Women & Cycling – When will the Media & Marketplace WAKE UP?

I looked at a web site that another member indicated is having a contest.  The contest consists of having you log your miles for a chance at drawings of their materials.  Naturally, I was curious what materials they have for women.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  Unfortunately though, this problem is all too common amongst the cycling marketplace and media.

The men are shown all looking rough, tough and “manly”.  Beyond that, they are shown on their real road bikes.  You’d expect that, right?  Of course.

Ahhh but here’s where it gets interesting.  Where and how are the women shown and represented?  Standing next to…a commuter-type bike.  There’s not a single shot of a woman on or even near a road bike…or a mountain or CX bike for that matter.  Furthermore, there’s not even a single shot of a woman actually riding any bike.  Not one.

That’s not all, either.

Next of the cycling vest, shorts and arm warmers aimed at road biking women, there’s no picture showing a woman wearing any of these products.  Really?  They could do all these great shots of men in the myriad of get-up created for them but not deign to offer a single picture of a woman wearing any of their respective road biking apparel?  Well…of what little they offer…

It still doesn’t end there.

The accessory items are the “cherry on top”.  Last time I went for a ride in the cold and was wearing arm warmers, a head cover and, perhaps, a scarf, I wasn’t wearing a sleeveless, feathered vest.  Furthermore if I’m in need of a scarf, I’m not going to be wearing a short-sleeved sweater that’s pushed up on one side to make it look like it is sleeveless, while the other side drops off and bears my other shoulder.

So, how are the women portrayed on this site?  As sex symbols.  As objects.  If you were to visit this site not having real knowledge of women and cycling, you might think that real women don’t “do” road biking, mountain biking, work up a sweat or, heaven forbid, ever get dirty.  Really?  In what century is this vendor living?  Certainly not in this one…or the last one, either!

Sure, I’ve been taking a single vendor “to task” but only as an example because I see this type of portrayal all the time.  It’s frustrating and infuriating.   That’s why I left the vendor’s name out of this post because while the finer details are about them, the main crux of this problem isn’t.  It’s the cycling media and marketplace, at large.

Sigh…

When I see cycling vendors who don’t show women even a modicum of respect while trying to sell us their wares, I’m insulted and turned off.  No way in hell am I ever buying something from any vendor who can’t show real women riding bikes.  That includes bikes of ALL sorts, especially the huge population of women who ride road, mountain and CX bikes.

If the vendors don’t want to expand their lines because they think there aren’t enough women in the marketplace to make it matter.  They’re dead wrong.  They are probably going by their own current sales and not realizing that woman aren’t buying because They Aren’t Selling to Us.  They’re selling to guys…and the wrong kind of guys, too.  Sure, I can’t speak for all men, but my husband, also a rider, would not be attracted to buy from a line like this for me.  Guys can, also, tell when a line doesn’t show enough respect and, therefore, spend enough time to make sure their women’s products are of proper quality, comfort and utility.  Like women, the informed gentlemen won’t spend their money, either, to take a chance.  They’ll be more likely to spend it on something that has a track record and properly reaches out to women, too.

Alas, there are far too many vendors and even cycling magazines who don’t show women with respect…or, heck for that matter, show us, at all.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve flipped through a cycling magazine and not seen a picture of a single woman in the entire magazine, not in ads and not in articles, either.  On the flip side in other magazines where women were shown, it was in a manner that once again portrayed us as objects, not as serious participants.  It’s why I’ve stopped reading some of them.

There are a huge amount of women cyclists who are ignored because the media thinks we don’t care or don’t exist.  FAIL.  No, we care, alright.  We exist, too.  It’s the media and the vendors who are at fault for not reaching us, speaking to us, learning about us and properly representing us.

I will put one positive note on this post.  I can think of a certain vendor that has done a great job of reaching women and of another who has done almost as good as the first vendor.  (No, I don’t get any “perks” from either of these companies.  Wish I did.  Love their stuff!)  Pearl Izumi is the vendor in first place for cycling wear, and Primal Wear comes in a close second, at least in my book.  Granted I haven’t tried all the vendors out there to know every one of them, but I have tried several, including one brand that’s made only-and-specifically for women.  Sadly and surprisingly, I am not impressed by that “women’s” brand.  Their stuff isn’t comfortable and doesn’t fit me well.  A woman founded and owns the company, too!  Go figure.  I learned something at the SE Bike Expo, recently, about Pearl Izumi and why their stuff stands out amongst the marketplace.  (I’m not turning this into an ad for PI; so, I’m not sharing that info, here.)  Other vendors should take their lead.  They might be surprised by how much the sales in their women’s line would jump!

The cycling media should wake-up, too, and take a lead from self-informed vendors, such as these companies.  Learn the three R’s!  Research us.  Reach us.  Respect us.  They might just be surprised how much their circulation numbers would grow!

 

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  • It has to understand why pictures like these from Cyclocross Worlds would not be effective. They show strong, tough and sexy all at once.

  • Hi Mathew,

    I edited out the site/brand name b/c I didn’t want to make this about a single brand. Sure, I took that site to task in the post, but it was done as an example of what happens all around the marketplace. To make sure I was making my own point more clearly, I even edited my post a tiny bit to refine the focus.

    You’re right. Experienced female cyclists do not like overly “fruffy” tops. That kind of stuff tends to send a vibe that the wearer is weak and not to be taken seriously. This doesn’t fly with me or the majority of my female riding friends. While I like things that are stylish and somewhat feminine, fruffy is absolutely OUT. I can’t even stand to wear pink. I am embarrassed to admit that I do have one top that is pink, and I wince every time I look at it. (Bought it on deep discount back when I was a new rider and had little in the way of jerseys.) These days, I only wear it when I need layers. So, it isn’t seen, and even then, I STILL rarely wear it. Bleah.

    Thanks for your comments! :)

    • Mathew Ellis

      Cool, I never thought it was a dig at one particular company but just wanted to share what I have only discussed a couple of days before as the timing was uncanny. My wife is a prime example of a cycle that women riders go through in the UK – start riding and get all the pink and flowery kit the can then get a dropped barred bike and start looking at team kit, get more miles under their wheels and look at the limited range of stylish ladies kit and end up with ladies shorts and a men’s top. She won’t wear pink either now with the exception of a pink and purple helmet that I can’t get her to part with.
      I think this is a subject that will go on for a couple of years yet but I bet/hope we will look back in a few years time and laugh at this crazy world. ;-) ;-)

  • Mathew Ellis

    It’s a very good point and one that I Chris at “—-” when I popped into the shop the other day (1st name terms now :) ) His response raised 2 issues but you could tell by his tone that he would love to bring out a high end woman’s range to complement the men’s.

    He only started with his roadwear range in the middle of last year (the company is only 3 years old) and the cost involved meant that he needed to start with a range marketed mainly at men. I did mention that my wife needed a new jersey following a crash which ruined her jersey and that it was a shame he did not have one for her, the response was one that I have heard from other companies and ladies that I ride with ‘if a jersey is made properly and from the right material it will stretch to fit all shapes and most jerseys do have a unisex cut’. This is true of the jersey I brought from him as it fits very comfortably around my ample belly as well as my wife’s lady attributes.
    I do tend to agree with this point as a lot of so called women specific jerseys in the UK tend to have big pink flowers all over them which the majority of experienced cyclists don’t like. I did ,however, say that my wife will only buy women specific shorts/tights due to the pad, this was something he appeared very aware of but the minimum number of chamois he could order plus a minimum run at the factory would need a couple of years of stock which he could not do in the 1st year but it was certainly something for the future.

    So why haven’t other small companies capitalised on the women’s market? I am aware of 2 companies in the UK which specialize in woman specific clothing, Minx Girl and Ana Nichoola, they both do lovely stuff but don’t appear to have taken off in the way you would expect for such a big gap in the market. I had spotted that one of the companies had a lot of their stock for sale at a major bike chain at a 50-70% discount within a year which I guess is not that reassuring for any business looking to enter that market (I did buy my wife some nicely discounted stuff, just don’t tell her it was discounted ;)

    My view is that there is surely a gap in the market (their are woman specific running magazines in the UK why not bike ones?) but it needs to be done right with an emphasis on style and function not just pink and flowers. The media needs to show more women riding in magazines, particularly pictures of product testing as it always appears to be men riding in group shots.

    Going back to “—-“, Chris has said that he has planned to have women in the next photo shot wearing the roadwear so hopefully this should re-balance things. Also, as part of the competition I get updates of the leader board and last time I looks a woman was leading it with me very close to the bottom :cry:

    One more thing, I do not work for “—-” (although if a ladies range takes off he may need help ;) ), it’s just a small, honest company that I have grown a bit attached to.