(This is a visually boring post because I refuse to repost the sexist images. They are linked if you really need to know.)
The bike industry is an exclusive, white male-centric industry with rampant systemic problems with sexism, racism, and transphobia.
These problems are communicated and reinforced through marketing.
"Is this bike thing sexist?" test
"Is this bike thing sexist" test applied
Female blogger leaves major publication because of abusive, sexist commenters and unsupportive staff
Bike company markets women's bikes for looking good and not exerting yourself
Sexist "shrink" and "pink" products at Interbike
Systemic and cultural exclusion of WTFs in bike shops
Using sex to sell is common. It's lazy. And it is also dumb, considering EVERYTHING WE KNOW TELLS US IT DOESN'T WORK.
The examples of how WTFs are excluded from the bike industry are endless. Two images have been circulating on social media the past few days and are perfect reminders of how companies and the bike industry can be completely insensitive and alienate their WTF customer base. Here, I want to focus on how we can use our voice to slowly chip away at these institutions which harm us with their sexualization and objectification of our bodies, the erasure of our image, and dismissal of our strength and experience.
1. Our bodies are not your billboards
First, a company that caters to "messengers" sexualizes bodies to be edgy in an advertisement. The WBMA (Women's Bike Messanger Association) had a great response to the image.
Last weekend, the Women's Bike Messenger Association (WBMA) held its first meeting at the Denver NACCC. The meeting itself was full of high spirits and great ideas, but we were occasionally met with the question of why it was necessary.
Yesterday, Chrome Industries posted a photo of a woman, wearing little more than one of their bags and their shoes, handing out promo during fashion week. This was seen as a clever "anti-fashion" statement on their part, and was defended based on the fact that there was a man involved and therefore gender neutral, even empowering.
As a company with a significant following and longevity in this scene that has always attempted to straddle the line between representing messengers while still utilizing our culture a part of your "lifestyle brand," we would hope the team responsible for posting to your social media would think twice before stooping to traditional corporate means of sexualizing women, specifically white and skinny women, in marketing. Proportionally, there are far fewer women cyclists, and certainly female messengers, and all of us have fought to be taken seriously as cyclists above and beyond our bodies and gender.
We call for Chrome to seriously take into consideration the number of women who have voiced their opinion on this. Your dismissal of our frustration and anger as just one of many opinions is not only disappointing, but disrespectful. We ask that Chrome remove their post, sincerely apologize for their actions as well as take actual strides in including the voices and opinions of women if they expect to be welcomed into the community upon which their reputation was built. We expect genuine recognition of why this is bothersome rather than PR commentary that does little to apologize for or rectify the real issue at hand.
This is why there's a WBMA.
The image was taken down without an apology.
This is why there's a Grease Rag.
This is why every women, trans, femme space, and every GLBT space, and every space for people of color exists. The dominant group does not see us as whole, capable, equal members of society. Sexualization and objectification are a part of rape culture.
SEE these WTFs coming together with a strong unified voice against sexist marketing! Respect. See a cowardly company refusing to respond, and see the less awake humans defending their harmful marketing.
2. Our bodies do not belong in your "goodie bags"
Second, the largest bike industry show in the country gives out socks with sexualized bodies in their "welcome goodie bags." (The show is held in Las Vegas, a town known for using sex to sell.) Women were disgusted and Pretty. Damned. Fast posted to social media.
For an industry that claims to want women to feel included, play a larger role, and spend more money, this was a really bad promotional item to include in the welcome bag. I think it's sad that Interbike is hosting panel discussions and seminars on what women want from the cycling industry. Well one thing women want is to be free from garbage like this. Not cool Interbike
The socks were removed from bags and a "non-apology" was issued.
The comment from the company that makes the socks was even more tone-deaf. This post deflects responsibility and essentially says, "My contribution to sexually objectifying women and contributing to rape culture was meant to be fun." Thumbs down.
Thank you to all the people standing up for our bodies, and against this behavior
People have been blasting on social media and asking companies to be accountable. Thank you to Jules, employee and blogger for local company Surly, for stepping up to write about these incidents. Please read this whole post.
There will be people both male and female that just don't understand how this sets our industry back. How this creates an environment for women to be assaulted both physically and verbally inside and outside of the workplace. I would like to ask those that do get it to continue to talk about these instances. Talk about them loudly and make these companies that make these mistakes understand why it was a mistake and that they will be held accountable. We need to educate people. We need to work to create an environment where people understand body love comes from the person in the body.
What can we learn from this?
Learn. Talk to us about this topic.
Read this post. Read about our experiences in bike shops. Follow links. Google. If you have questions about why this is a "big deal, " or why this is not "empowering," or why it would not have the same issues if it featured sexualized male nudity, please ask.
Call out, call in.
Take your bros aside, and tell them why they shouldn't be having twitter fights with people against sexualizing women for marketing purposes. Call out companies. See examples above for how we can actually start whittling away at this institution.
Say you're sorry, and mean it.
These companies need to take responsibility and make a meaningful apology. We wrote a guide on how to give meaningful apologies, because we all make mistakes. We are bound to be wrong some of the time.