To which you are all probably exclaiming, "that's sexist!"
Alright so that's great and dismal and pessimistic and all, but how does this apply to cycling?
The fact is, there is sexism in cycling. Rampant sexism, since it's been a male-dominated sport for about a century. As a side note, cycling as a leisure activity actually started out dominated by women, but again, that's a story for another day.
The point is, at this point, sexism still exists. But by no means does that mean that cycling is a "bad" sport. In fact, from what I've seen, cycling might be the industry that's leading the charge against sexism for the broader sporting world.
Every time that I hear about one of these campaigns, I have to admit, I become very proud of the cycling industry. Because how do these instances generally play out? In the case of Sockgate, Specialized-Demo-Nurse-gate, E3 Harelbeke-gate, etc etc, they all seem to play out roughly the same way:
- Exposure - The ad is posted to social media somewhere
- Uproar - The aforementioned social media platform erupts into a firestorm of dismay, disappointment, and calls for an end to sexism in cycling
- Backpedaling - Often the company responsible for the ad publishes an apology, or at the very least discontinues or phases out the campaign
This, to me, is the reason that I don't think that cycling is doomed or backwards because of its sexism. Not only are those in elevated positions working hard to include women in competitions across the board, but everyone in cycling cares enough about the future of cycling to have a stake in the controversy. Are there still many crusty bearded mechanics that don't see anything wrong with some of these advertisements? Yes, as with any other industry. But I see plenty of advertisements during baseball, football, or just in media in general, that are prime examples of crude and completely unnecessary sexism, and very rarely do any fans call upon the company directly to, well, grow up. But I know that for cyclists, if you were to place that bikini-lady catching a football on a bicycle, the advertising company would never hear the end of it.
So what exactly am I trying to say here? Is sexism out there? Yes. Is it in the cycling industry? Yes. Is it ridiculous that it exists in contemporary culture, especially in such a (generally) progressive group of athletes? Yes, incredibly ridiculous. Do I think that even the idea of "podium girls" is a little weird? Yes, I do - radical, I know. But what's amazing about the cycling industry in regards to pushing the boundaries of gender equality is that people are getting upset, the entire community seems to be calling companies out, and decrying instances of sexism without a second thought, which I don't see happening quite so much in, say, football. Or, for instance, what the hell is this?
So though I may not be able to speak from direct experience, I do know that cyclists everywhere are making fantastic progress in forming cycling into the planet's great gender-neutral and all-encompassing, human, sport.