A few weeks ago, when I launched the “Companies that Trivialize Street Harassment” webpage, SSH community member @DaniParadis alerted me to the Skirt Chaser 5k, where women begin the race before men and the tagline is “Chase. Catch. Party.” She and I both felt the “chase and catch” language and name sounded creepy and predatory and also could be triggering to women who have actually been chased by men while running.
Nicole Molzahn DeBoom, the founder of the race, and the founder of Skirt Sports, was responsive and asked to set up a call to discuss it. Today, SSH board member Elizabeth Bolton (a runner) and I (another runner) talked with her by phone.
During the call, I told her more about the work of SSH and what street harassment is and why this issue matters. Then she gave us background information about her, the company, and the race.
She was a pro-triathlete for a number of years and then she founded Skirt Sports in 2004. The idea behind the company was to offer women more clothing options with the hope that if they are wearing something they like and feel good wearing, they will be more likely to feel comfortable exercising and actually exercise.
Nicole founded the Skirt Chaser 5k in 2007, in part to move extra inventory by giving participants skirts and also to create a fun race connected to the brand. People in relationships who run it often wager with their significant other about who will beat the other (with women starting first) and people who are single can get stickers on their bibs to say they’re open to meeting someone at the race. This key component of consent was something I didn’t see in the messaging online, so I was very glad to hear this. Nicole told us that about 70-75 percent of race participants in most of the Skirt Chaser races are female and that the race is so popular, there are many copy-cat races across the country.
Then we talked about the race name and marketing. She noted that this year they had a new team working on the promotional materials and that, once we brought it to their attention how predatory/creepy the new tagline sounded (“chase, catch, party”) they agreed. They’ve already removed that tagline from the materials for all of the races and they removed the word “chase” from copy about the race (except from the race name). She is open to hearing ideas for how to promote the race with language that is truer to what the race stands for and what actually happens at it (consensual fun).
Also, SSH board member Liz rightly pointed out the heteronormativity of the race with its assumptions that people are straight, that women are slower than men, and that only women want to or should wear skirts. Nicole said that LGBQT people and relationships are welcome and that anyone can choose to or not to wear skirts.
While I would love for the race name itself to be changed, I understand that would be much harder to do, especially since it’s become a brand that has been around for six years and few people have complained. Changing the tag line and trying to focus more on the consensual fun that takes place at the race is significant and I’m grateful that Nicole took the time to listen to our concerns and acted on them. Hopefully the additional new messaging that is being crafted can emphasize consent and can also be more blatantly inclusive of LGBQT people/relationships.
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