Last week the media was aflutter with the news that the Boston Marathon was formally inviting transvestites to compete. If you wondered who to thank for this latest example of progress, you can thank chivalry. As the Boston Herald explains in Boston Marathon pioneer hails trans ruling today’s progress can be tied back to 1967, when the first woman defied race officials:
Kathrine Switzer endured more than snow squalls and low temps during the 1967 Boston Marathon. Steely No. 261 fought to stay on track while fellow runners pushed her, angry that a woman dared to join the male-dominated race.
Five decades later, the first female Boston marathoner celebrates Sunday’s breakthrough decision to accept openly transgender women.
Switzer’s triumph was made possible by multiple acts of chivalry, but the most overt chivalrous act came when race co director Jock Semple tried to remove her official race number:
John Duncan “Jock” Semple (October 26, 1903 – March 10, 1988) was a Scottish-American runner, physical therapist, trainer, and sports official. In 1967, he attained worldwide notoriety as a race official for the Boston Marathon, when he attempted to tear off the number of Kathrine Switzer, who was officially entered despite a ban on female competitors.
Switzer describes the scene in her own account:
A big man, a huge man, with bared teeth was set to pounce, and before I could react he grabbed my shoulder and flung me back, screaming, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” Then he swiped down my front, trying to rip off my bib number, just as I leapt backward from him. He missed the numbers, but I was so surprised and frightened that I slightly wet my pants and turned to run. But now the man had the back of my shirt and was swiping at the bib number on my back.
It would have ended there, and Switzer wouldn’t have been able to finish the race as a numbered contestant, were it not for the chivalry of her football playing boyfriend, Big Tom Miller. At that moment, Big Tom literally tackled the patriarchy:
I felt unable to flee, like I was rooted there, and indeed I was, because the man, this Jock guy, had me by the shirt. Then a flash of orange flew past and hit Jock with a cross-body block. It was Big Tom, in the orange Syracuse sweatshirt. There was a thud—whoomph!—and Jock was airborne. He landed on the roadside like a pile of wrinkled clothes.
With that one act, Big Tom brought the Boston Marathon’s 70 year history as a race for men to a close. Now, 51 years later, the race finally officially welcomes trans runners. None of this would be possible without the chivalry of Big Tom and men like him.
The same is true for the progress that has been made in the church. Only an unchivalrous man would tell a woman she couldn’t teach, or divorce her husband, or have children out of wedlock, etc. If you’ve ever spoken out against feminism in the church, you’ve no doubt had an experience similar to Jock Semple, albeit with a metaphorical tackling instead of a literal one. But what matters is the impulse is the same. Feminism has relied on the chivalrous impulse every step of the way, even as feminists have expressed contempt for chivalry.
Laughably conservatives have assumed all along that they would appease the feminist impulse by engaging in more and more chivalry. When women complained about the patriarchy, men chivalrously offered women the vote. When women responded by complaining louder, more concessions were made. Women complained that it wasn’t fair that they were excluded from the military, so men chivalrously opened first the military, and then combat, to women. After all, what kind of a man would say no to a woman? Can’t they see that she is upset? This is true even though chivalry says only men should fight. Modern day chivalrous men square this circle by pretending that other (cowardly) men are somehow forcing women to fight in their place.
We are to this day still stuck in this same pattern, with conservatives still believing that one more chivalrous push will finally win the war against feminism.
Related: They had a good run.