Running event in Spain sparks sexism storm over women's prizes

Organisers of the event have hit back after the sexism backlash.

·4-min read
Seen here, a competitor crosses the finish line in the Carrera de la Mujer women 's running race in Madrid.
The winner of a major women's running event in Madrid was awarded a food processor, sparking accusations of sexism from critics. Pic: AAP/Twitter

Organisers of a women's running race in Spain have been forced to apologise after the prizes they awarded the female competitors sparked a sexism storm across social media. The 7km Carrera de la Mujer in Madrid offered a food processor - donated by a sponsor - as the winning prize for the women's race.

The food processor controversy went largely unnoticed until Spain's secretary of state for equality, Ángela Rodríguez Pam, tweeted that the winner had received the kitchen appliance and others were given 0% fat products. “If you win: housewife and if not at least you'll lose weight,” Rodríguez Pam ironically posted.

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The Madrid race coincided with Spain's Mother's Day, and supports domestic violence and cancer survivors. It is also held in other cities across Spain. Serbian national Ivana Zagorac was the winner of the Madrid race and the proud new owner of the food processor, clocking in first in a time of 24 minutes and seven seconds in an amateur event in which 32,000 women participated.

Following backlash over the prizes on offer for the women's race, organisers issued a statement on Twitter saying they hadn't considered the kitchen appliance would have sexist implications. “We apologise but we consider this a product with no sexist character and ideal for any athlete who wants to improve their nutritional habits," the statement said.

“We regret if any woman felt offended.” The organisers promised to "take measures" to avoid similar incidents in the future. While many critics took to social media to slam officials over the prizes, others argued that the food processor gift should not be considered sexist.

Spain at centre of several sexism scandals

It's not the first time Spanish sport has been embroiled in a sexism controversy in recent days, with tennis officials at the Madrid Open coming under fire for a number of incidents. The tournament attracted recent criticism for its practice of replacing ball-kids with female models, outfitted in noticeably more skimpy attire than anywhere else on tour.

Madrid Open organisers changed the outfits for their ball girls after being slammed for being sexist. (Getty Images)
Madrid Open organisers changed the outfits for their ball girls after being slammed for being sexist. (Getty Images)

Organisers ultimately responded to the uproar by dressing the women in more conservative attire for the back end of the tournament. Debate also erupted among fans after Spanish World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz was presented with a comically large cake to celebrate his birthday after a match on centre court, with fans noticing the eventual women's champion Aryna Sabalenka had been given a noticeably smaller cake by organisers on her special day.

Sabalenka toppled Iga Swiatek in the women's singles final, with tournament boss Feliciano Lopez looking notably unimpressed when Swiatek made mention in her speech that two of her matches had ended past 1am local time. It culminated in none of the women's doubles finalists - Gauff, Pegula, Victoria Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad-Maia - being permitted to speak after the match.

None of the four women's doubles finalists said they had been told why they weren't allowed to make a speech - with Gauff writing on Twitter afterwards that she 'wasn't given a chance to speak'. Pegula added to Gauff's tweet with a 'lips zipped' emoji, while Azarenka said it had been 'hard to explain' to her young son why she wasn't able to say hello to him after the match.

The drama understandably led to plenty of outrage on social media, with Aussie tennis icon Rennae Stubbs labelling it a "disgrace" and Tunisian star Ons Jabeur saying it was "unacceptable" the women's doubles finalists were not given the same opportunity to speak as their male counterparts. "So unfortunate that you were not given a chance to address the crowd and your opponents. This is sad and unacceptable," she wrote.

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