[leadin]The bike industry constantly attempts to “engage” more women in the sport. But why does it time and again alienate the gender? Another example came to the surface this week when the socks below were handed out to attendees at Interbike, the biggest bike convention in North America.[/leadin]
These socks, included in a welcome bag for attendees, are one of those not-so-subtle jabs at half of the population. Granted, Interbike is held in Las Vegas, and you can’t look ahead without seeing scantily-clad bodies.
But perhaps out of exhaustion over the issue, as well as other recent incidents, the socks struck a bad chord. A marketing manager for Surly Bikes, Christina Julian, wrote this post to call out Interbike, as well as Chrome Industries, for sexist promotional missteps.
“Both of these companies have many female supporters and responsibilities to these supporters. They failed us. Flat out. They failed the women in this industry,” wrote Julian.
While the promotional stunt by Chrome (topless women handing out fliers in New York, below) could be viewed as empowerment, it has come under scrutiny of such groups as the Women’s Bike Messenger Association, which wrote:
“As a company with a significant following and longevity in this scene that has always attempted to straddle the line between representing messengers while still utilizing our culture a part of your “lifestyle brand,” we would hope the team responsible for posting to your social media would think twice before stooping to traditional corporate means of sexualizing women, specifically white and skinny women, in marketing. Proportionally, there are far fewer women cyclists, and certainly female messengers, and all of us have fought to be taken seriously as cyclists above and beyond our bodies and gender.”
According to the League of American Bicyclists, 24 percent of bike trips in 2009 were by women. That is a whole lot of bike rides, with a massive potential for growth. The bike industry knows this.
About a dozen events at Interbike were focused on how to sell more products to women. With names like “Women: The Majority Minority & Cycling’s Secret Weapon,” these break-out groups ponder how to appeal to the female market.
But in the same breath comes a pair of socks, in a goodie bag, with women in bikinis, their rear ends exposed in a blatantly sexual image.
Interbike responded to the issue when confronted by Wendy Engelberg and Girls Gone Riding, apologizing and pulling the socks from bags to be handed out. But for some, the damage was done, even if it was, as stated by Interbike, caused by a third party.
Has cycling once again shot itself in the foot? These may be minor infractions in the grand scheme, but each step backward is hard to overcome.
(Editor’s note: Interbike offered an apology for the error, telling GearJunkie: “We’re deeply sorry for what happened. We weren’t able to review the socks before they went in and they slipped through the cracks,” said spokesman Justin Gottlieb. “We’re doing some great things, like the women’s collective ‘neighborhood’ on the show floor.” Learn more here.)