website statistics

The Great Pussy Controversy: Are Some Runners Too Lame For Certain Brands of Clothing and Gear?

Posted by on Mar 23, 2012 | 30 Comments

Nice title, huh? :-)

Wednesday was a travel day for us.  By the time we reached our campground, I was too tired to check the Interwebz.  The next day, I was perusing Facebook and came across an apology from my friend Vanessa.  Apparently she had written a post that offended a bunch of runners.  The gist of the post can be summed up in her apology.

Before I begin my rant, I want to go on record as fully supporting Vanessa’s opinions and am dismayed she was compelled to post an apology.I see exactly where she was going with her initial post and don’t find it offensive at all.  In fact, I think those that were offended are simply projecting their own inadequacies.

Elitist Marketing

I’m not a big fan of branded clothing and gear, so I had never heard of Pearl Izumi. Their website seemed pretty tame (code for “about as boring as BRU).  Then I found this:

http://www.wearenotjoggers.com/book.html

Read through the book.

How did it make you feel?  Did you identify with the runner being described?  Or were you deeply offended?

For me, the book struck a chord… in a good way.  It’s no secret I love long-distance running.  On trails.  In mountains.  Far away from civilization.

The Pearl Izumi booklet spoke to me.  Hell, it made me want to support the company by buying some of their gear.

The marketing campaign is certainly geared toward a specific crowd.  Is that a bad thing?  And should people be offended by this?

The Plight of Overly Sensitive Tools

All companies exist to sell products.  The marketing campaigns are designed to do just that.  Pearl Izumi appears to be a relatively small company.  It would be smart for them to market to a specific niche.  They clearly defined their niche market.

That’s business 101.

So why did people get offended by their marketing campaign (and Vanessa’s post by extension)?

I suspect it has to do with the wussification of our society.  Somewhere along the line we decided we have a right to consume anything and everything surrounding us, including marketing messages.  We also decided we have the right to bitch about anything and everything that offends us. We decided we have to launch a moral crusade to assure we live in a world free of divisive messages.  We have to sterilize our world so everyone can be nice and average.

Back in the day if we encountered a message that offended us, we simply chose to ignore it.  Better yet, we mocked it with satire.  We certainly didn’t launch an anger-filled rant about the offensiveness of the message.  For example, Sketchers has produced some laughable ads lately.  The ads talk about a “midfoot” strike but clearly show a heel strike.  Do I get offended?  Hell no!  I make fun of them.  Oh, how I miss the days when this was standard operating procedure.

Again, how did you respond to the PI booklet?  If the booklet described you as a runner, odds are good you liked it.  What about those of you that are the “joggers” described repeatedly?  If I fell into that latter category, I think I would simply chuckle.  “Yep, that pretty much sums up me as a runner.”

Somewhere we lost that ability to laugh at ourselves.  Somewhere we decided to allow ourselves to be offended at trivial matters.  We’ve decided to let anger control our behaviors instead of humor and playfulness.  Somewhere we’ve become a society of overly-sensitive tools.

Worried you’re falling into this “wussification” trap?  Here are some tips to climb out of that abyss:

1. Learn to discriminate between generalizations and messages directed specifically at you.  As humans, we see ourselves as the center of the universe.  We automatically attach personal relevance to everything around us.  When we read a marketing message, we feel it’s directed at us.  In reality, the marketing campaigns are written for large groups.  Stop taking things personally when they’re directed toward groups.

2. Identify your weaknesses.  Make a list of you strengths and weaknesses.  Give the list to a trusted friend.  Have them make a few jokes about your weaknesses.  This will desensitize you to being overly sensitive to your own inadequacies.  Accept your weaknesses.  Own them, don’t let them own you.

3. Learn to ignore irrelevant messages.  If a message isn’t intended for you or your group, simply ignore it.  You don’t have to cleanse the world of offensive materials.  I see tons of deeply offensive messages on a daily basis, from billboards to magazine ads to radio to television.  Do I care?  Absolutely not.  Why?  The messages aren’t directed toward me.  As such, I choose to ignore them.

4. Learn to laugh at yourself.  If a message DOES directly offend me or a group I identify with, I simply laugh it off.  People always poke fun at me for a variety of reasons- I run barefoot, am a marginal writer, dress poorly, live in an RV, am sometimes socially-awkward, wear inappropriately short shorts, hate road running, have an irrational phone phobia… the list could go on and on.  I’m secure enough to not be angered if someone mocks any of my inadequacies.

If you were offended by the Pearl Izumi book or Vanessa’s original post, shame on you.  Follow the steps above.  Most of all, toughen up and develop thicker skin.

Thoughts?

###

Be Sociable, Share!
Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts

30 Comments

  1. Adolfo Neto
    March 25, 2012

    Maybe the guys at Pearl Izumi should read this:

    Want speed? Slow down!
    Dr. Philip Maffetone

    http://content.bandzoogle.com/users/cippianhotmail/files/Want_Speed_Slow_Down_2007.pdf

  2. Thomas
    March 25, 2012

    I might be over sensitive on this topic? But learning from history it is never a good idea to divide people into different groups and then to claim that one group is better than the others. Who are we to judge whether a individual is a “jogger” or a “runner”?? And whether that is good or bad?
    Sure – this is no more than marketing bullshit. But there is a link to the dark sides of human nature. I don’t like that!

  3. Heather
    March 24, 2012

    “Veronica and I are trying this new fad called, uh, jogging. I believe it’s jogging or yogging. It might be a soft “j”. I’m not sure, but apparently you just run…for an extended period of time. It’s supposed to be wild.” – Ron Burgandy

    Sorry, I’ve been trying to follow all of these reactions to the PI ads/Vanessa’s post, and that’s all I can think of ;)

    I run for *me* and no one else, so they can call it what they want (most call it crazy), doesn’t matter to me.

  4. Fred
    March 24, 2012

    Thought the P.I. ad was awesome but I’d a runner so that was a given. Particularly loved the bit about listening to music while you run! haha I totally agree. Shame Pearl Izumi doesn’t make minimalist shoes (I hate the term barefoot shoes). And totally agree with you post. People need to “nut up or shut up” as well as liken up!

  5. Barefoot Running University » Censoring Offensive Materials: An Issue That Forces Me To Side With Rush Limbaugh
    March 24, 2012

    [...] On a more personal level, the issue sprung up when my friend Vanessa was compelled to issue an apology for her commentary on some marketing from an apparel company.  A handful of people were offended by her post.  Instead of simply ignoring it, they attempted to get her fired even though her blog and her employer are in no way related.  The people that objected attempted to censor her.  I followed up with my thoughts on the psychology of the people that were offended in this post. [...]

  6. Erik
    March 24, 2012

    I run for fitness, alone, don’t race, don’t know how many minutes exactly it takes me to run a mile, have a jogging stroller, like running by lakes and rivers, have never run more than 10 miles at a time (although I’m thinking of changing that), and so on, so I guess I’m a jogger right? But I prefer to think of it as chasing my demons. I’m a barefoot demon-chaser.

    As for ads, I’ve been successfully ignoring them for a long time. It’s really easy, especially if you only watch TV when the NFL play-offs are on. That’s when I do my catching up on American pop culture. On the ‘net, I focus on the middle of the screen, block almost all the cookies, and don’t let anyone track me, etc. It’s not hard.

    And besides, before I learned about the barefoot running community, when I returned Stateside in 2010, my perception of serious runners was not too favorable. So there was little attraction in thinking of myself as a runner, although I love running more than any other fitness activity.

    But I think your general point is spot-on: lighten up. Life is a cosmic joke, and you’re the butt of it.

  7. Two Runners, a Jogger and a Cry-Baby: How a Bad Advertisement Became a Good Motivator « Barefoot Monologues
    March 23, 2012

    [...] Vanessa wasn’t the only person who had something to say about Pearl Izumi. Jason Robillard writes that people who are offended by such advertising are just being babies (his usual logical stance, [...]

  8. MIranda
    March 23, 2012

    I wasn’t offended by the ad. It didn’t make me feel defensive, or inspired, or angry, or vindicated. But like so much of what passes for communication I found it rather mean-spirited. Building someone up, even if it’s just to encourage them to buy your product, by putting others down is a pretty poor approach.

  9. Dave Goulette
    March 23, 2012

    I understand having a strong reaction to her post but I don’t understand why people go to such extremes in their reactions. I appreciate her candor.

    Off topic: Jason I just saw on ZombieRunner’s site that you are coming on April 7th to Palo Alto and I have already invited 3 of my running friends. So excited to meet you.

  10. Bryan M
    March 23, 2012

    Bill Maher had similar thoughts on the recent Rush Limbaugh debacle:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/opinion/please-stop-apologizing.html?_r=4

  11. Nick
    March 23, 2012

    Very well put Jason, and I agree with you that we are a sensitive lot. The one thing I don’t agree with though is that companies used to be less offensive than they are now to the general public. That said, toughen up people and quit being so sensitive.

  12. Scott
    March 23, 2012

    Isn’t PI selling running *shoes*? Isn’t this a barefoot running site?! I think people who wear shoes, especially PI’s, while running are pussies!

    Just kidding! Don’t tase me blogosphere! I thought Vanessa’s take on the ad was pretty good. She admitted she was slow, but thanked them for including her in the “runners” group.

    Personally, I think PI’s ad campaign is a pretty lame attempt to build an “elite” brand. But then again I could care less about pseudo-categorization of runners or their marketing in general (I had never heard of the company before this “controversy”). I run for reasons only important to one person – me.

  13. Brian G
    March 23, 2012

    Pearl Izumi is no small company by any means. It started over 50 years ago in Japan and is one of the biggest cycling apparel companies in the world, producing very good quality stuff. It seems they’re branching out into other exercise clothing.

    Now as for the post, how about all those sensitive types stop thinking the world is all about them and move on. I’m mean really. Don’t be a ninny.

    And where the heck did “jog” come from anyways? If I’m moving with a running gait then I’m running. It doesn’t matter if I’m moving slower than someone walking by, I’m still running. If someone asks me if I jog I reply that I run.

  14. Gina
    March 23, 2012

    Jason, I love this post! I think your 4 tips for avoiding “wussification” are just good advice for life in general. One of the most important moments in my life came when a teacher in 9th grade finally got me to see how ridiculous I was and got me to laugh at myself. I’ve been a happier person ever since. Find your own groove and don’t expect the entire world to validate your choices. You damn well better be able to validate them yourself or you’re going to waste a lot of time being pissed off. Thanks for a great post!

  15. Andy
    March 23, 2012

    I think PI strikes a brilliant chord with this particular ad campaign. It’s obvious that they’re trying to appeal to the serious, obsessive, mile-counting, vertical gain tracking, run because it’s “what you do” kind of runners, and not their recreational “I ate too much Ben & Jerry’s” cousins. It deliberately separates the indulgent from the light-hearted hobbyist. For a brand that fits a small niche already (and maintains pretty killer list of sponsored endurance athletes)they’re most likely not alienating anyone who would be interested in their product. Those of us who would be interested, on the other hand, are most likely not offended, but increasingly motivated, which means I need more shoes and split shorts, to… you know, spend less time doing laundry, and more time racking up the miles.

    • Trav1sty
      March 23, 2012

      I wasn’t sure what to think going into the ad. There was such a build up from this and Vanessa’s post but the truth is. I was moved by it. It makes me want to run more. They are talking to a particular person and we know who we are when we read the advertising. We run because it’s a part of us, at our core.

  16. Paul
    March 23, 2012

    Great post Jason, I was dumbfounded about the whole thing also. I think most the people who got butthurt were the ones who are insecure about themselves. They have not enlightened themselves from within yet and are still working out their problems from the past.

  17. HeatherW
    March 23, 2012

    The only thing I’m offended by is the use of the word “pussy” to describe cowards. I have one of these parts and it’s pretty tough. Two babies came out of it and it still works.

    • Wiglaf
      March 23, 2012

      I’m of the opinion that the word got misplaced and misapplied. I think it’s a shortened version of the word “pusillanimous.”

      • HeatherW
        March 23, 2012

        Whoa! Now there’s a word I’d never heard of before.

        I always thought calling a guy a “pussy” was equating him with being female.

        • Ken Bird
          March 24, 2012

          pusillanimous
          adjective
          with the tough issues facing this city, the last thing we need is another pusillanimous mayor: timid, timorous, cowardly, fearful, faint-hearted, lily-livered, spineless, craven, shrinking; informal chicken, gutless, wimpy, wimpish, sissy, yellow, yellow-bellied. ANTONYMS brave.

          And I always thought it had something to do with boxing.

  18. Angie bee
    March 23, 2012

    It’s hard to ignore the barrage of marketing that comes at us in this glorious information age but practicing our own inner filter is a must or like what was demonstrated in the response to Vanessa, people let their stress and inadequacies take the lead and we become mean and hateful beings and that’s not good for anyone.

    This whole thing reminds me of Syndrome in The Incredibles. ” if we all were super then no one would be”

  19. Robin Ashton
    March 23, 2012

    TOTALLY.AGREE. i loved Vanessa’s post and i love those ads. i sometimes jog (i call it “bopping along” in my running log and i have no set miles to do, just chilling). and i run, a lot. when i run, i push it hard, i tear up ravines, race down hills, crash through creeks and slam that heart rate through the roof and i have a mileage goal. there is a difference in the intensity, im not talking speed, im talking effort and planning and goals. if you are a jogger, own it, you dont have a race goal and you are enjoying what you are doing, great, go for it. but dont you dare make others apologize for your inadequacies when you get offended by someone who approaches the sport with more intensity and drive. that is what makes you a pussy

  20. Viper
    March 23, 2012

    I got called a “barefoot jogger” last week. Then they told me about those toe shoes. Double whammy! The nerve of some people!

  21. Shacky
    March 23, 2012

    AS anyone who knows me can verify, I jog about 80% of the time. I really don’t like pushing my boundaries and putting myself into forced hardship. But do I consider myself a jogger? Of course not. Would I be offended being labeled a jogger? Perhaps, but what’s the big deal?
    I found the PI ads to be quite humorous (even back in 2007 when they first came out)and am saddened that they pulled the new one poking fun of marathoners.
    I believe we as minimalist runners pay little heed to what others say about us because we’ve all been made fun of for it at one point or another and are accustomed to it now. I still get silly comments about the sandals and the kilt whenever I run but I love what I’m doing so why make a fuss about what others think?

  22. Trish Reeves
    March 23, 2012

    I think I got a little offended by the Pearl Izumi messages. But in a good way. I saw it as a challenge, almost. It was almost daring me to do better, to run faster, to stop being such a….well…pussy about running, the way I am sometimes.

    At the same time, I took with a grain of salt the part of the message that told me running shouldn’t be fun. In my head I made fun of that part. I thought, “okay, maybe I’m a pussy jogger, but YOU are a stiff, boring a$$hole who must be trying to make up for your inadequacies by putting down people who don’t run as fast as you.”

    And then I laughed, because I know the secret to enjoying running, and they don’t. Hey – we all have our downfalls.

    I thought Vanessa was spot on with her analysis, because it’s hers. I wouldn’t fault her if she stood face to face with me and called me a slow, chubby hobby-jogga who can’t even run a marathon. Because it’s TRUE! And I respect Vanessa so she can sling truths at me all day long. Turns out not everyone feels the same way about her.

    Damn shame.

  23. Franklin Chen
    March 23, 2012

    So I took a look at “We are not joggers”. I found it annoying.

    For the record, I have never called myself a “jogger” or referred to my activity as “jogging”. Not even when I was thirty pounds heavier and couldn’t make it around the block with both feet simultaneously not touching the ground.

    When I started running, it was running. I suppose I could have called it “recreational running”.

    I am less worried about “joggers” than about the fact that a couple of days ago I was running in the park and some boys no older than ten yelled at me “Run, Forrest, Run!” The way I see it, the more people “jog”, the fewer of these incidents would happen. Maybe I’m changing the subject, or maybe not?

  24. Wiglaf
    March 23, 2012

    I do both running and yogging* and I try to throw a bit of parkour in there as well. It’s wild! The book struck a chord with me, too. I liked the page turning function :-)

    “Veronica and I trying this new fad called uh, jogging. I believe it’s jogging or yogging. it might be a soft j. I’m not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It’s supposed to be wild.” – Ron Burgundy

    • Heather
      March 24, 2012

      HA, I just quoted the same thing. Great minds…

  25. Fitz
    March 23, 2012

    I love the Pearl Izumi ads, I’ve had one up in my cube for a couple years. They make me want to out and have fun, not slag through some boring chore to keep the waistline down. Even if it is the same 5 mile loop I’ve run 100 times i feel encouraged to go out and engage the activity, run like I am taking part in it, and not taking short cuts and cheating myself or being lazy. I missed Vanessa’s post, it’s no surprised that someone was offended by someone supporting something that them they aren’t trying hard enough.