Dirty Girls

I have always thought Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs was missing something. Last weekend I figured it out. Just because we’ve found shelter, safety and food, and are on our way to the “self actualization” emotions at the top of the pyramid, we’re still attached in some primal way to the basic survival instincts. Our hardwired primal urges linger inside, albeit as mutations that just seem weird to outsiders. Take football, or anything else involving spectators emotionally involved as sport participants clash. Whether your think the sport is played with a round or elongated ball, there are millions and millions of humans across the globe who follow and flock to the games (electronically or in person). Why do fans dress in their team’s uniforms, haul outdoor cookery, fill ice chests and drive team-painted mobile homes each weekend to college parking lots to watch their favorite gladiators in the fall? Is there somewhere in our brains the need to connect with the fight for survival even if it isn’t necessary?

There are some interesting events popping up, such as Tough Mudder labeled “The Premier Obstacle Course in the World.” Way beyond Iron Man, these events combine physical challenges and comraderie:

To get through mud, fire, ice-water, and 10,000 volts of electricity you’ll need teammates to pick you up when your spirits dip.

I’ve just been introduced to the latest version of surrogate combat – the Dirty Girl events – except there’s no combat, and no winner. The 5K grassy course is set up on acres owned by a shooting range (yeah, there were Hunger Games comments). Most of the women trot around in tutus while confronting 11 obstacles such as water pools, an inflatable mountain, wall climb and things to crawl under. I participated in the San Antonio event last weekend with “The Valhallas,” a group of women with grown children (I’m 3rd from left). Why did we (over 7,000 women) do this Saturday?

I spoke to many of the participants before, during and after the “race” at the food court, shopping tent and at the after party tailgates (really). For those who had a sincere connection with breast cancer, their reasons sounded just like the reasons given at other charitable runs I’ve attended in the past. Many brought families, and there were lots of boyfriends with cameras and fathers with children in strollers watching along the course. To most, though, their reasons echoed the desire for a girls-day-out with challenges and funny photos.

I told a few of my friends who are presently in military service about the event, and they justifiably questioned my sanity or laughed at me. These friends are women who have succeeded in the Army and Air Force, gone through real boot camp, and are dealing with injuries incurred during service to their country. My answers to them were so lame, and so all through the event I kept trying to figure out why everybody else was there. The only answer that makes any sense is that deep down in our brains is a need to PROVE we can survive, and do so as a tribe, especially when not threatened with the alternative.

There are 69 Dirty Girl US events listed on the website this coming year. Here’s an estimate of the revenue collected at the San Antonio event last weekend: 7,000 participants (according to an email to registrants) x $75/participant = $525,000 + concessions + merch (logo’d apparel like “French terry lounge pants for $40), totes, headware, drinkware, and lip balm). Projecting forward for the rest of the year: $525,000 x 69 = $36,225,000.

To its credit, the Dirty Girl events contribute to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. The website states that their charitable goal is $1.5 million this year, which, if my calculations are correct, would be about 4% of their 2012 revenue:

In 2012, it is the goal of Dirty Girl to provide the National Breast Cancer Foundation with over $250,000 in monetary and in-kind support. In 2013, our goal is to deliver over $1,500,000 in support to NBCF. In addition, Dirty Girl will continue providing cancer survivors free registration at each event.

For the record, The National Breast Cancer Foundation is highly rated by the Charity Navigator. (67, which compares favorably to the Red Cross’s 59)

Looks like there are promising business and charitable opportunities for organizations benefiting from humans who need these Weekend Warrior buddy challenges. So I was thinking… What if we just send everybody who wanted to wage war to one big Tough Mudder/Dirty Girl event, maybe add in Rollerball intrigue or Dick Cheney, and save all the military spending and civilian deaths? Did somebody say TV rights?

Suz Korbel

Susan Korbel

Graduating in '71 from Cornell gave me a few unencumbered years of protesting, followed by 4 happy hipster grad student/worker years at U of Michigan, completing a Ph.D. in public administration. Followed a comedian to San Francisco, then my heart to Austin Texas to learn the TV business, dabbled in hot&heavy politics in DC, and returned to Austin & San Antonio, Texas to hone my political/media skills. I make my money conducting consumer and political opinion studies.

  1. Frank Povah

    Wouldn’t work Susan – they’d need to get their bespoke camouflage oufits dirty and that would look bad at the press conference/cocktail event afterwards.

  2. Susan, if you want to test your survival skills, try the extreme
    sports of foxhunting or eventing. It’s a blast.Galloping across country at speed, staying on your horse’s back as he leaps ditches and solid obstacles that don’t fall down if you hit them will have you saying, I can’t believe I just did that and
    lived. Looking good afterwards is never a problem. A cute hat will cover your
    helmet hair.

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