|These tacky socks were handed out to all attendees at Interbike 2015.|
|The grotesque "Signorina" bike was displayed at NAHBS 2015|
|What are the women there for, if not to be groped, right?|
And just to show how tone deaf people in the sport and industry can be, after that well-publicized groping incident, E3 Harelbeke decided to make it part of their promotional campaign in 2015.
|The headline translates to something like "Who will pinch them at Harelbeke." Though I've read that it can also be translated as "Who will be afraid . . .?" which seems frighteningly befitting.|
One of the things that I think is really disappointing about the podium girl issue is that there are so few ways for women to distinguish themselves in bicycle racing -- the number of women's races being so much fewer than for men. UCI leadership has little to say about the issue of podium girls, but has all kinds of regulations and limitations on women's racing that almost seem to send the message that appearing as a "hostess" is somehow a more legitimate or acceptable way for women to stand on a winners' podium or to participate in the sport.
Of course, the fact that podium girls are also used at women's races just seems especially awkward:
At some women's races, promoters have taken the "enlightened" step of having male "hosts" (podium boys?) to present awards to the victors:
|I'm not sure this looks any less awkward.|
Well, it seems that somebody in the sport has decided to do something to address the issue. At this year's Tour Down Under in Australia, which is like the season opener of the UCI racing calendar, there will be no podium girls handing out the awards. The South Australian government, which apparently provides some funding and support for the race, withdrew support for having female models on the podium. Instead, junior-level cyclists will present awards -- a move that they hope may help to inspire young athletes far more effectively.
As a father of two girls, I can say that I would much prefer to see them aspire to making it onto a podium as race winners than as models to be ogled -- valued for their strength as much as for their looks.
Not all races on the UCI calendar will be taking this step. In fact, it's more than likely that most of the big races, like the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France will still continue the outdated tradition. It may be a long time before the change becomes widespread.
Though it isn't saying much, we should at least take comfort that cycling's podium girls aren't treated like the women in professional motorsports like Formula One and Grand Prix racing:
|Seriously - is it celebration? Or assault?|
|And why is it that every one of these guys look exactly like the @$$hole frat boys I absolutely hated when I was in college? Most of them look like they're having a lot more fun than their targets.|
I know there are lots of people who think it's all just good fun, but just because there are women willing to sign up to be podium girls doesn't mean it isn't a problem. It's a question of value and opportunity. Looks are valued over other attributes to the extent that lots of girls grow up thinking that it's the only way to be accepted or valued. And the opportunities to prove themselves in other ways are limited or downplayed. It probably doesn't even occur to many that they could be the winner - and not just the prize.
I'm going to have to give "cheers" to the Tour Down Under for taking a stand, and hope that others may follow suit sooner rather than later.