Above: it should be all about the mutual support
Back in September Adele Mitchell brought to our attention a perfect example of the gender gap and sexism lurking within the cycling industry, with her Sockgate’, sexism and women’s cycling blog. However, it’s my experience that some of the worst offenders in continuing to make women feel uncomfortable and alienated within cycling are actually other women.
There’s one wonderfully warm and fuzzy camp of women who are genuinely supportive of getting more women out on bikes. There are British Cycling Breeze leaders who will brave personal illness and the worst the weather can throw in order to not disappoint the ladies signed on to their rides and there are those who would hand over their £2000 carbon race bike to a team mate if it meant she could take the win instead of dropping out of the race. It’s undeniably and delightfully true that there’s a cycling sisterhood growing slowly but steadily.
There are women lurking within the industry too, waiting to whip the rug out from under our cleats.
Sadly, however, there are also those slowly eroding the future of women’s cycling from the inside.
There are women who fail to encourage daughters and nieces at a crucially impressionable age on the grounds that it’s somehow “not ladylike” to get sweaty and grubby on a bike, leaving them not only lacking support in what could be a life changing pastime, but also leaving them questioning their very relationship with their bodies and exercise. No woman should ever hamstring her daughter’s future based on her own preconceived notions of so-called femininity.
Magazine cover models continue to be a flawless (and often non-cycling) size 8 or women don’t even appear at all.
There are women lurking within the industry too, waiting to whip the rug out from under our cleats. Amongst them, for instance, are key placed media people who fail to fight hard enough for genuine equality, who go against their gut instincts and accept diktats that continue to pedal an idealised myth of womanhood. Magazine cover models continue to be a flawless (and often non-cycling) size 8 or women don’t even appear at all.
Above: positivity, people, positivity!
But it’s out in the wild too. Online body shaming and trolling attached to articles or reviews written by females comes just as often from women, if not actually more often than it does from men. Do any of us really have the right to comment on another woman’s style/body shape/fitness/motivation just because she has been brave enough to put a well-intended feature out there, in the firing line?
And don’t get me started on female cyclists complaining about a lack of choice of kit. So many of them don’t support those brave brands and retailers who actually do focus on women riders, claiming “too expensive”, “too girly”, “too blokey” or even “too pink”!
The only way to continue to move towards real equality is to make an effort to support every single figure and organisation who is trying to make a difference. Stop whinging about what you haven’t got and celebrate the fact that you’ve got a whole lot more than you had a decade ago!
More “This Girl Can” than “That Girl Can’t” please!
Lara Dunn is a freeland travel and outdoor journalist, and former Editor of Women's Cycling Magazine
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