Is It Time To Change The Ironman Triathlon to Iron Human?
Last week the Ironman competition, held here in Kailua, Kona, Hawaii swam, biked, and ran the required 140+ miles in sweltering heat.
About one third of these superheroes are women.
As they sprint, crawl, gasp, and sometimes collapse across the finish line, a booming voice blares out their names with this cheer:
“Jane Doe, YOU are an IIIIROOOONNN MMMMMAAAANNNN!! (Iron man!)
As the athlete tries to recover her bearings, the sound of this long, breathy drawn congratulatory cheer pours like honey, or I imagine, the heavenly touch of stillness, after the most exhausting day imaginable.
And yet, I wonder.
The amount of work, sweat, tears, blood and body damage it takes to complete this triathlon is unreal to most of us. It is regarded by most athletes, even of other games, to be the most challenging, and punishing, sporting event on Earth.
I have watched this spectacle and wondered. If there are thousands of women here, how many of them are comfortable being told they are an honorary “man” of any kind? For most such athletes, it must be the last thing on their minds, but there are also the minds of us lazier gals on the sidelines watching and not fully appreciating the words. And, with so many, many races such as this year around, year after year, surely many must have at least considered how they feel about the cheer.
When you watch thousands of people cross finish lines of this event, the sheer repetition of those words over and over again: “YOU are an IRON MAN!!” rings in the ears of thousands and thousands of viewers and competitors alike.
Women are strong, and this triathlon proves it.
This thought seems worth considering to me. I cannot help but imagine that if the running shoe were on the other foot:
“John Doe, YOU are an IRON WOMAN!!” it would not sound so sweet to the males.
Is it time to change this cheer? I understand that being an “Iron man” sounds stronger, but that, I think, is the whole problem. Women are strong, also, and this triathlon proves it. We love men, we like the word man, but what is wrong with the more inclusive “Iron HU MAN!” for both?
Another variation could be an “Iron Hewn Man,” with the Hu and Hewn words spelled in a creative way to specifically designate the HU part of Hewn, or, perhaps, Huwn. Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but at first use, so do words like: inspo, google, fatberg, and vacay. Yet we all understand they are short cuts and hook-ups, new spellings to indicate now familiar concepts.
There are other ideas, such as switching over (possibly a bit awkward at first, with as much grace as from a Kailua bay swim, to a frenetic bike ride) to using the initials of the name:
I.M. Ironman would eventually be known as I M, which sounds precisely like “I am.” And rather than designate each finisher as an “Iron man”, they could give any number of cheers:
…You are an I M victor”
…You are pure Iron!”
…You are an Iron Hewn Human!”
…You are an Iron winner!”
…You are an I am winner!”
I fully understand that these ideas would be met with some irritation, possibly derision, and maybe even cringe worthy trolling.
We are supposed to understand that the designation “Man” means mankind and mankind means woman. But study after study reveals that people asked to envision mankind discovering fire, or farming, accomplishing a moon landing, or national leadership, do not see a woman, although women have contributed to all of these things.
Every year, more than 50,000 humans become honorary Iron men. A very significant portion of them are females who work incredibly hard to succeed in an already uneven world. What do you think each and every one of them prefers to be called, other than culturally, and literally, “tired?”