(Not sure who to credit for this shot as it’s been repeatedly purloined on teh Interwebz)
Before we continue with our Interbike coverage, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the Sockgate controversy at this year’s show. In broad strokes, for a couple of years Save Our Soles has had a promotion at the show where you receive one sock in your welcome bag. To get the other sock, you have to stop by their booth. Not a bad idea, generally speaking. When I pulled mine from the bag and saw the design I believe my actual quote was, “Ugh.” I’d have taken a picture of mine had it not gone immediately in the trash.
Much has already been written about why these socks were a bad idea. Christina Julian of Surly kicked things off rather well. And social media blew up, just as you’d expect it would. Then, for good measure, the wonderful Amanda Batty brought the judge’s gavel down after Save Our Soles CEO Steve Tofan issued a non-apology.
What I want to take a moment to address was Tofan’s justification that if we don’t like the sexism inherent in Vegas, we should lobby Interbike to move the show elsewhere. It’s no secret that Las Vegas is to the objectification of women what Alpe d’Huez is to vacationing cyclists. The problem is that we go to Las Vegas in spite of this, rather than because of it. What Tofan doesn’t appreciate is a veritable buffet of absence of logic—that we go to Las Vegas because we can get relatively affordable airfares and rooms, that many of us are too busy working to really care where the show is, that some people like the shows that don’t include bare women, that there were many who weren’t outraged by the socks, but still thought them to be incredibly stupid.
Seriously, for an industry busy wondering why more women don’t participate in cycling, either as riders or employees, this might be a pretty good wake-up call.
Of course, Save Our Soles isn’t the only company run by a guy who doesn’t realize what century it is. I saw plenty of “booth babes” at the show, though it has toned down relative to the 1990s, when young, male bike mechanics would camp out in the Marzocchi booth for hours to try to chat up the women pulling espressos there. None of them ever got phone numbers from the women in question. So scantily clad they were that I found myself embarrassed to walk by the booth, lest my head swivel in their direction.
The answer here is simple. Let’s not tell people to chill out. Let’s just try to treat women with a bit more respect.