Too Many White Guys

Too Many White Guys

Of the many truths I’ve learned about being a writer, perhaps the greatest is that the more universal your subject, the greater the audience you draw. That may seem obvious, but for someone who typically writes about bicycles, branching out into subjects like doping, childbirth and sexism can result in some surprising results. Few pieces I’ve written have gotten the reaction that my recent post “PinkGate” has. To put it another way, it touched a nerve.

As I’ve watched the reaction in social media and here in our comments, I have drawn a few early conclusions. The first, biggest issue I’ve noticed is that many people think that sexism and misogyny that Amanda Batty has written about is a Pinkbike issue. Those who think this is a scandal within a single site are missing the bigger, uglier picture.

Sure, my title “PinkGate” points right at the site, but there was also a deeper, more metaphoric meaning to the headline, which refers to the industry’s long-standing phrase “shink it and pink it.” This is code for how women’s products are typically designed, and though at first people said this with a straight face, it’s now used derisively to point out the condescension that many women see in the disconnect between many women’s products and their needs and aspirations.

If all we do is call out one mountain bike site for allowing some ugly comments to be published, we’ve missed an opportunity for the entire industry to examine itself. Let me be ultra-clear, this isn’t a Pinbike problem. This is a too-many-white guys problem.

Before I go on, I want to acknowledge that some people still struggle to understand what the big problem is with the line Batty referenced: “it will, much like your girlfriend after a few shots, do pretty much anything you ask of it.” I’ve read comments and spoken with people who fail to comprehend the association Batty made between that and rape culture, so I want to explain that a bit. Rape isn’t just a stranger crime. According to one national study, a stunning 57 percent of rapes among college students are perpetrated on dates, and alcohol had been consumed by 75 percent of the assailants, but just 55 percent of the victims. The issue, fundamentally, is one of consent. That line suggests that the girlfriend in question might not do the stuff he has in mind if she weren’t liquored up, and therein lies the question of consent.

If that fails to sway you, then we should consider the lengths that universities are going to prevent date rape. Most universities have amended their code of conduct to stipulate that a man needs to ask permission before doing anything, and that he should ask with each new act. May I kiss you. May I touch you there. May I…. If that seems like a buzz kill, too bad. Too many men were unwilling to hear “no” when a woman said it for us to continue that way. It’s not enough for a guy to think that just because he wanted sex, she wanted it to.

Our sport, unfortunately, does not reflect the world we live in, either in terms of race or gender. I’ll spare you the footnotes to the studies, but there has been plenty of research on communities and workplaces that show the better represented each ethnicity and sex is, the happier and more functional that population is. All you have to do is watch one episode of “Mad Men” to see how morally barren a bunch of white guys can be when left to their own devices.

Speaking of advertising, every time a bike company uses a scantily clad woman to sell a product, that perpetuates the problem, by objectifying the woman. I’ve heard of instances where the creative materials, which can be characterized as bike plus model, were shown to women staffers who didn’t push back. The reason is simple; there’s a longstanding tradition of pushing people out who don’t agree with a company’s marketing direction. Disagreeing with a sexist ad is job suicide. Honestly, if the best idea your marketing director could come up with is using sex to short-circuit a guy’s brain, then you need a better marketing director.

You may be asking, “What’s the big deal?” Suppose for a moment that cycling did reflect the population at large in terms of gender and ethnicity. That would mean that there would be something like five times as many people riding bikes. That would mean healthier, more profitable bike shops. That would mean more profitable bike companies that had more employees and paid them better. It would be easier to attract top talent. And finding sponsorship for grassroots events would be infinitely easier because you’d be reaching a multitude of demographics, not just one. Hell, Fortune 500 companies might start taking a look at sponsoring big pro teams again. That wouldn’t be laughable if we could tell them 100 million people had ridden a bike in the last month.

Think about what that would mean for acceptance and advocacy. Cycling infrastructure wouldn’t be such an uphill battle because it would appeal to a much broader portion of the populace. Think about what that might mean for increased safety on the road. And mountain biking might not have such a tough time with trail access because it wouldn’t be perceived as a bunch of aggro white guys terrorizing hikers.

If, like me, you want a healthy, vibrant cycling, then we all need to do our part to help welcome everyone we meet into the sport. It’s time for a more open dialog about both gender and race within our sport. It’s time for us to examine how we market the sport both to loyal cyclists, and in our attempts to attract new riders. It’s time to acknowledge that if you’re using sex to sell your product, what you are doing is lazy and harmful. In short, cycling will be richer and better accepted once the locker room antics stop.

 

Image courtesy AMC.

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45 comments

  1. Timbo

    Well said. This piece dovetails nicely with the report the League published yesterday about bike shops working to be more welcoming to all customers: http://bikeleague.org/content/report-bike-shops-everyone
    and with their ongoing Equity Initiative: http://bikeleague.org/equity.

    I’m encouraged to see more and more of us openly discussing how getting our kicks by demeaning others is no way to live life well, for an individual, a club, a business, or an entire industry.

  2. Tom

    Urban Velo, the magazine published from 2007 to 2014, and its website (urbanvelo.org), despite primarily featuring urban riders, did this as well as anybody. Multicultural, multiethnic, multicountry. Fixed-gear bikes, geared bikes, tall bikes.

    1. Tim Jackson

      You are right about Urban Velo. I’d add Momentum to that list as well. Both are/ were exceptionally good at showing the broad range of diverse people who pick up and embrace cycling.

  3. Charles Youel

    “Honestly, if the best idea your marketing director could come up with is using sex to short-circuit a guy’s brain, then you need a better marketing director.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Unfortunately, the vast majority of marketing for cycling brands is based on “mesearch,” i.e., the idea that everyone in the brand’s audience has the same mindset as the marketing team. Said team is usually made up of people with little or no marketing experience outside of the industry, whose default position is to do what they’ve always done because that’s what everyone else is doing.

    When bike companies work with advertising and design firms from outside the industry, any concept that doesn’t fit the traditionalist mold is rejected as being “off-brand” or “too radical.” Misogyny runs a lot deeper than marketing, as the Pinkbike story exemplifies. But as far as marketing goes, it’s not just too many white guys: It’s too many bike guys.

  4. Chris

    This, and the PinkGate piece are both great additions to the greater discussion. Your paragraph about getting pushed out when disagreeing with the marketing strategy resonated. A female friend of mine has long worked in advertising and marketing and was once accused by a colleague of being a ‘feminist creative killer’ for recognizing that a proposed ad was going to alienate half of the demographic.

    I said and did enough things (perhaps not abusive, but certainly rude) as a college student to know not to call the kettle black but since then I have recognized how toxic that sort of behaviour is. Now, as a husband to a dynamic and talented wife battling a series of workplaces frequently dismissive of the views of women, and more recently, as a father of a young daughter, I have adopted another descriptor that I wear with pride.

    I am a feminist.

  5. Mike C

    It’s just white guys?
    Really?
    Now you are doing the racism thing too?
    You really need to check your demographics before going to print. Or is that subject just a bit too touchy for you?

    1. gutterbunnybikes

      Actually, yes.

      Granted, this is a MB site, but if you really want to push the bicycle for greater use in everyday transportation, race is likely the biggest issue of them all – a bigger issue than even women or even bicycle infrastructure improvements.

      Bicycle use in general is dominated (can’t stress that enough—dominated) by the white male (including myself) but as cities and transportation wonks attempt to get to Copenhagen/Amsterdam type bike share on the roads it simply isn’t possible with just “whites”. After all in a matter of decades, “white” will fall into less than than the 50% US population share.

      And in many ways, breaking the bicycle race barriers, will likely be a much more difficult issue to deal with than even the current quagmire of issues facing women.

  6. kurti_sc

    I agree with the line drawn on PinkGate and I agree that attitudes that disrespect people continue to de-value our lives and change our societies in negative ways. This is true of sexist behavior, antisemitic behavior, and many others. You can find it hidden in advertisements, video games, books, newscasts, etc. Be on guard. Be intelligent. Act accordingly.
    But (yep!), as someone who is an avid cyclist, my perception – my perception – in my limited contact is that sexism isn’t that pervasive. I keep my sites pretty limited – yours and two others (definitely not the Rumor) and I shop locally. In that sense, I don’t get to see the big issue to which you are referring. I suppose that is a good think.
    The most shocking thing i’ve seen is the Assos website and the DMT shoes website. Not so terrible, and as European companies, I give them a mild pass.
    I don’t doubt that there is worse out there and it sounds like PinkBike is there. We also don’t watch a lot of TV and have never seen MadMen. For that, I guess I am thankful.
    This isn’t a case where ignorance is bliss, but more of ignorance is favourable. I say this to highlight a point you touched on tangentially. There is plenty of badness out there. Be wary of the company you keep. If you are not routinely outraged, then you are probably doing pretty well with your company. This is part of advocacy, too. It’s not just about fighting those dis-respective messages, but supporting the good ones.
    ugghhh…. too many words. I’m sure there are a few gaps to fill. We need to talk this over a beer.

  7. Phaedrus

    “This is a too-many-white guys problem.”
    To claim that others are missing the point and then seem to claim that minority men are less likely to objectify women is not only logically dishonest, but appears to be a clever way to circumvent the real issues our society faces. “Pink Gate” isn’t a problem of men or women or even race. It’s a culture problem. You will never change culture by singling out a white men and saying they are bad. All you’ve done is name call.

    The problem is that the wrong people are running things. Their maleness or whiteness isn’t likely making any impact on their decisions. There are plenty of studies that suggest ones peers are more influential in behavior than ones race or sex. That is to say, with whom and where you hang out are more likely to predict your actions than your sex or race.

    Western society has been driven down a path that many that many are starting to rebel against, and rightfully so. We’ve all been sold everything from hamburgers to web-hosting platforms by way of sex. It is ingrained in the culture. Name calling won’t stop anything.

    Saying there are too many white guys in a place is no different than saying there are too many women or too many minorities. Reversing race or sexism is not a cure, but rather fuel on a fire that is burning way too bright these days.

    Martin Luther King has been gone for 47 years. I really wish he could come back and show us how to stand up against societal norms. It’s a shame that these things have become norms, but it’s an even bigger shame that we don’t remember how to stand for real change without pinning groups against one another.

    Robert Pirsig said, “The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”

    If we want cycling to be accepting of all, we have to first become accepting ourselves, and then work outward from there.

  8. Tim Jackson

    Thank you Patrick. It’s a muddy and complicated issue. One that does not come with a tidy answer at all. The broader “industry” outside of North America- globally- is more diverse. Still, having worked in multiple facets of the industry and different countries, it’s still largely male dominated. There are great examples where it isn’t- especially in the manufacturing side of things in Asia- but that does not get universally depicted as the “face” or “voice” of our cycling community.

    We can make it better. And, selfishly, we have to.

  9. Mo from SF

    Your enlightenment and logic is refreshing.

    Can we talk about podium and umbrella girls now? (Shameful U.S. example right here: http://cyclingillustrated.com/san-rafael-twilight-criterium-2/)

    Also, of the big brands names of some “mediocre” women in the pro peloton (ie, they’re nowhere near the top steps) just because they’re “hot” while the amazing athletes aren’t given much of a nod.

    And lastly, that pesky topic of equal prize money.

    ps. Want to delve deeper into what it’s like to be a female cyclist? Start here: http://halftheroad.com/

  10. Ben

    To those finding fault with the line “This is a too-many-white guys problem.” because it brings race into a discussion about gender, I would suggest you pump your outrage brakes for a second to think about the intersectionality of privilege here. It absolutely is a white (straight) dude problem. Not because there is something fundamentally different about straight white dudes, but because any kind of groupthink generates a self-accomodating echo chamber, and straight white dudes are the ones who are in power in these (and almost any) situations. Groups of men, especially in our misogynist culture, consciously and unconsciously exclude women. White groups consciously and unconsciously exclude people of color. The cycling industry’s picture of a default, generic cyclist is and has always been a white man. Every bit of effort to chip away at that fact helps us all, white men included. Unearned privilege has a corrosive effect on cultures, and cycling is hardly outside of such considerations. Talking openly about how we address the current imbalance isn’t “reversing racism or sexism”, it’s fighting for a more just world. The place to fight injustice isn’t in one’s head and heart, it’s socially. If we don’t talk about it and call for change, the status quo wins, and the status quo is deeply wrong in many ways.

  11. Fo Foonley

    All that is needed for supreme irony now is for a Red Kite Prayer writer to storm off in a huff so he can write a blog post complaining about the bigotry and racism against whites tolerated by the writers and readers.

    The hypocrisy of this article is too funny.

    1. Amanda

      I find it utterly hilarious (and truly ironic) that you backhandedly and so dismissively refer to my ‘storming off in a huff’ and my writing of the Pinkbike blog post. What I did was simply walk away and write about the issues that influenced my final decision, as well as the issues that plague the larger cycling community. I didn’t have a choice in who shared it, promoted it or those who continue to honestly approach the issues we face as an industry. How wide it spread had nothing to do with me, but rather, those affected by these problems and honest enough to discuss them intelligently rather than anonymously attack those who do.

      It would behoove you to not behave like the typical white, privileged male when dismissing someone else’s experience so mildly… But that’s just my opinion. Goodness knows what a female opinion can do on the internet. 😉

  12. Mike

    Interestingly enough every single article of clothing for sale in the RKP store is sized and designed for men. Every single poster for sale in the RKP store has a man on it.

    Blaming the world sins on “Too Many White Guys” is the lazy man’s way to address the problem. Maybe there are simply just too many white guys running RKP.

    Very few of us white guys can have a significant impact to the demographics of cycling. A site like RKP on the other hand can reach the masses. Where in the article do you say what RKP is going to do to address the issue?

  13. Heather Sims

    I loved this article Patrick, on so many levels.

    I would really like to see the sport let go of the podium girls too. It looks really awkward and even more uncomfortable when the female cyclists are on the podium.

    I think we have come along way in the last 15 years but there is so much further we need to go.

  14. Timojhen Mark

    Well put. Interesting in some ways as there aren’t easy ways to ensure my monies go towards those who I feel are moving things forward rather than reinforcing the status quo. Remain ever vigilant I guess…..

  15. Les.B.

    Good luck.
    With what we have here in the US, one major political party continuing its history of promoting racist and misogynistic policies.

  16. cash

    I’m a detective in a mountain state college town and I would say, based on my experience as an investigator and very part time educator, that true sexual assault numbers are higher than the study you reference concludes. Rape culture is most definitely alive and well, even in a liberal college city such as mine. One of the most heart breaking, and for me frustrating, aspects of it is the victim blaming. So many rape survivors are judged harshly by cops, prosecutors and, especially, jurors for not being “perfect victims.”

  17. Dan

    I guess, outside of a few roundly criticized instances like E3, I haven’t really seen “sex” being used to sell cycling. I’m not an insider like you and I don’t get paid to follow cycling, but most of the bike ads I see use pro athletes like cancellera, Sagan or Carfrae. The components tout weight and watt savings. Yeah, the men and women are almost exclusively white. It’s a sport dominated by white people.

    And your “too many white men” line is lazy and not up to your usual level of professionalism. Writing a column that meanders from male focused advertising to sexual violence, and then lays the blame on white guys, is absurd. I would assume you’ve been other places in the world. In Africa, sexism is most assuredly a “too many black men” problem. Hyperbole gets us nowhere.

    1. winky

      I tend to take the “too many white guys” epithet as a metaphor for a generic issue of too much power entrenched in the hands of too few. It’s much more complex than that, but as a white guy, I take no offense from the term.

  18. John

    “Too many white guys?” That is just easy, lazy, and offensive as hell. It’s time to shift from a negative POV to a positive one. You have chosen to hammer home only that is wrong and ignore the so many things that are moving in the right direction for building a more diverse and inclusive cycling culture. Try again.

  19. Chris

    Too many white guy syndrome has a long history of f’ing $hit up: political corruption, religion, race, wars, and of course this topic. While obviously not exclusive to white guys, we seem to be leading the charge thru history by a good clip over the rest of the field.

    I’m a big fan of your writing and frequent site reader but I have one bone to pick about this: when you preach as you do but then look the other way and take advertising $ from a company which promotes itself with a scantily clad angel at the TOC and adverts using women dressed as sexy nurses (ie the things you seem to be rallying against) it waters down the message you are sending.

  20. dan

    That is the last straw. Your blog has turned to shit over the last couple years and now you are force feeding us your liberal white guilt bullshit? Stick to talking about bikes and leave the crying to MSNBC.

  21. souleur

    this is a terrifically interesting article Padraig: and most provocative. One of which I will say, as we have dialogue, mine included, please take this constructively as I intend for it to be

    I wholeheartedly agree with Phaedrus, this phenomena we are discussing is entirely cultural, and this issue is not limited to this only but permeates our entire culture today. The facets we are examining, that of gender, that of race, that of cycling, that of the psyche of our age and our relationships….its all cultural and our times now are in debate. And in that, i agree, its really a dumbed down approach to say it so simplistically that ‘too many white men’ is ‘our’ problem, and in that very same statement then stereotypically in a rather dumbed down dogma attach the Mad men picture and impart the doctrine in such a pejorative way. Oh sure, it takes a healthy jab at some, others snicker, some even high five ya on it…..but isn’t that the very thing we are railing against, just in a different forum??? And lets be really honest here, as i especially note this after the chastisement of JilltheHeadGuru in the pinkbike wake and commentary. Don’t take this wrong, she mentioned many of these same observations and was rather dismissed, yet now its relavant, which seems to strike the very notion of the tenor of this whole debate. It seemed paternalistic to me and heavy handed, yet, yes, someone does own the website and can do as one will. Its all understood by me.

    Our culture in this discussion; westernized, capitalized and democratized has brought us thus far. We are more fragmented as a people than ever, more diverse than ever yet continuously growing more separate. Each want to be heard, yet we refuse to listen. Each want to be seen, yet we refuse to look and see one another. We want to be understood and feel the empathy in our communities, yet we refuse to acknowledge and accept others nor understand them. The rich are the 1 percenters, the poor are lazy or dependent, the ladies are emotional and can’t understand, the men are mysogynists thinking with only their boyparts, old people are senile, young people are unlearned. We can go on and on with the tired and worn out old dogma that separate us or we can be purposed and change the conversation….yes ‘don draper’ said that. If your still reading, listen, I work in a large group of a very successful business unit, individually one my senior is a Jew, another partner is Syrian, he brought in another Syrian, we have a Nigerian (all immigrants), I’m white, 75% of our unit is women, and I say that to say this, we strive for unity…and together its only because of our culture we have to pause and say ‘we are different’ yet we can be one and I’m here to prove that, and in that there is no superiority, just that this is tangible and very doable when ‘we’ want to.

    How does this relate to cycling….its the same. There is a very strong culture within cycling, but I think its one that is wanting to be better going forward than in the past, specifically doping. Padraig: you nailed the solution here. Cycling is an intelligent sport, and it has a grassroots that other sports do not, it is healthy, it corporates all groups, all ages, all people. Womens cycling is taking off, we should champion that. Jr’s are as well, we should welcome it. Asians are in the peloton, Columbians and central americans as are more African, we should recruit more, and we should look for more than that.

    I for one don’t like to look too much at the past, in that, at some point for all of us, we become removed and not responsible for choices deliberately made, and myopically assessing much of these current issues in the past only does just that. However, we do have today, and we do have the current conversation and I hope the best for what we can do tomorrow/future.

  22. Les.B.

    I checked the Assos website for the accusation leveled against it in this forum, and I can only defend the site.
    The images of women I found were women modeling the Assos outfits. These are pages meant to be seen by women. And cross-dressing men. The images as I saw them were to display the form and fit of their outfits, a necessary thing for marketing high-end cycling apparel. The men’s section displayed men in basically the same poses.

    Speaking strictly for me, a woman in a cycling kit is not an overtly sexual image, despite the form fit and the exposition of a certain amount of flesh.

    1. khg

      You have got to be kidding me. Are we looking at the same Assos website?!?!? I couldn’t find any photos of men in sex kitten come-hither poses, perched on tip toes with a jutting hip, coyly covering a sexualized part of his body with his arm.

      If you want to see a website that is actually marketing its women’s clothing to women, look at the Velocio or Rapha websites. They show women being badasses on bikes (and in the process show the clothes in an actual functional setting). That is how to market to women. Unless you know a bunch of female bicyclists who spend a lot of time perched on tiptoe, barefoot and braless while bicycling. I don’t.

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  25. Ann-Marie

    I appreciate your thoughtful comments, but they’re not going to be taken very seriously while the website that publishes those comments only sells men’s cycling apparel in its shop.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Ann-Marie: Initially, the manufacturer who makes the RKP kit didn’t offer women’s shorts and jerseys. Even once they did, the manufacturer has certain minimums that must be met. When I attempted to offer women’s clothing through a pre-order I didn’t receive enough interest (just three kits out of a minimum of 10) to justify the order; as I’m not rich and loaded with bucks, I can’t justify stocking items when there wasn’t enough interest to meet the minimums. I’ve made RKP a home to a number of women writers and do all I can to welcome women readers, but to suggest I’m sexist because I don’t stock clothing that I can’t be assured will sell is kinda silly.

    2. kurti_sc

      This reply is more of a comment for Padraig, but it stems from Ann-Maries comment.
      The problem of minimum orders, cost, and potential clientel is a good example of what needs to be done. Perhaps it’s not enough to not be a sexist. Rather, you have to embrace all people. Understandably, it’s hard to start in the middle of the problem, especially when budgets are involved.
      Here’s an off-beat suggestion. Define the problem you really want to address and then go to a design thinking workshop and try to work out a solution. These are easily found in major populated areas, heck we even have them here rather frequently in the quaint southeast. And most often, they are free. give it a try. If nothing else, you’ll have tons more to write about.

  26. Debi

    Very well written. I am a cyclist who happens to be female, and whenever I see a female “bombshell” advertisement I make note never, ever to buy any product from that manufacturer. Ever. It makes me assume that the quality is so poor that they have to stoop to the lowest common denominator. I, for one, would definitely appreciate magazines turning such trashy ads down.

    What I will and do buy are quality products that fit, because they are designed with a woman’s anatomical differences in mind. And no, it doesn’t need to be pink for me to buy it.

    Keep up the good writing!

  27. Dan Murphy

    I’m a bit late to this party, but here’s my 2 cents.

    FWIW, this is my take on the statement in question – ““it will, much like your girlfriend after a few shots, do pretty much anything you ask of it.”

    The subject of “rape” never entered my mind. When I read this, I pictured a couple, having drinks somewhere, getting loose. This is an established couple and sex is a regular thing with them. They like to ramp things up every once in awhile, go out for a few drinks, and take it from there. What happens after that could get a bit wild but totally consensual, with big wide smiles when it’s all done.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I just didn’t see rape in that statement at all. I think the key word in the statement is “girlfriend”, not “date”. There’s a big difference, at least in my mind. If the word “date” had been used, I might be able to understand all the fury. Having had a girlfriend get raped a number of years ago, I’m quite sensitive to the whole subject. But, I’m not going to twist some words around to make an argument about something.

    And lastly, “old white guys” and “too many white guys” seem to be the cool phrases hip people seem to want to throw out these days. It’s getting old.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Dan: The entire point here isn’t about what you or I, as white guys, see. It’s that there is a history of victimization that we are frequently insensitive to. What we need to be doing is acting with greater sensitivity to those who have been victims. At a certain level, we can cut to the chase by just having everyone look up the definition for “rape trigger.” Cycling will have a broader participation once we start behaving with greater consideration for others.

  28. PedalRon

    I’m part of the cycling advocacy movement in my growing city. We recently had a leader from the black community speak with us, as we know we need to diversify our group/cyclists in the city.

    She flatly told us that we have a tough sell. African Americans in this city see riding a bike as a sign of poverty and a lack of status. My mind said, “Wow, that’s a blanket statement.” And yet reality said, “This woman is a highly involved community organizer for African Americans and as much as I’d like to argue, there is probably a lot of truth in this.”

    I’m happy to see more cyclists of all types. A very real issue, at least in my city where four cyclists have been killed in the last year, is fear. People who have considered riding for transportation are plain scared.

    As for this article and the discussion. I think power and privilege and misogyny in all shapes and forms are being exposed, talked about, and challenged. As much as this is good, I wonder where it will lead when I see people being pushed more and more and more to see things as this or that, x or y, black or white. I think with the overload of “news” and data and info and smartphones, the brain wants to understand, or at least pass judgment. This leads to rash decisions so you can go back to texting. “That person deserve to be shot” or “she had it coming.” No consideration, just a jump to judgment.

    Also, I played Division I college sports. I cringe thinking about how my teammates talked about the girls on our small college campus. It was gross and offensive. Most of my teammates were white and VERY privileged northeastern prep school kids.

    On another note, I’d been in grad school for a few years and now have a job, earning good money. I can already feel and detect in my mind how quickly my thinking is shifting from “let’s change the broken system” to “the system is broken, I cannot fix it, I’m just going to take care of me and my family.” I don’t like it and I’m trying to be aware of it. BUT, now I can understand how easy it must be for very wealthy people to just walk away to their mansion and shut the world out. Or worse, they can be a Koch brother and try to rig national elections to protect their own $.

    Very complex issue here. And if you think the culture in cycling is bad, and I can tell you it was bad in a non-revenue Div. I sport, just imagine how bad it is at revenue sports and big-time pro sports. You’ve all seen the domestic violence that is endemic to American’s new national pastime. When you are paid to be violent and you stopped paying attention in school around 8th, the table is set to carry on-field behavior off the field.

  29. zack

    You guys are really barking up the wrong tree here. The article does not read well because the premise is flawed. Let me make a critical point: it is NOT the function of marketing/advertising to craft the mindset of modern society in a manner which advances causes such as gender and racial equality. The function of marketing is to sell product and return value to shareholders. That is it. Nothing else. To yammer on about sexism in advertising is neither here nor there. Here is why:

    Leveraging the opposite sex (or sexism, as this blog seems to define it) is used in advertising because since the dawn of time, it has proven to be the most effective way of communicating to the broadest possible audience.

    These are absolutely not haphazard, lazy choices, as the article posits. Multinationals spend millions annually on market research to understand which theme / narrative(s) will yield the greatest conversion. If they could get better conversion with any other theme, they would most certainly go that route.

    The reason leveraging the opposite sex works–especially with luxury items like expensive bicycles–is because of basic human psychology. The most powerful way of persuading a buyer is to tap into their insecurities. A male buyer might leave the house not even wanting a damn bicycle. But you know he always desires a beautiful woman who he views as out of reach. If you can catch that potential buyer as he goes about his day, tap into that insecurity, and create the illusion that your product will bring that unattainable woman into reach; well my friend, you have just sold a bicycle. And pretty much whatever else you want to sell too.

    This is basic, hardwired human nature that marketers tap into in order to manipulate consumers. This is why everyone went to see a movie about things which they know can’t be shown (50 shades of grey), it is why the cute dogs get rescued and the ugly ones put down, and why the cliques in high school tend to arrange by manner of attractiveness, with the occasional exception for the funny guy.

    To expect this reality of the human experience to disappear just because it doesn’t fit your notion of a progressive utopia, is outright delusional.

    To expect marketers to eschew their most proven sales technique just because you don’t like it is highly arrogant.

    To suggest that marketers have the responsibility to control the degree of “sexism” in society is to place WAY too much value on them. I repeat: they are not here to help you craft society in your ideal image. They just want to sell products. And unless you are willing to stand outside the theatre when “Magic Mike” is letting out, and pontificate to the hordes of women and gay dudes about how they are proliferating harmful social constructs of gender roles in society, then please stop complaining about the relatively minor transgressions in the bike industry.

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