Here's an excerpt from a blog post (click for the original) in which a runner, Chelsinki, describes stripping down to her jogbra - or so I understand her - midway through a serious trail run:
"I promised myself if I didn't stop I would allow myself to take the descent shirtless... As promised I removed my shirt, which was one of the most liberating, freeing, glorious parts of my run. However, after running into a couple out hiking, I put it back on out of self-consciousness. I still am not sure where I (a petite, fit, LADY runner) fit into shirtless running etiquette. I know whenever I see a hairy, out of shape, shirtless man running, I think, "just because you can, doesn't mean you should". However, I do believe there is a place for shirtless running (i.e. the trail), I just have to figure out where I draw the line, or I guess remove my shirt."
- from 'Running... Cycling... Etc' (now known as 'Surfing the Stars').
Well, as I see it, runners in jogbras should be accorded all the freedom, and exercise the same sense of responsibility and decorum, as their shirtless male counterparts. I would NOT reiterate this statement without qualification if we were discussing those jurisdictions where women have the legal protection to run bare-chested: Tenaciously-rooted social mores make things a little more complicated. But if we stick to the jogbra scenario, I don't see why women should not feel themselves at liberty to strip down - and indeed, I should say should strip down, for the sorts of health-, comfort- and camaraderie- related reasons salted throughout the posts of this blog.
Still, having lived in various parts of the world, I find it a general fact that a smaller proportion of female runners dares to bare, in comparison to men. Though we ought to understand the issue entirely as exercise-defined, it is often conflated with allegations of promiscuity, flirtiness and immodesty. Where a shirtless woman is potentially at risk of bodily harm or serious irritation, discretion and a campaign of 'sensitisation' would seem the better part of valour. Ideally, she would go jogbraed only with a male runner in escort - also shirtless, in solidarity. My suspicion is that, over time, residents would become accustomed to seeing such a pioneer in the vicinity, notice no drastic collapse in the moral tenor of the community and eventually become sufficiently accepting that she can run on her own in safety. Naturally, the more of such 'shirtless pairings' dare to venture out, the sooner the walls of distrust and excessive reserve can be worn down.
For most women likely to read this post, thankfully, the sort of constraints they feel would be of a lesser degree. So why not be thankful that the jogbra option is available without need for extreme measures, and then try it out? Expect occasional wolf whistles, catcalls and other expressions of male attention, but to the extent to which these do not actively encourage one (and why not!), such incidents would form only a drop in an ocean of what I can promise is a generally positive, or at least indifferent, reception.
[Here ends Part One of this focus on jogbraed running. Part Two will offer some tips on how to summon up that initial courage]
May 2015: First up, though I still try to put up blog content whenever I can, it has been easier to more regularly visit the the Twitterverse. Follow me at @barethomas10 and let's keep the shirtless running flag flying. Of course, the blog still attracts very interesting comments, and good discussion. Keep it up.
Second, in the years since this venture launched, and as shirtless running among women has gone increasingly mainstream, the term "jogbra" has clearly declined in use. I will thus prefer "sportsbra" henceforth - as has already been the case on Twitter, and in recent posts here.
I continue to welcome guest posts (sent to email@example.com) on any related topic, including from those who would discourage stripping to the waist. I am myself of course a fervent convert to the joys of running bare. But let all voices be heard!