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.
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!