It has been an historic few weeks for women in Ireland, a time when many described feeling like equal citizens of their own country for the first time. For some participants in Sunday's VHI Women's Mini Marathon – said to be the largest all-woman event of its kind in the world – there was a special air of celebration, which was about more than the 23 degree temperatures.
That feeling seems to have lasted right up until the moment they opened their complimentary goody bags – and found themselves the recipient of a free dishwasher tablet and a coupon for €1 off Persil. “Try me,” the banner on the tablet bellowed.
“Well done ladies,” it seemed to say. “Why not go home and celebrate by putting a big, greasy load in the dishwasher?”
#VHIWMM pic.twitter.com/S6araP6wsN— VhiWMM (@VhiWMM) June 4, 2018
A week after we #Repealedthe8th - the most momentous act for equality and freedom in the history of the state, #VHIWMM thought this was appropriate for the goodie bag. Not impressed #VHIMiniMarathon, not impressed. pic.twitter.com/QXZS6p38Fj— Gaye Edwards (@BrennanGaye) June 3, 2018
Women's mini marathon goodie bag had a dishwasher table and some washing powder in it, which I think I'll feck at the next person who says "Well done, geeeerls".#VHIWMM— Fiona Kenny (@FionaKenny1) June 3, 2018
Can’t wait to go home and do the dishes and the laundry. Thanks guys @VhiWMM #everydaysexism #disappointed #VHIMiniMarathon pic.twitter.com/ZoACKPVhAr— April Keane (@keaneapril) June 3, 2018
Had a great day running with 30,000 women at #VHIWMM #VHIMiniMarathon. This was the first thing I pulled out of my goody bag. Why was this considered an appropriate freebie when @UnileverUKI have so many other products? #tonedeaf pic.twitter.com/AAGtOiEtCn— Dominique Cleary (@clearez) June 3, 2018
If the participants in the #VHIWMM are offended by the dishwasher tablets in their goodie bags, I'll happily take them off their hands as I am a feminist but also broke and I like free stuff.— Lindsay (@linzer_c) June 4, 2018
The selection of gifts was so tone deaf that it seemed for a brief moment it might in fact have been a subversive tribute to 1983, the year of the first Mini Marathon, and a reminder of how far women have come in the 35 years since. All it was lacking was a pair of rubber gloves and maybe a floral housecoat for the full Biddy from Glenroe treatment – surely it had to be a joke?
But no – it turned out that the reason for the anachronistic freebies was more prosaic. The organisers said on Facebook that it was simple a question of logistics – finding goods for the bag gets harder every year with "over 30,000 of each to source", but that it would reconsider all aspects of the race bag in future.
“Thanks for all your feedback on our race bag contents. Each year we try our best to get lots of freebies for our entrants’ cause we know you love them. Our job gets harder each year with over 30,000 of each to source – that’s over 200,000 items for one day ! We, the race organisers, source them through a supplier company not through our sponsors. We appreciate your feedback and will reconsider all aspects of the race bag for the future,” said a post on the VHI Mini Marathon Facebook page.
A statement posted on Twitter said that “we understand that some participants were unhappy with the inclusion of dishwasher tablets and laundry detergent samples in the race bag, equally we have received positive feedback from the majority of the 30,000 women who took part in the event. We have included similar items in previous years, which have been well received, but understand the concerns raised by some women given the context.”
On Twitter, there wasn’t much evidence of that positive feedback for the loot -- which also included more welcome green tea, packaged fruit and chocolate -- with descriptions ranging from “tone deaf” and “ill timed” to “everyday sexism”.
"I don't even own a dishwasher. I prefer to wash the dishes in a stream where I also scrub the clothes on a rock," said participant Fiona Kenny on Twitter.