s all that matters. Are people still going to be cruel and cut each other down? Well of course they are, this isn’t utopia and I’m not the Wizard of Oz. It would be a wonderful thing if folks started valuing each other a little more for who they are wouldn’t it? Not for what they look like or for what we (people) think they should be or what is appropriate.

Summer-cookouts, campouts, vacations, long days, sultry nights, baseball, ice cream, water balloon fights. The indefatigable American spirit prevails in my memory and in my now.  After all, I am a former “tomboy” just living life with reckless abandon.


Beauty is not caused. It is.

–Emily Dickinson

Until We Meet Again,


P.S. Have a safe and memorable Independence Day!

Waterfest fireworks

One thought

  1. I think it’s great that woman have stepped up in the world of running. I look at them as my equal, there are some unbelievable runners that are woman. I like showing up to a race and looking over and seeing a girl and saying to myself “she is good, i am going to pace with her” I honestly think if people stopped the labels and just looked at the person as a human there would be less BS in the world.

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