Dear Podium Girl

Dear Podium Girl

The following open letter was written by firebrand pro mountain biker Amanda Batty for her blog. This is a missive I’ve been waiting for, the way one waits for the proverbial second piece of footwear to strike the ground. I’ve long thought that podium girls to be an ugly holdover of the patriarchy, and I’ve waited for a woman with the right mix of kickass and genius to scorch this little plot of ground. That Batty wrote this just confirms my faith that she’s one of the better voices in cycling. I’m grateful she was willing to allow RKP to reprint this; it’s that good—Padraig.
Dear Podium Girl:
Yes, I’m addressing you. You may be a Grid Girl or a Booth Babe, too. Either way, whatever position you might hold within the sporting industry, this is for you.
A few of you ladies are quite upset about the recent decision by Formula 1 to dissolve your job titles and let you go, and you’ve spoken out about people who “speak for you.” Not only do I applaud this decision because I have advocated for this move for years, but I responded with a hearty ‘IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME”…. But that’s not the point of this essay. This missive is a direct response to those of you who have complained about being let go and decried this progress, exclaiming that you love your jobs and that it’s your choice whether or not to work those jobs.
You’re right—it is. It isn’t, however, your right to be upset when a changing market means that your job title is irrelevant. It also isn’t your right to demand that you get your job back. Why? Well, because you are what the business industry refers to as a noncontributing commodity. In changing business, you are what gets cut first. Not only are we not ‘speaking for you’, those of us who have fought for your departure aren’t making assumptions about you because it’s not about you. None of this is, particularly not even your involvement in our various sports and the reason that you even had a job in the first place. It’s always been about male preference and what a few select versions of men want to see in “their” sport. But it’s not their sport any more than that was your job, you see: these sports belong to everyone. These activities should be welcoming of everyone, not just straight men who demand that sexual objectification and appeal be part of their sports’ experience. You are no more part of these sports than the decades of sexual marketing that was ill-thought out and ignorantly created in the hopes of gaining more profit… And as they have gone, so should you.
Grid girl, I feel for you—I actually do. Investing years and countless dollars in your appearance, posing with people you’d probably like to NOT have to touch, being constantly nice…. Damn. I really do feel for you. But again—you’re a non-contributor. You don’t actually add anything to the sport that you’ve latched onto, nor are you investing in the market or industry. You don’t bring value to any of the sports, nor do you attract the kind of audience that actually spends money. Research has proven this. Time and time and time again. What your job was, essentially, was that of a sexual object placeholder.
I know. It doesn’t sound good. (It’s not.)
My friends, your job relied solely on the assumed idea that only straight men participated and spent money inside of that sport and accordingly, their experiences were the only thing that mattered. That assumption was not only completely wrong, but also extremely unprofitable. Companies and entire sports have actually lost money by employing you and promoting the idea that women exist solely for the pleasure of straight men, and they’re finally realizing that women spend money…. We spend a lot of it. We’re also viewers, athletes, employees, company owners and participants in these wonderful sports, and we don’t tend to want to be seen as sex objects. Research has proven this, too.
It’s a rough life. 
But from a female professional athlete to you, here’s some unsolicited advice: go get a job that relies on expertise outside of your appearance. Or don’t. But whatever you do, please stop insisting that you contribute to my sports and the other activities that I actually participate in and where I am absolutely an equal, and not the sum of my body parts or my appearances. Please stop insisting that it’s your right to be employed in an industry that not only underpays me (by a lot!) but where we still have rampant issues of discrimination, sexual abuse, assault and the refusal to see women as equal parts. The thing about your job, my dear, is that it makes doing MY JOB (that’s based on skill and experience) extremely difficult, on multiple levels. Whether you intend it or not, your lack of contribution and presence undermines my very real contributions to the sport—from contract negotiations to inspiring new generations of athletes who are valued for their athletic prowess instead of their looks, your job has put women who have invested in these sports at risk.
I know that this is probably really difficult to hear. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have someone tell you that not only is your job title obsolete but that you’ve done real damage to industries and sports simply by doing that job.
Is it your fault that the job existed in the first place? No. But is it your job to be better than a sexual placeholder in a sport you have nothing to do with and add absolutely nothing to? I dunno. That’s for you to decide. But the women advocating for the dissolution of your job are not only real women, we’re real people. We’re leaders in our industries and we’ve been here. We’ll be here long after the next crop of booth babes come and go, and we’ll still fight for equality and market share as we try to bring more women and girls into our sports.
Perhaps you’ll even be one of them.
Amanda Batty
Professional Mountain Biker

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  1. Kevin

    Dear Amanda,
    It’s not about you, either.
    It is indeed unfortunate that the role of podium girl is professionalized and sexualized, but there are real, worthwhile contributions for such figures. Primarily, as much as we might like to, we can’t all go up and kiss the winner; podium girls serve as our ambassadors. Secondly, as the accompanying photo suggests, they are there to remind the winners of their mortality. The choice of that photo may have been intended to suggest that rider’s indifference to the girls’ sexuality indicated the sexpots weren’t doing any good, but such indifference is kind of the point in the first place. He’s not supposed to want their adulation. (However, I’d say he should be grateful, and perhaps his extended arms are an expression ot that.) Besides, did you never notice that, as much cleavage as they may reveal, they demonstrate just as much indifference to the victors’ sexuality? This is where the suggestion of having podium boys for female athletes gets it all wrong. The traditions may have sexist trappings, but the role of the podium girl is not about sexuality. That said, you are right; those who have professionalized it have made it so.

    1. Amanda Batty


      Thanks for the mansplanation. Unfortunately, you are incorrect as the use of podium girls hearkens back to the time when women were ‘given’ to a victorious gladiator as part of his ‘winnings’ or spoils. That’s where this ‘tradition’ comes from and yes, it’s not only heavily sexist, but dehumanizing as well. People are not prizes to be won — even Disney movies understand that.

      Why then does it seem so difficult for you to comprehend? Your ‘well, actually’ doesn’t belong here; you’re factually incorrect and your insistence that podium girls belong in sport is ignorant and short-sighted, not to mention pathetic. If you can’t watch cycling races without the podium girls, perhaps you don’t love cycling nearly as much as you proclaim that you do.

    2. Jeff Dieffenbach

      “Primarily, as much as we might like to, we can’t all go up and kiss the winner; podium girls serve as our ambassadors.”

      I don’t understand why we would want to go up and kiss the winner (that is, in any way that would be acceptable in civil society). If we want ambassadors, here’s my idea. For men’s races, have male youth racers present the prizes (no kissing needed). For women’s races, have female youth racers do the same (ditto re: kissing).

      The handing over of the prize has merit–it recognizes effort and accomplishment on the part of the racer. Having the handing done by the next generation of racers gives those young racers a moment to remember and helps to grow the sport.

    3. Kevin

      It’s symbolism, Jeff. The whole thing is symbolic. Why should they get medals? Why should they stand on a podium?
      Surely you are aware that one of the attractions of spectator sports is seeing high-achievers,and high achievement makes for particularly attractive people. We want to watch THEM. Where fans go with that, and the extent to which they literally “want to have his/her baby,” as the expression goes, and how socially acceptable their expression of admiration would go is a matter of their own scruples and how fanatic they are. Most fans don’t develop crushes, but at the very least, most would like to at least shake the victors hand or give a pat on the back. But if that were all an ambassador of all the fans did, that would be lame and terribly disappointing.
      Again, the whole thing is symbolic, and the activity is not necessarily sexist or sexualized unless people insist on seeing it that way. I see no reason why they should, except evidently the professionalization of the activity has made it hard not to.

    4. Author

      Clearly you misunderstand the symbolism of what podium girls are. They do not represent a latent desire on the part of the audience to kiss the winner of some sporting event. (You should check out some of the hilarious retorts to that statement on Twitter.) No, as Amanda pointed out, because event promoters can no longer give a woman away to the winner (as was done in Medieval times) we now just have a woman or two kiss the winner on the cheek. The symbolism is that we once gave the woman to the winner. Historically, that’s a fact. And if we want to contemplate their overly sexualized position, let’s just recall Peter Sagan’s faux pas of pinching the butt of a podium girl some years back.

      Check it out here.

      I’d like to think he has matured and moved beyond this, but it was a bad move and a great many people were understandably upset at the time. In some corners of the world he’d have been arrested for sexual assault.

      In trying to argue that all the activity is symbolic, down to the sports themselves, it minimizes the import other people give to the sports and the showy displays on the podium. Minimization is a classic tactic of an abuser. I won’t charge you that way, but I hope that you’ll consider that the tactic you are using is especially upsetting to people who have been unfairly marginalized.

    5. KJD

      I think Amanda expressed that it is about Amanda and other female athletes [ “is that it makes doing MY JOB (that’s based on skill and experience) extremely difficult…” ]

      And can you clarify how some hot chicks remind winners of their own mortality? Because an athlete manages not to look down a low cut dress, they’re somehow reminded of their own mortality? That’s a bizarre take.

    6. Author

      Amanda, I’d like to invite you, given that you have experience of both, to tell our less-informed readers which is harder: putting on makeup or dropping through a rock garden. How long did it take you to learn how to walk in heels vs. going off a three-foot drop, and which scared you more? Would you say it’s tougher to go flat out on a downhill course than to climb up on a podium and look pretty?

    7. Lawrence

      So Amanda, you choose to use the word “mansplanation” in the comments of an article centered around sexism, that you wrote?

      Hypocrite much? I agreed with much of what you said, but using terminology like that discredits you as a voice for anyone. Get over yourself.

    8. Author

      I think it’s a pretty great term because it speaks to the condescension of so many men who think they can explain women’s issues to women. Her use of it isn’t the least bit hypocritical.

  2. Debbie

    Making a living because you attract attention (by juggling, busking, or simply being attractive) doesn’t seem terribly pernicious in our culture of attention seekers. But Batty is going after the women who held the jobs, not the social ethic that put them on the podium. She takes an anti-feminist position that doesn’t address the problem, which is men who demand these services. Hate the game, not the playa’.

    *I say this as both an Amandafan and feminist who would also prefer grid girls to go away, but I’d never force them not to pursue their chosen way to make a living.

    1. Amanda Batty

      Debbie, as I linked to in the post, this was a direct response to the outcry from a specific grid girl and the others who posted disappointment and shock as well as entitled demands to have their jobs back. If you didn’t click on the link to read her seriously offended status that is the context behind this, why would you comment on this at all? I didn’t ‘go after’ anyone — i simply explained why their jobs and presence no longer were valuable inside of F1. Going after them would have been attacking their looks, degrading their work ethic, calling them useless as people… none of which I did. I politely explained why their jobs had been dissolved and then moved on to a hope that maybe they’d join our sport instead of trying to exploit it.

    2. Author

      There’s been plenty of criticism of the ethic that endorses the use of podium girls and grid girls, etc. That ground has been covered and we don’t need to do it here. I think podium girls themselves are a fair target for all the reasons that Amanda has outlined, hence, why I reprinted the piece. If we look at this through the lens of supply and demand, if the supply dries up, the demand will, too. And let’s be honest, given how many men simply don’t get it, we need to attack this issue from both ends.

      Women simply aren’t a prize to the victor of a sporting contest.

    3. Debbie

      I read the grid girl’s comments over the weekend. You are, in fact, going after the girls (Allow me to demonstrate: “Dear Podium Girl … this is for you … This missive is a direct response to those of you who have complained about being let go … go get a job that relies on expertise outside of your appearance”). Directly. You are shaming them for being upset over the loss of their jobs and piling on by telling them they are basically worthless.

      I don’t understand why you think debasing them as humans is OK. You don’t like what they did for a living and considered it unnecessary and demeaning. I feel the same way. But I have a serious problem with a feminist who attacks other women. And I wouldn’t use my ideology to hurt people who don’t share it. But that’s just me I guess. /Amandafan

  3. Gummee!

    Irony. It’s lost on Amanda.

    The ENTIRE world of pro sports is pretty well irrelevant to daily living and women’s pro sports are especially irrelevant because the marketing reach is even smaller than the men’s reach. If pro sports were discontinued, would *she* be any different to the women she’s railing against? I doubt it.

    1. Amanda Batty

      Good lord, you’re awfully upset about irony being lost on me, guy-behind-a-keyboard. If the everyday world doesn’t give a fuck about me, I wonder how little they care about you and the inane life you lead shitting on women’s pro sports online?

      Good luck with that, pal.

  4. Author

    Given the number of comments from trolls we’ve already gotten in the short life of this piece, I’m going to state right now that while I welcome other viewpoints, trolling will not be tolerated. Silly me for thinking that RKP was a space devoid of cro-magnon sub-men. Troll here and your comment will be deleted. Period.

    1. Jon R.

      Thank you for re-posting, and spot on.

      Maybe I’m optimistic but I think that, in spite of all the “OMG PC is running amok” takes I’ve been seeing about this issue, and this post, those people merely represent a (very loud) minority who is being left behind as the world moves on.

      There’s a long way to go but I’m cautiously optimistic the world in general is moving away from this sort of thing.

      (Also I read somewhere else a suggestion that they replace grid girls with golden retrievers. I, for one, 100% support this initiative.)

  5. Richard Sachs

    Patrick ( and Amanda) –

    I agree with the text; it’s a well thought out and articulated essay about a subject that needs attention. Circulating these discussions is a good thing.

    What I can’t reconcile is this: where do we stand on the athletes and their sports when the competition involves the outward appearance of those in the arena rather than just the skill and acumen being tested. Figure skating, ice dancing, synchronized swimming, and even some cheerleader contests come to mind. And they cross genders. It’s not a female-only thing.

    Do we apply the same hashmarks to all sports in which the aesthetic (costumes, elegance, physical beauty…) is part of the judging system that delivers us winners and those who’ll never get a medal?

    Thank you

    1. Author

      Richard, you bring up a really interesting point. While I don’t consider myself a big fan of figure skating, I love skateboarding and I’d be an ass to suggest they are terribly different. Both require serious fitness and are based on doing tricks that require a blend of strength, skill and resultant grace. Pulling off a McTwist is no cooler than a triple axle; I just like watching the former more than the latter. I’m even less interested in synchronized swimming than figure skating, but far be it for me to criticize it. People like it; maybe as many people in the U.S. like synchronized swimming as cyclocross; I don’t know. I think ‘cross celebrates grace as well; the differences probably amount to little more than the lens we choose to view these sports through. But I think we can dispense with the notion that being a podium girl requires amassing any significant skill set or fitness.

    2. KJD

      Mr. Sachs,
      I don’t think we have to reconcile anything. The cores of my favorite sports all involve a goal that is objective and doesn’t require any style or aesthetic judgment. Races of all sorts and varieties, ball in goal, ball over line, field events, etc.

      I usually ignore competitions where aesthetic judgments by others are core to the competition. Its the participants’ right to compete and strive to meet those goals, but not part of anything I am interested in supporting. If NBC decided not to cover these Olympic competitions, I would celebrate that. That holds true for even the least-sexualized sports of snowboard half-pipe, etc. and any competition that rewards style points, but my negative feelings for any of the “style points” competitions are particularly strong where the points are rewarded based on appearances.

    3. Winky

      I’m with KJD on this one.

      I have little interest in sports that cannot be measured, times or weighed to get the result. Nevertheless, I see those sports as fundamentally different from pure beauty contests where looks alone are rewarded. Podium girl employment is akin to winning prizes in beauty contests.

      I recognise that dedication and skill involved in being Shaun White is every bit as substantial as being Lindsey Vonn. I’d much rather watch (and do) ski-racing than half-pipe, though.

  6. Lyford

    Reduced to the essentials, it looks like this: A private employer has decided that employees in certain roles no longer add value to the employer’s product, and so the company will stop hiring for those positions. That’s hardly unusual. I can’t see that anyone has a “right” to work at a job that the employer has decided isn’t useful.

    There is no “____ism” about hiring for these jobs. The jobs have ceased to exisit because the demand for them has diminished. The former grid/podium/umbrella girls are no different from mllions of others in the modern workforce.

    If you’re going to have podium presenters, you could do worse than to follow the example at the 2017 Worlds in Bergen:
    I would argue that they do add something to the event

  7. Andrew

    I don’t necessarily agree with all the comments above, Patrick, but I don’t really see how they can be regarded as “trolling”. You can’t regard any opinion posted on this site which is at variance with your own opinions as “trolling” or somehow out of bounds.

    1. Jeff Dieffenbach

      I think that Patrick was saying that the comments still visible are NOT trolling, regardless of whether they agree with his point of view. The troll comments have already been deleted, I’m guessing.

    2. Author

      I have deleted comments that were definitely trolling. They were long tirades of mostly f-bombs laced with the odd c-word and other stuff I flat-out will not tolerate. I’ve worked hard to make RKP a place of civil discussion and anyone who can’t play by those rules can pound sand.

  8. Winky

    Well written, Amanda. I admire the passion that shines through. It was a thoroughly entertaining read. But…..

    Whilst I agree with much of what Amanda has said, and am very happy to see the end of podium girls (about time), she lost me quite a bit with her complaint that she is underpaid. She is paid to do what the vast majority of participants do for free (actually, they have to pay do it). It is perhaps a little ironic that her chosen profession is also non-contributory, other than as entertainment. Her assertion that she inspires others in the sport is offered without evidence and is (in my view) unlikely to be substantially true at the grass-roots participation level.

    1. Amanda Batty

      1: I don’t get paid. 2: my contributions have been far larger than your google efforts, it seems, as well as your own contributions to cycling.

      When you start actually researching someone before you criticize their ‘grassroots contributions’, we’ll talk about my impact on this sport versus that of some random grid girl whining about the loss of her job.

      Don’t reduce me because you’re ignorant.

    2. Andrew

      I think it is pretty well-established that female cycling professionals make pennies on the dollar compared with their male peers. If we assume, though, that the compensation of professional cyclists is in some way tied to the value that they bring to sponsors, advertisers etc, I’m not certain whether anyone has published an economic analysis showing that female cyclists are undercompensated in this regard. Before anyone jumps on me- I’m not saying they don’t bring in the same monetary return to their sponsors/advertisers, I just haven’t seen anyone publish the relevant data.

    3. KJD

      Winky –

      I have three kids. Two of them are generally aware of sports, winning and losing. One of them is greatly inspired by winners and competitors. She adores a certain female CX racer, likely because of her exposure to the coverage on TV. My daughter wants to meet her hero and win as many races as the hero. Does this qualify as “inspirational” to you? I have never heard any child express inspiration to compete, ride for transit, ride for adventure or purchase a product based on a podium girls’ presence for approximately 45 seconds at the end of a race.

      Sure, sample of two, but there’s some evidence.

      How many “Jordans” were sold on the image of that competitor? How many boys in the mid-1990s worked on their basketball skills with a stylishly exposed tongue? How many shoes were sold on the image of a Bulls cheer-leader? You can’t possibly think that someone isn’t inspired by her just because you aren’t right? Once you come to terms with that, we’re just arguing about level of effect and the dollar value. That argument, or rather analysis, is something that bike industry and out-of-industry sponsors are always making.

      Where the essay gets some points wrong are what the now-defunct grid girls have as “rights.” They have the “right” to be upset about their job-loss and the “right” to demand the jobs back. They just don’t have the “right” to actually have those jobs, as was pointed out.

    4. Winky

      Hi Amanda,

      You know nothing of my contributions to cycling, but fair enough, I also know absolutely nothing of your contributions. But all our contributions may add up to far more than those of podium girls, though (unless they are involved in the sport in some way that’s not apparent). I was comparing your contributions, not to podium girls, but to the broader contributions that people with “real jobs” make, day in and day out. Some of them also make contributions to cycling in their spare time, without complaining about being underpaid.

      I honestly have little time for complaints that people aren’t paid enough to ride their bikes. But you were introduced as a “pro mountain bike racer” by Padraig. But I guess you’re not actually pro (by my definition – which is that a professional is someone paid to do something). Apologies. You seem angry, and it is making me angry now, so I’m going to stop.

    5. Author

      Pro is a category of racing. Amanda has reached that top classification of skill and fitness necessary to race against the world’s most talented women. Her talent is independent of her compensation; even if the race organizers don’t choose to compensate her performances in a manner commensurate with her achievement, it doesn’t take away from the fact that she is among the best of the best.

      Yeah, she’s angry; she’s been treated poorly by some of RKPs readers and she’s been treated poorly by the racing community. We could maybe show her a bit more empathy.

    6. Winky

      Where did you get the impression that I thought podium girls inspired anybody? The podium girl concept is equally as odious as cheerleaders. Neither inspires anyone. I think we’re in furious agreement on that one.

      So who does inspire people to become active in sports? To your CX example….other than cyclists I know, nobody I know has ever heard of Helen Wyman, Sanne Cant or Katy Compton. There will be exceptions, but I still maintain that the pro side of the sport does little to get people interested in participating if they’re not already in the sport. People who are already cyclists follow it for sure, but just about no-one else does. Padraig, Fatty, et. al. moved this blog away from pro cycling years ago, and it is all the more inspirational for it. Participation in cycling is increased by (among many other non-racing things) better infrastructure, trail access (for mountainbikes), education, bike parking/storage/security and attainable entry-level events like fondos/sportives.

      Anyway, I never said that I personally wasn’t inspired by pro-cycling. I absolutely am. But anybody who isn’t already an enthusiast is unlikely to be inspired into participating by the professional side of the sport. The doping culture has perhaps even ensured to opposite, and people are aguably repelled.

      Consider something the NFL. It’s the same in many ways but also obviously different. Everyone knows who Tom Brady is, but virtually no-one who knows who Tom Brady is actually plays football (in percentage terms). He inspires essentially no-one to play football, (which is probably a good thing) but he does inspire them to buy corporate packages, tickets and merchandise. No, the Bulls cheerleaders certainly didn’t inspire anyone to buy shoes. Jordan did, but Jordan put overpriced shoes on millions of feet that never go anywhere near a basketball court (or even out of their boxes). I don’t know what point I’m really trying to make here, other than professional sports don’t result in a “greater good” to the extent that anybody should claim a right to be paid to play a game or ride a bike. If they can figure it out, great. But is it a “right”? No.

  9. Eric

    The presence of podium girls (and their ilk) at sporting events feels more awkward than it does exciting. It’s been that way for years, and its past time that the practice was discontinued.

    Still, I think I feel more sympathy for these people than Amanda does. Though they profited (probably not that much, compared to the athletes) from the system, they’re still victims of it. The removal of their livelihood when they’ve reached the peak of their profession is just the final insult.

    I think we all need to do our best to empathize with their story, appreciate the sacrifice they’re making for the betterment of sport, and press forward.

  10. Gummee!

    Hey Amanda: I’m not ‘shitting on women’s sports online,’ I’m merely pointing out that what you do and what they do is ‘entertainment.’ It adds nothing to society as a whole. It isn’t really even relevant except to a very small fringe of people (us) that even care about racing, much less women’s racing.

    I’d even go so far as to say ALL of you are using genetics to your advantage. Just because you don’t see being a grid girl or podium girl as a good thing doesn’t mean it isn’t something someone else enjoys doing. I doubt they would want to fling themselves off a hill

    Now, at this point, you’re probably all kinds of indignant. …but stop and think how YOU would feel if your sponsors suddenly decided that women’s sports aren’t worth the sponsorships and you’re now irrelevant. You wouldn’t be very happy either and would probably want your job back as well.

    Now, since you’re responding to these posts, please explain to me how a men’s road presentation podium girl or an F1 grid gril actually keeps you from obtaining work as a pro DHer. Use small words…

    1. Author

      I’m not going to respond the bulk of your comment because it hinges on an assertion you make in your second sentence. When you write “It adds nothing to society as a whole,” you are demonstrably and wildly wrong. Sports and the arts have been sources of inspiration for cultures going back thousands of years. They go to the heart of the concept of “quality of life.” In pursuing sports and the arts we have a chance to (at least briefly) become masters of our universe. It is in those spheres of activity that many of us achieve a flow state, a variety of existence so satisfying that the activity become autotelic; that is, we do it for its own intrinsic reward. Many people throughout most cultures are known to enjoy watching others pursue sports. Sometimes they watch for entertainment, but sometimes they watch as a source of inspiration for their own pursuits.

      We are fortunately that the people who sponsor all manner of women’s sports don’t think with the flawed logic you’ve shown here. And to answer your final question, by legitimizing the objectification of women, all women are degraded, thus decreasing the value of their contributions to our culture. As soon as we stop treating women as sex objects who are part of the prize list, their value will go up to society at large.

    2. Mike

      …”adds nothing to society”. How about inspiring a little girl, or a young woman, or nay woman to push her boundaries and do something that they might not have otherwise taken on? Wouldn’t that add to society?
      Conversely having podium girls/grid girls etc. just provides that little girl or woman with an image that suggests that instead of being a strong, capable, independent individual, she might just be window dressing for “successful” men…

    3. Winky

      Padraig at 5:07pm. I 100% agree with your comment. This sport of cycling is a huge part of what I am, and contributes immeasurably to quality of life. One thing I like about cycling is that it a sport that people DO, not so much one that they watch (I do both). It has meaning, usefulness and significance outside of the competitive context. Football (for example) doesn’t exist without matches. No one much would bother with football training unless they were playing in some competitive league. The result is that football fans vastly outnumber footballers. Cycling exists largely independent of competition. The vast majority of cyclists have no intention of ever competing, beyond maybe a personal challenge in an organised event. In other sports like surfing, backcountry skiing, skateboarding, kayaking one could argue that the sports exists (almost) in spite of competition.

      Saying that sport is hugely important is not the same as saying that anybody should be paid to ride their bikes. As with most sports, the professional level is almost 100% marketing and entertainment. Is the world better off because of sport? Yes. Is it better off because of the existence of professional athletes? That’s not nearly as clear to me.

    4. Author

      Your final question is a really interesting one to tackle. I’ll say that 20 years ago my answer would have been an unhesitating yes. Now, I still see some value, but it is vastly diminished.

  11. Richard Sachs

    Patrick – I am replying to your reply to my comment above.

    Whether we like or follow them (or not) the sports I named are scored on the visuals too, as in how elegant does the athlete appear during the competition. I’m sure other disciplines can be added to my list. The point remains, do we paint these activities with the same stoke as we might the podium girl? And while I am not a fan of the podium girl concept, I think some of the energy in resolving the conversation – assuming that’s the goal – rests on them.

    As a colleague wrote about this in another conversation, “I just have a real problem when one group who is perfectly fine being themselves starts telling another group who are perfectly fine being themselves that they can’t be and, even worse, that they shouldn’t be employed because group A knows what’s best for them.” I’ll add, his POV resonates with me just a wee bit.

    1. Lyford

      Richard –
      That POV resonates with me as well. But what if one of the groups of people perfectly fine being themselves are doing something harmful not to themselves, but to others? Should they be allowed to continue?

      It’s an easy question to answer if the harm is easily seen and can be objectively measured. In this case, like so many other social issues, the perception of harm and damage varies dramatically, and the effects, if any, are much harder to quantify.

      Unfortunately, there seems to be an inverse relationship between data and histrionics.

  12. Richard Sachs

    Lyford – If we tale this to the nth degree we’ll soon be finding the sports I named in my OP to be just as sexist (to both sexes) as the issue being discussed. I mean – if someone is gonna pipe in and tell me that figure skating or synchronized swimming (etc etc etc yada yada blah blah blah) isn’t judged on the beauty and elegance of those wearing the spandex in addition to the actual athleticism, I’ll be stunned. The outward appearance matter in many athletic competitions, whether we hold them to the fire or not. Soon we may be looking to ban makeup or hairspray or custom made clothes for the ice dancers (of both genders, of course).

    1. Tominalbany

      Richard – Just a comment: The quantity of makeup that 9-10-11 year old girls wear when doing cheer or gymnastics has always freaked my out in the way that those photos of Jon-Benet Ramsay in her pageant photos creeped me out 20-something years ago. I don’t know who ‘requires’ it but, they need to stop! It’s not costume. It’s trying to make little girls look like women.

  13. Les.B.

    Aside from the more substantial objections to near-naked women kissing the winners —

    My impression has always been that the practice is


  14. Lyford

    Those who object to podium girls did not *directly* cause the loss of their jobs. The F1 promoters were free to ignore the protests and keep hiring them, just as they have for decades. Something changed.

    But here’s a more general question: If one did have the power of law to eliminate a type of work despite the objections of those currently employed, what level of evidence should be required to show that the work was harmful? When is that enough to outweigh the autonomy of the individual?

    You see similar arguments in activities that have nothing to do with appearance. Some people want the freedom to choose to do hazardous jobs and engage in hazardous sports and activities. Other people want to stop them, for their own good and for the general good. Who decides?

    Or is it all just a tempest in a teapot?

    1. Author

      This isn’t a tempest in a teapot. However, I don’t think it is something that should be legislated—that typically evoked phrase of slippery slope. It is enough that society has changed and braver souls and smarter minds will yet prevail. That’s enough. Our common appeal to decency and dignity should be enough.

  15. Ilovetoracecross

    So since podium girls are gone (yay) who gets to be tasked with handing out awards?

    The grid girl thing, im still pondering that.

    1. Author

      How about the race organizer? Who is better suited to congratulate you than the person who dreamt up the event?

    2. Ilovetoracecrosd

      Thats certainly an option. My concern is fallout from a substitute should that person be unavailable.

    3. Gummee!

      So you’re going to make the already overworked, overstressed, and typically harassed race promoter do yet one more thing? Why not have a pool of people that herd the athletes where they should be when they should be there, then hand them the champagne and other sponsor-given goodies?

      You know… like a podium girl!

      Just a thought now that they’re gone…

      Oh, and F1 is laughing all the way to the bank. Grid kids?! More money for whomever formerly had to pay the grid girls. All disguised in a socially approved wrapper.


  16. Paul Peterson

    Agree with Amanda & Padrig. The grid girl trying to defend her job needs to look in a new market and understand this one is closed. It sounded like it was a second job for her. There are other options out there. Even ones that do not depend on your physical beauty.
    As for podium girls in cycling:
    I find it hard to explain to my kids, who love watching pro cycling with me, why the podium girls are there.
    My 9 year old girl, especially, loves watching cycling racing on tv and in person. She pretends to celebrate on her bike with her arms in the air.
    She sees her future in cycling as limitless right now. There is something not quite right about showing her she can aspire to race herself or stand there and give the prizes to the guys. Even she will see the folly in standing there.

    There’s already an abundance of promoters and dignitaries on stage. My guess is many of them would love to present the teddy bear, flowers, humoungous cheese loaf, wine or other prize the girls hand over for the opportunity to have their photo snapped. Someone in charge just need to make the rule and enforce it. If one governing body cannot, that may need to be fixed too.

  17. Tominalbany

    I have a nine year old daughter. It is my greatest hope that she values herself for her skills, compassion, character, energy – in no particular order.

    She happens to be beautiful – to me for sure – but others have commented in polite ways. I don’t refuse to acknowledge her appearance. I do, however, try to not make it the focus. I try to focus on who she is as a person and who she would like to be.

    However, I’m probably fighting an uphill battle with commercial media, advertisers, You(f’n)Tube, and even some family, who will often comment on how pretty she looks as the first thing they say to her after hello.

    I’m psyched that Amanda Batty values herself and her work ethic, skills, and other traits besides her appearance. For the record: I don’t know what she looks like. I haven’t searched and I don’t care. It’s not relevant what I think. I’m not immune to visual appearance. However, I’m always trying not to judge based on it but on the content of their character – thanks MLK.

    1. Author

      Thanks for that. For the record, Amanda IS beautiful, enough so that she could easily coast on her looks. It’s the fact that she could trade on her beauty that gives her the platform to speak about the value of not doing so, and how doing so diminishes the achievement of everyone who has taken the tougher road.

  18. Dave Kirkpatrick

    Amanda – I think this is a great piece and I’m nearly 100% with you on the substance. I agree that podium girls diminish the ability of female athletes to do their jobs, since there is a regrettable perceived equivalency between podium girls and female athletes on the podium. The one place where I veer off your course is in your claim that you are underpaid for what you do. That’s simply a function of the market. I build wheels, and impart experience, skill, and care and concern (and the care and concern part will eventually be what ends my time doing it – “care and concern burnout” will be the end of me), and the market sets my ability to charge. You and I may both wish that there was more room in the market for our individual skills and contributions to be better compensated, but the sad reality of compensation within the bike market is what it is. Unless you can draw a direct “I directly influenced these purchase decisions and grew awareness and revenue of these products” picture, and then make a compelling case that a male in your market segment doing the same would be compensated at X rate of that while you are compensated at a sub-X rate, under compensation is a terrifically hard case to make. To open a Pandora’s box, I’m quite against the concept of a minimum wage for women’s cycling simply because the number of riders would tumble. What contracts there are need to be enforced by UCI, and some of these stories about abuse just make you see red, but I think a minimum wage without the revenue base to support it is a bad road. Last, for whatever it’s worth, men’s pro cycling is (at least in my crystal ball) headed for a painful and profound retraction. There’s no business model.

    In any case, good piece.

    1. Author

      Forgetting for a moment what the market will bear for professional cyclists in general, let’s take a look at what the prize money is for men vs. women. It can at times be a 10x difference. You can make all the market arguments you want, but the fact is that it’s simply right to pay women the same amount as men. Sure, that would mean pay for men would fall. And men wouldn’t be happy about it. So maybe someone would go looking for more sponsorship. As long as women are paid less for the same job we will be reinforcing the notion that women deserve to be treated as inferior beings. That’s bullshit. What’s at stake is a larger societal cancer. Arguing against paying women the same amount summons awful intellectual exercises of bygone eras that resulted in things like valuing a black man as 3/5 of a white man. Until we pay women the same amount as men everything we say about equality is a lie.

    2. Winky

      As a start, zero the prize-money for everybody and put that money back into the sport as a way of increasing the participation rates, particularly for groups such as women that are under-represented. Take the recent Herald Sun Tour in Australia where the women’s event was shadow of the men’s (1 stage plus a 1.6km final postlogue Vs 1.6km prologue and 4 stages). Use all the prize money to help fund the women’s event to be the same magnitude as the men’s.
      (Don’t get me started on why fondos and sportives have prize-money)

    3. Dave Kirkpatrick

      Padraig – There is no part of my thought process that is in any way, shape, or form consciously misogynistic, sexist, bigoted, or whatever else. It does, however, come from the perspective of being a relatively old straight white male. It also comes through the experience of having promoted cycling races, having served on the executive committee of cycling teams, having owned a cycling business for ~8 years, and having been a world and national championship winning coach and really low level for athlete in another sport (sailing).

      First, to say that it’s de juris “simply right” to pay women equal to men isn’t going to fly. If we’re talking about welders or investment bankers or wheel builders, absolutely. The performance determines the compensation and any other metric is an inequitable distortion. I’m with Winky on payouts. My first race promotion experience was in 2009. We paid equal to the women as we did to the men. The women’s field was very small compared to the men’s. Had I had it all my way, neither field would have had any payout. Why do we pay people prize money in recreational sports?!?!? It’s madness to me. My one personal “actions speak louder than words” data point in terms of being in charge of payouts agrees with you, and I can say and earnestly believe that any event involving a payout should have equality in both genders, but that’s an opinion that you and I have that a ton of people don’t, and for good or bad they can support their theses. You can’t legislate opinions.

      Second, forgetting what the market will bear isn’t something I can do. No market? No prize money, no pro sports, no nothing.

      Third, I have a strong belief that pro sports, including a bunch of Olympic sports that might as well be pro, are a societal negative. Drug scandals (both performance and non), brain injuries, the Larry Nassers (sp?) of the world, extreme wealth concentration and economic distortion, burning down cities when a team wins or loses, crowd fights, counterproductively fixating on games and outcomes over which fans have extreme interest but no control, I just can’t support it on any level. Just on a personal level, what has pro cycling done for you lately? So there’s that.

      Fourth, pro cycling’s revenue model is tortured at best. Anyone who watched the excellent (at least I thought it was) movie Battle of the Sexes would have seen a scene where the women’s side gets to say “we sold as many seats of our final on Saturday as the men did on Sunday.” Check mate, game set match, end of story. Revenue in is equal, therefore the talent responsible for that revenue should unconditionally gain an equal share of said revenue, 100 cents on the dollar. The market decided.

      Pro cycling relies on endemic sponsors and patronage. All the other revenue streams are insignificant in comparison. The industry in this case is the one that can be counted on for such enlightened actions as making stripper socks for Interbike (my contemporary thoughts on that here – so, well, it’s suspect. Patrons are who they are and have more or less complete say over their domain. Without traceable verifiable revenue like butts in seats, man anyone can say anything and anyone’s facts are as good as anyone else’s.

      The accomplishment itself doesn’t decide what the accomplishment is worth, the market does. The MVP of the Super Bowl will get paid better than Peter Sagan by a lot. Peter Sagan is better at cycling and has been over several seasons than Nick Foles is and has been at football.

      There are a bunch of sports where athletes are able to get paid better as brand reps – effectively, as contractor business functionals – that athletes. Yes they’re great athletes, that’s their point of entry. Grinding it out for meager payouts at events that have no economic footing in the first place is beating your head against a wall. For a person with a lot of talent, a strong voice, and a compelling personality, that seems a better way to get paid. But the market will always decide in the end.

    4. Noah

      Yes, it’s a real mystery why women who are professional cyclists get paid less when the UCI doesn’t require equal coverage of men’s and women’s races, doesn’t require the same level of courses (e.g., closed to traffic or not), doesn’t promote men’s and women’s events equally, and generally treats women as second-class citizens.

      Also, Dave, just like me (another white straight dude), you can’t help being racist and sexist etc. It’s the air we breathe and the system we exist in. We can recognize that doesn’t mean we’re evil, while also recognizing that we have a responsibility to use our unearned power (that comes from the color of our skin and the gender we present) to lift others up and try to do away with our unearned advantages. Leaving it to folks like Amanda to point out these problems, and then trying to tell her (or anyone similarly situated) that if she just yanked on her boostraps a little harder she’d get somewhere, isn’t particularly helpful.

      I’m certain you build great wheels and that you’ve worked hard over the years to hone your skills. But why are there so few women who are bike mechanics or wheel builders? Why are there so few women who work in the cycling industry? Why are there almost no professional team directors who are women (even on the women’s team side)? It’s not because women don’t work hard, or don’t know about cycling teams, or don’t have the skills to build wheels or wrench a bike. Men, not you personally, probably, but plenty of other men, have excluded women, discouraged them, harassed them, refused to consider them, said women aren’t worth as much money, would hire them only as podium/grid/tradeshow decorations.

      So I’ve got Amanda’s back when she pushes back on that systemic sexism. She’s absolutely correct here, just like she’s absolutely correct to complain about how little she gets paid. We should support her, stand with her, do the work for her and all the women (and other folks with less power in society) in making the world more just.

    5. Dave Kirkpatrick

      Noah – Some fair points, but you’ve missed mine: Amanda works in a part of the industry with crap pay and a non-existent revenue and business model. The bike industry as a whole is a crappy way to make money. The market dictates that. Just because you’re great at something doesn’t mean you get to make good money at it. One of our most prominent competitors is a woman-owned shop – there quite literally are no barriers to opening up a business similar to mine. I’d hope that part of the real answer to your greater question of why so few women work in the bike industry is “because they’re too smart to.” And absolutely NOWHERE have I implied that if she just yanked on her bootstraps a little harder etc – I don’t believe it and I didn’t articulate that as a stance. Absolutely not. I suggested that there’s a (way more gender neutral, in fact) path to doing what she may want to do. But she’s in a low paying job in a low paying industry. A low average corporate lawyer gets paid more than almost anyone in the bike industry, and that’s a lot more than most make.

    6. Noah

      Well Dave, if I misread your point, I apologize.

      But I do have to say that “because they’re smarter” isn’t really an explanation. Women overall earn less money than men, so you’d expect *more* women to be in what you characterize as a low-paying industry like biking. The fact that there aren’t suggests something else at work, and the benevolent sexism of “gosh dudes are stupid to do this, but women are too smart to do something they enjoy for low pay” lacks meaningful explanatory power.

      Also, just for the record, although more women than men graduate from law school these days, there are far fewer women than men at corporate law firms, and even fewer women in high paying positions (partnerships, management, etc.) at those law firms. That’s true across all high-earning fields. So once again we need something other than economic rationality/supple and demand to explain what’s going on. I doubt the answer is, “women are too smart to work in the bike industry, but also coincidentally not smart enough to hold high paying jobs as lawyers, doctors, CEOs, hedge fund owners, and corporate officers.”

    7. Dave Kirkpatrick

      Noah – I’ve explicitly stated several times that equal work/effectiveness deserves equal comp. There is also no place where I’ve disputed that women are underpaid relative to men in the greater workplace. It’s a knowable fact. There are programs to encourage women to work in cycling, though my company is in no way responsible for any of them. We hire absolutely gender blind and pay gender equal, to the cent. That’s all we are in a position to do on that. We’ve sponsored exactly one team in our history – a women’s team. Ever given 20 expensive sets of wheels, that took over a full week of work to build, to a women’s team? We only entertained sponsoring women’s teams, and the one we picked was in fact women run. I don’t really feel that I have to further defend my company’s or my own gender sensitivity credentials. They’re there. As far as the bike industry, neither you nor I have any information on what’s behind the numbers (which I suspect neither of us has in any granularity, either). Some industries are not gender balanced, for a lot of different reasons, some of which aren’t nefarious at all. Fewer women race bikes, maybe fewer women are interested in bikes and working in bike shops? If those who are come and work here, they’ll be paid equal to a man at their level of contribution.

      To once again reiterate my point, no one has any right to make a living or a certain amount of money doing any particular thing. Doing what I do requires a ton of time, way more diligence than I’ve had in other very responsible positions in my career, has way higher business consequences for errors, and in general is terribly compensated given those parameters. But I’m not underpaid. This pays what it pays, as does bike racing, and both are pretty lame but neither is “underpaid.”

    8. Tim

      Dave you took the words right out of my mount (and made them much more elegant in the process).

      I really can’t agree with you on this one Padraig. This is in no way about paying women the same as men because they are not doing the same thing. In every pursuit in life where men and women compete on the same level, such as most ‘normal’ jobs and in some sports too, then yes absolutely pay should be equal for a given level of performance. That just can not be effectively applied in this case. Aside from all the financial reasons making it more or less impossible to justify the simple fact is they aren’t performing to the same level as the men. I’m not saying they don’t work as hard as I’m sure that the very best female cyclists work extremely hard, but they choose to work in an industry where pay is strongly linked to entertainment/marketing value often directly linked to outright performance.

      To apply your argument they would have to be competing side by side with the men and getting strong results against other men to justify your position. Anything less is in the current market would be to artificially inflate the women’s wages on the basis of lower performance and competition levels. Until then they are competing to be paid a share of the market that manufacturers and sponsors feel their efforts are creating.

      To end on a more positive note I really do agree with the first two thirds of this article and the removal of grid/podium girls from any and all sports.

    9. Author

      Can we tease this one out a bit? I’m curious to understand your thoughts better. Suppose Amanda won the women’s category of a downhill race. Are you saying that unless her time was as fast as the winner of the men’s event she doesn’t deserve to be compensated the same? I think that’s what you’re saying, but I want to make sure I’ve got that right. If that’s the case, would you support her getting the prize money equal to whatever place she would have come in the men’s field relative to her time? If I follow you correctly, can you comment on how big the medals are for women athletes relative to the men? They are the same size currently.

    10. Tim

      Padraig that’s not quite what I’m trying to get at.

      What I’m really trying to argue is that for your rule of equal pay for the same work to apply Amanda or any other athlete would have to be competing in the same race. Otherwise it’s not actually the same work. The effort, skill and dedication may well be the same but sports and life in general don’t generally reward people based on the effort, skill and dedication. Results matter and at the end of the day there is always significantly more interest in the very top performing people in any given field and as things stand now in professional MTB events, those people are all male.

      Sports is an interesting case because it’s not just about the performance but also thepublic interest generated due to the nature of sports sponsorship and funding. If the industry can find a way to create enough interest in female sports that the sponsors feel that they get the same value (or more) out of sponsoring womens event’s and womens riders then absolutely that should be reflected in the pay level of female competitors. Arguing that the pay increase should come before the increase in revenue generated in putting the cart before the horse.

    11. Author

      I understand what you’re saying and I hope that you can understand that many people have a huge problem with that kind of thinking. It has a cousin in thought that can be summed up as “might makes right.” If we apply the logic of how much interest there is on the part of the public then Olympic medal size should be based on the popularity of that sport and the gender split. I’m not sure how big the cycling medals would be, but the archery medals could be hung on string, while the swimming medals would look like the ridiculously oversized jewelry out of a blaxploitation film. The question comes down to what sort of society we want. The market favors the status quo. Equality requires some elbow grease.

    12. Dave Kirkpatrick

      I don’t know which of these comments is directed at me or not, but I want to clarify that I’m not saying that men deserve more money than women, nor am I of the mind that in all cases the prize lists should be absolutely equal. It depends on how the purses are getting funded, participation levels, etc. Plus take it from my perspective that prize money shouldn’t be a part of amateur racing.

      In absolutely no case do I think that anything less than the elite fields in any event should get paid. Paying Cat 3s is ridiculous (and I’m a 3 on the road). But if we’re paying prize money at regional amateur events, where prize purses are funded by participation, it makes no sense to me that a 100 rider field and a 12 rider field have the same prize list. Pay the podium the same, sure, but 10th in the 100 rider field is a wildly different thing than 10th in the 12 rider field. That’s wholly gender non-dependent – if the women are the bigger field, they get the bigger prize list. I’ve seen several races in the last year where all you had to do to get paid something was cross the start line. To me that’s dumb, but you sure can’t blame those promoters for not hewing to the “if you build it they will come” mantra (which is a trite fallacy).

      For legitimate pro events, yeah probably equal prize lists in most cases. World Cup level CX races are a pretty good litmus test for that. The women’s races drew just about equal TV viewership as the men’s races did, and in my opinion the women’s racing in the last two years has been more competitive and compelling in that venue. World Cup level CX also has the HUGE kink in it of having a lot of non-endemic sponsors. Whether you’re watching a women’s race or a men’s race, Soudal’s or BeoBank’s impressions are getting through. Endemic sponsors are in a much different game, where racing is a proof of concept. Not advocating any particular thing in regards to gender there, but “eyeballs” for non-endemics are a much different thing than proving a product’s worth to a market size (and males buy more bikes and bike stuff than females, by a lot).

      NRC races, stuff like Athens Twilight – equal prize lists. The fields are always full and these are pro races and that’s sort of that. But you have to accept that this means shifting money away from men’s prize lists to women’s prize lists – there’s no prize list fairy who’s going to just up and dump more money on the thing “because it’s right.” So some men would become more underpaid while some women would become less underpaid. Everyone’s still “underpaid” except in the eyes of the market, where they are paid fair value, de facto.

      And then you have the situation where a standalone men’s road World Cup race may have X level of sponsorship funding, and the closest standalone equivalent women’s road World Cup race may have 60% of X level of sponsorship funding, so you can either suppress the men’s prize list to a level where the women’s race can support an equal prize list, or demand that the women’s race pay at the level of the men’s race in which case the women’s race is underfunded and folds, or have separate prize lists. Clearly the middle situation is stupid, and the first and last have liabilities.

      There can equity to be achieved without rigid equality. Maybe given the history on hand, rigid equality is needed. I don’t know. But that comes with consequences which are along the lines of “the medicine might kill the patient.” I don’t know. But to say that in every case, every field must be paid an absolutely equal prize list is facile.

    13. Jeff Dieffenbach

      I understand the “same race” argument, but don’t think that competing in the same race is necessary to deliver equal value and earn equal pay.

      The recently completed cyclocross world championships provide an excellent example. The women’s race was competitive until midway through the final lap. The men’s race, by comparison, was a (but not the) blowout that many expected. As a spectator, IMHO, the women’s race delivered more value.

      Let’s now imagine that both races were equally suspenseful/entertaining. I would argue that the two races would have delivered equal value despite the women’s lap times being slower. The women did not have to be in the same race as the men to deliver that value.

      In an ideal world (and I get that the one in which we’re currently residing doesn’t live up to that standard), compensation would follow the entertainment. Sadly, there are too many systemic barriers in place at the moment.

    14. Tim

      Padraig I should clarify a few things here because it’s obvious that we disagree on this and aren’t likely to come to an agreement.

      I don’t believe that women should have to compete against men or that it is a key part of them ever achieving equal pay in any sporting event. If a given sport has sufficient public interest and sponsorship then yes the prize money should be the same. I just don’t think you can say that women are doing the same thing as the men and use it as grounds for equal pay unless they truly are competing on an equal level against each other. As soon as you separate the completion by gender you can make all sorts of logical arguments why the payment and prizes should be different.

      In my opinion your views on equal pay are backed by good intentions but unable to be supported by the economics of the real world. Just out of interest how far do you believe that this equal pay should extend? Just to men’s and women’s events in the same discipline, all cycling disciplines or all sports everywhere? If not to all sports, why not? It seems like lawn bowls players are horribly underpaid compared to soccer players.

      I am actually all for trying to encourage more female participation in cycling and in doing so using some of the money that is generated by the men’s competition but to my mind this should be concentrated at regional events not professional prize money. I think it would be good for the sport overall and should eventually be for the good of all competitors, male and female.

  19. Ryan M

    First thought – I get the impression that modeling as a career choice is looked down upon, considered inferior and worthy of derision.

    Second thought – I always thought the podium girls thing was just a weird thing to have and I’m thankful that our local amature events don’t utilize anything similar. Can’t really say I’m sad to see it go.

    Third thought – the only professional racing I pay attention to anymore is women’s cyclocross, and I find them fierce competitors with a relatively even playing field, even though a few seem to be winning everything nowadays. Anyway, the pro women’s field seems less superhuman and more real to me, and therefore more exciting and worthy of watching. Pro men’s ranks lost me at Postal and I can’t get it out of my head that the men’s side of things are doped to the gills or otherwise cheating their butts off. Sky isn’t helping.

    Fourth thought – I plan on mulling all this over more, and I really do believe pro women should be paid equal to what their men counterparts are being paid, but I think Dave Kirkpatrick has a solid argument above. Thanks for the article and the comments here; a worthy discussion to have.

    1. Lyford

      I do not think that modeling as a career choice is worthy of derision. I think that the choice to hire models to be scantily-clad podium presenters at bike races IS worthy of derision.

  20. Jeff

    Ways to promote equality:

    1. Define the prize by (base value) plus (route and depth of field value). Base value is a flat equal rate for all categories.

    Mandatory category bump after 3 podiums.

    Cat 4/5 and Clyde would have heavy competition and decent prize money… but after three podiums you are racing against winners… as people bump up the field and prize improves.

    Base value is defined by pooled sponsorship of the race itself. Or contribution of the hosting organization.

    Who knows, maybe cat 4 Clydesdales masters 40+ is where the money ought to be and potentially some epic racing.

  21. Shawn

    Another thought provoking letter. Thinking out loud on the keyboard here . . .

    Separate but equal is a fiction according to the robed ones. The best solution they could come up with in the context of education was integration. Is that the ultimate answer to gender discrimination in sport? Gender discrimination in general? Is there a sensible alternative that does not depend on separation, but equality?

  22. andrew frauenglass

    Looks like a case of sexual harassment by those two women. If you want to display your chest parts and then stick them in a mans face what are you trying to propagate. Not cool, put on a shirt and then go out and prove yourself on a bike. Take violence and overt sexuality out of all media. Displays of compassion and tenderness are the only true necessities.

  23. Erik Nohlin

    Amanda, Patrick – Spot-on and thank you for opening the mansplaining discussion In cycling again, much needed and always refreshing. Too bad dudes can’t see the big picture and just shut the fuck up or be supportive when women state the obvious. Thumbs up!

    1. Tim

      I’m sure you think that you are very enlightened here but closed-mindedness and censorship really aren’t the way forward. If you’re so sure of your position then spending time convincing others in a logical and calm manner would be productive. Insulting them for the purpose of virtue signalling is not helping the cause or portraying yourself in a good light.

  24. khal spencer

    Can’t disagree with Amanda. I don’t want to mansplain to women what their roles should be in life, but as far as the business and competition of sport, cheerleading or podium girl duties seem awfully sexist to me and suggest that women have subordinate roles as trophies rather than equals. I’ll leave it at that. Its up to individuals to decide their lot in life but this article put it all on the table.

  25. AlMac

    I think this one massively misses the mark. It simply compounds the sense that “Grid Girls” are objects.
    When you refer to another person as a “noncontributing commodity” you de-humanise them.
    It’s no better than the de-humanising of women as objects.

    There’s a link to a Grid Girl speaking out, which as far as I can see isn’t making a lot of the claims the article says Grid Girls are making. She doesn’t claim to contribute to the sport, she doesn’t demand her job back. She just gives her point of view about what she does, why she does it and a bit about who she is – to be heard as another person.

    All playing the person that fulfils the role: “go get a job that relies on expertise outside of your appearance”, “your lack of contribution and presence undermines my very real contributions to the sport”, “the next crop of booth babes”, “Investing years and countless dollars in your appearance, posing with people you’d probably like to NOT have to touch, being constantly nice…. Damn. I really do feel for you. But again—you’re a non-contributor.”

    Grid Girls aren’t commodities. They’re people. They might fulfil a role that’s questionable, but play the system that puts the role there – not the person that fulfils it.

  26. Gummee

    Quick thought: if women want equal payouts, shouldn’t they be riding equal distances and speeds?

    Otherwise, it isn’t equal work. Latest example was CX worlds: Men’s Elite 69 min. Women’s Elite 49min . Even Tennis has the men playing best of 5 and the women best of 3.

    Maybe ‘proportional pay’ would be a good start. I agree that women should be paid the same if they’re doing the same job. The military thinks so, and as soon as women are allowed into combat arms MOSes, they’ll be doing the same job too.

    …and… Amanda seems to thing ‘the world’ is too stupid to discriminate between modeling and racing bicycles. She and others in the same mindset are really no different than anyone else that knows ‘the one true path’ and tries to inflict that on others. I won’t veer into politics so we’ll leave it at that.

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