Monday, 17 August 2009

Yes I am a girl - get over it

Aka 'Girls Run Too' or

'Breaking the Gender Rules'

Soooo I am in a rather scary conservative Muslim country peeps. So much that I have purchased long skirts and baggy tops to wear (anyone who knows me will confirm that this is very out of character!) and am wandering around with a headscarf on. Despite this I still look very British but at least not as bizarre as I would in a burkha!

I decided that I needed to do some running training as I have my half marathon coming up. The promised 'fitness centre' at my slightly dodgy hotel was apparently 'broken' so they gave me a card to go for free to a hotel down the road to use the gym, which was apparently five minutes but took more like fifteen. An interesting exchange took place when I explained why I was there and got the reaction "You want to exercise? But you are a woman!" which I would hope was fairly obvious. Much conferring followed and in the end they agreed to let me. Then I asked about changing rooms (which had been promised by my hotel when they sent me there) and got the response of 'No not for fatimas' which also wasn't terribly helpful. In the end they let me change in the room a lady used to give massages, making me feel pretty seedy and a bit concerned about possible concealed cameras!

Heading into the gym which was a couple of treadmills and a broken exercise bike with pool and football tables and lots of lechy men behind me I almost turned back but felt it would be wrong to do so and rather like letting myself down. Plus in letting myself down I'd be letting down all the women who couldn't run because of their repressive culture. So I got on the treadmill and started running, feeling horribly aware of all the eyes boring into my back, bottom and the rest of me. Then I got angry - after all who are these guys to impose their values on me and restrict their women from doing so many things and got into a mode where I wasn't just running to clock up miles for my half marathon, I was running to make a point. Then it got a lot easier and I found myself in a mindset I've missed since giving up my beloved rowing due to injuries that I was running not against myself but against the World, and got high on the feeling of pushing my body harder than is probably wise and transcended the stuffy, hot and downright dodgy room.

I finished and stretched off and could have cheered when two little girls whose father was working on the door got on the treadmills in their traditional clothing and started running and giggling. Then their father made them stop. But if I've shown two little girls that girls can run too I feel like I've achieved far more than just clocking yet another session. So that's one positive thing this week!


EmmaJane said...

Well done you for taking a stand! I'm sure there's a kinky story in here somewhere too, but it's later...


Eliane said...

Yes, well done. I think I tend to forget quite how lucky I am to have the freedom to do what I chose, and not to have the mores of a restrictive society intolerant of my sex imposed on me. There's an awful lot of women out there who are not so lucky.

Master Retep said...

Seriously well done. Don't ever underestimate the truth of the phrase "think globally, act locally". Those kids, and certainly those men, won't forget what they saw you do. Educators talk about teaching in windows of opportunity and you seized yours. I admire you for your courage, it is the stuff revolutions are made of.

Haron said...

Aw, that's why we love you. Changing the world one little girl at a time.