Let’s talk about the word “chicked.” I mentioned the word in an article last week about the paradox of pink, and a couple of commenters were dismayed to learn that such a word exists. Consequently I thought the concept might be up for more than just a parenthetical explanation in a post about the color pink.
Before we begin, a definition from Urban Dictionary:
When a woman outperforms a man in a physical activity, such as biking, hiking, or skiing, where normally a man should outperform the woman.
The word “chicked” is built upon the premise that men are always physically superior to women, and that any inversion of this hierarchy is an anomaly. This is considered to hold true not just for the sports where men tend to have a distinct advantage, such as basketball or football, but all physical activities. All of them. It’s the premise behind the idea that any halfway coordinated group of weekend warriors could defeat a professional women’s team, or that any woman who is too good at her sport must have benefited from an unfair advantage, or that a female athlete might secretly be a man.
I’ll confess, it’s a concept that frustrates me. It’s frustrating to know that no matter how much hard work I put into my sport, there will always be a contingent of guys out there who think they can beat me just because. As I mentioned in my last post, I come across it quite a bit. I still remember one time when I was out doing speed intervals, and I was in the middle of my recovery interval when I passed a guy. I noticed that he sped up as I passed him – which meant that he was running slower than my recovery pace, mind you – and when I started my speed interval, he sped up again! It took about a minute before he realized the futility of what he was doing, and he dropped off. The entire time, though, I couldn’t help but think how ridiculous this whole charade was. If I had been a guy out running, would he have tried to keep up with me? I don’t know, but I doubt it.
Coach and triathlete MaryBeth Moore wrote about a similar experience:
I was doing an off-the-bike run (a triathlon training workout in which you do a run immediately after riding your bike) around the lower loop of Central Park. I was focused on my own workout when a Subject M appeared and a scenario similar to the one described above ensued. He had been panting next to me for about 30 seconds when I turned to look at his sweaty, red little face and said: “You just can’t bear to be chicked, huh?”
Then, I gave him a thumbs-up and jacked the pace to a sub 5:30-mile. The guy wasn’t going to give in right away, so I played a mental game with him for about a mile getting progressively faster until he finally just dropped off.
(By the way, I agree with Moore’s assessment that things like this have a way of becoming dueling egos, which serves no one in the end and in fact makes people more likely to sustain serious injuries over what is ultimately silliness. Seriously, people, check your egos when you come to play!)
It would be easy to make fun of these guys, and maybe with the really boorish assholes, I would, but I think that in most cases the guys are bumping against the really tiny, narrow constraints of masculinity in our society and are not sure how to deal. Check out this letter from a guy who wanted to know how to handle the blows his self-esteem took each time he was bested by his lady friend in a physical contest:
I am in a great relationship with a wonderful woman. We have many interests in common and we love doing sports (running, skiing, biking) together. Unfortunately, I get “chicked” by my girlfriend a lot. When she beats me in a race, I tend to get distant with her. I want her to accomplish her goals, but how do I balance her lofty achievements against my self esteem? Sincerely, Bruised ego
I don’t know, yo. It’s not easy to be a person in this society, not with all of the rules and expectations place upon us with regards to the kinds of achievements we can have and the kind of personalities we can develop and the ways our bodies can look. And when you are a man in a culture that says to be a man is to be able to physically dominate all women, and yet you find yourself consistently on the “wrong” side of that equation, it has got to mess with your ideas about yourself as a man. So I have some sympathy, I really do.
But my sympathy ends when it comes to guys who use this as a way to shame other men. Brian and I were talking about the concept of a woman “chicking” a man, and he brought up a half-marathon in which he was feeling a bit winded and run down at mile 10, when this younger woman came running up from behind him, looking strong and fresh. He ended up pacing himself off her through most of the rest of the race, at which point she outkicked him across the finish line. No shame in that, right? The camaraderie of racers, pitching in to help each other wring the best possible performances out of each other? It’s a beautiful thing!
Not so to the men Brian told this story to. He said he still recalled very clearly the derisive snorts that came from one of those men as he mentioned the girl running faster than him. The snorter was an out-of-shape smoker who probably couldn’t have run a single block without keeling over from cardiac arrest, yet he still felt superior, not just to the lady runner but also to Brian.
Want to see another example of this? Check out this runner, who reacted to being “chicked” while on his long run by saying the woman was either on steroids, a cyborg or a man. (By the way, I hate to say this, but anyone who is running at a pace of 8:50/mile should probably be used to getting passed by women at this point.)
Fortunately, lots of guys, like Brian, reject this silliness. (Here’s another one.) Interestingly enough, athletic men tend to be way more accepting of the prowess of their lady counterparts than are non-athletic men (which is something I’ve remarked upon before). It’s very simple, really – if you are secure in yourself in a human being, you won’t have to boost your self-esteem by dominating people you perceive as weaker than you.