If this is advocacy for women's running, what does opposition look like?

Praying for the end of gendered sports is, well, a goal. But how this idea moves women's running forward is a mystery

As subscribers have already learned, Alison Désir, who has become one of the running media’s darlings for reasons that have nothing to do with excellence in either running or communicating ideas, recently made an Instagram post intended, on its face, to debunk myths about transgender girls and women, and was riddled with outright nonsense. The series of panels in the post looks like the result of a high-school freshman remembering she has an assignment due in half an hour and frantically slapping together enough anatomy terms and unhelpful quotes from Google to have a Power Point presentation ready to submit in the nick of time.

Even if you don’t agree with that assessment, skip to this comment, bobbing in a sea of indignant “How would trans girls destroy girls’ sports? Ludicrous!”-style opinions, from someone who actually gets it, erratic typing notwithstanding:

If I understand that emoji correctly, it means that Désir is in favor of exactly what the commenter above her sees coming: A sports world without men’s, women’s, boys’ or girls’ categories.

Okay. Cool. But even if you accept this outcome would be good for the world, someone is going to have to explain how this desire meshes, from an editorial standpoint, with being named a “2021 Power Woman” by Women’s Running, given that if Désir and her allies gain the power to enact what she’s “praying” for—power that increases whenever she’s featured in another article as a beacon of unconditional social goodness—then a publication with that name will possess all the contemporary relevance of The Athenian Journal of Pathogenic Demons.

No level of satire is too much for this arrangement: A Trojan horse being welcomed inside the gates and, uh, amplified by a set of voices whose idea of improving the palace décor is taking a flamethrower to anything that looks like it needs cleaning up, including the propane storage down below.

How these increasingly prevalent in-your-face contradictions can occur and propagate with unsettling ease—and continue gathering momentum even as I grind out these hapless posts at an annoying clip—is divorced from whether they are aimed at serving the greater good or even logical. At this point in ugly U.S. history, a woman runner who brings to the table ethnic minority status and a penchant for scholarship, activism or both is hard to turn down as an emblem for trying to associate yourself or your publication with genuine, reality-based equality efforts.

What I see in Désir’s public persona is a basic opportunist, and someone who, despite multiple degrees from an Ivy League institution, has trouble with the “your/you’re” distinction and refuses to entertain any viewpoint that contradicts with her own, however grounded in evidence. She is a zealot, as are all critical race theorists, and a proponent of the unapologetically racist concept of “Whiteness.” And in the vexatious style of all postmodern identity-scholars, in addition to not disclosing her solutions to all of her unspecified yet somehow urgent concerns, she doesn’t actually give much concrete material to push back against—just hazy but inflammatory theses like “running has a white supremacy problem.” When she does make easily falsified claims, she engages her critics with “Because I said so—blocked!”

Have you ever tried arguing with a toddler? Did you ever win of those arguments? It’s the same deal here. This is nothing but outraged and outrageous noise aimed at getting attention through paralysis of whatever the adults in the room are doing, and, just as with toddlers, it’s easier, to a point, to appease them by shutting up and letting them “win.” You can enjoy the same essential conversational experience with a far-right Evangelical Christian: There is no other side, so we don’t have to entertain the other side. Your biology and geology is fake. We’ll pray for you.

Recall that Outside and others exhaustively condemned Lazarus “Gary Cantrell” Lake for the act of not allowing a political sentiment he said he agreed with to be discussed on his Facebook event page. Yet when someone wants to actually conduct one of these sensitive, uncomfortable discussions that we* need to have on social media—the sort of serious debate that no runner can run from, the kind of let’s-be-friends online talk folks wanted Laz to have—it’s a no-go. Why? Again: Our side is right, our definitions of male and female are right, so screw you. This is why you almost never see quotes from people who even go so far as to label intersex athletes in women’s races controversial in the countless “poor Caster” articles the mainstream press has generated; it’s taken as axiomatic that any resistance to the “Let her run” line is devoid of rational content and is instead bred of racism, sexism and misunderstanding.

Imagine what the already grotesque reaction from Ben Chan’s online cavalry of brain-dead supporters would have been had Laz acted with even ten percent of Désir’s level of cartoonish arrogance and reality-shunning—say, by calling BLM a violent, terrorist movement and deleting even polite comments to the contrary from Facebook with a proud flourish. While it’s hard to imagine the people who dumped on him going any lower than they in fact did, I bet they would have found a way; a basic operating principle of SJWs is that, what reality doesn’t provide for your argument, you may cheerfully substitute with morbid lies. (Thanks to the Streisand effect, I have ascertained that Laz is a very gracious and thoughtful fellow as well as charitable in the utmost, not just literally but to his addled haters.)

That said, each contributor to this mad circus can, with various degrees of honesty, claim to be trying to effect some sort of positive change. After everything I’ve seen since being drawn to whatever reason last summer to how bedeviled with stupidity running has become from the inside out, it’s hard for me to be even this charitable. Yet from the standpoint of Women’s Running, Désir is someone who has done a good deal of palpable good, and even if I perceive her as trying to monetize a particularly cancerous and self-interested form of white guilt, she appears to see this as harmonizing with her overall philosophy. And don’t we* all need some kind of reckoning?

This, in short, is how bad movements can gain real traction: Misidentifying a problem as an asset, then making excuses for an obviously poor choice in allegiances once unwanted results start to appear.

I guess the primary bullhorns of this foolishness just don’t—either cannot or will not—imagine the result of this kind of “We must fall on our knees” reckoning coming to fruition, just as some of Donald Trump’s early nominal supporters in the Republican Party in 2015 never saw him actually seizing the reins, then continuing to be exactly the person he’d always been, using constant bullying and gaslighting to get his way and ultimately to incite mentally ill Vikings to scale and breach the U.S. Capitol. If girls’ high-school and women’s college sports really do become practically or literally eliminated within the next decade, perhaps some of those who are now helping SJW luminaries like Désir tear out the bolts and rivets will distance themselves from their own catalysis of today’s crazy cascade of psychosocial reactions, even though the Internet, like an elephant, never forgets. (An elephant, however, produces far less dung per capita than the typical 2021 Internet user.)

I note again that while I have earned opprobrium for these posts, none of it has explained why I shouldn’t be making them. Because no one wants to interact with these posts, perhaps someone can put together a 30-second educational video for low-wattage observers explaining how Alison Désir’s stated ideas align with the notion of a genuine women’s-running advocate. That impossible task would go a long way to establishing that my supposedly misguided course here is unpopular because its premises are weak; I already get why it’s not popular to the people profiting in some way from all of the stupidity, and I don’t expect any answers from them.

Remember, liberals, you—myself among you—have been knocking creationists, anti-gay-marriage hysterics, and climate-change for their anti-scientific dithering and nattering and intrusions into the public educational system, government and other institutions for twenty-plus years. The only thing that distinguishes these targets from the SJWs is that they all lie conveniently left of the political center. It’s a lot easier to call B.S. on people you have no interest in sharing the planet with anyway if you can help it,

If you embrace lying and a refusal to even engage opposing viewpoints to get what you want and to keep what you’ve gotten that way, even when the majority of people disagree with you, then you’re no better than the president you hated nonstop for four straight years. And in the end, you’ll do just as complete a job of getting people to root for you to fail with flying colors, too.

Here’s what has me really shaking my head at all of this. I don’t have any kids, and my only sibling has two boys. No one in my family that I know of stands to be affected if, in fact, girls’ sports do become a brief but glorious cultural phenomenon spanning the approximate years 1970 through maybe 2025. Yet I’m the only one I know with any kind of chronic connection to running who even seems to have identified all of this next-level foolishness as anything more than, at worst, part of an annoying fad in which people get to make stuff about body parts until comparative sanity again rules the fray. If I had some kind of real emotional investment instead of just an insatiable appetite for calling out bad behavior pretending to be something else, I’m sure I’d be finding ways to behave more stridently than just cranking out some blog posts.

But this sport belongs to other people now, and if a parade of liars and enablers wants to keep wiping their behinds with it, that’s what I will continue to report is happening.


Sneak micropreview of my next post: An analysis of this podcast.