International Women’s Day: Bang Your Head Against A Wall

by Hannah Dobson 11

Hannah bangs her head on the wall
Head. Wall. Head. Wall.

It’s International Women’s Day. Hurrah. Let’s celebrate. Let’s celebrate the fact that women are so routinely overlooked that we need a special day to draw attention to ourselves.

OK, yes, it’s also an opportunity to shed light on all the amazing women out there doing inspiring things, and I don’t wish to detract from them and their amazing achievements at all. But if we lived in an equal society we wouldn’t need to be saying ‘look at these amazing women’ because they’d be on our TVs and in our newspapers every day anyway, giving their opinions on stuff, being asked to explain things to those of us who want to learn more, telling other people why their analysis is wrong, and generally being visible and listened to. We wouldn’t have to corral them together and point big arrows at them to let our children know they are out there, because they’d be seen, every day, in our everyday lives.

The UCI needs to step up and stop allowing women’s events to be treated as a secondary afterthought.

We wouldn’t need to be writing columns pointing out how – yet again, snooze, encore une fois, oh how tired of saying this we are – women are being left out and treated as secondary.

Imagine my interest when, whoop, yay, I see the headline ‘We Are Improving The World Cup Program‘. Well, that sounds interesting. ‘We are trying to launch new things to attract more fans and sponsors, as well as more teams and riders’. Excellent. Grow the sport. Yup.

‘We will start with a new discipline in world biking: SHORT TRACK. It is a short, dynamic race’. That sounds like a good thing. Easily put out on TV. Should be good for attracting sponsors.

‘For this year we’ll only launch the Men Elite category, let’s see what next year brings! :-)’

Smiley face.

Let’s just leave out half the population. Smiley face.

Let’s just sell you that left shoe. See how you get on. We’ll give you the other shoe for your right foot next year if you like the left one. Smiley face.

NO! Totally f****ing not smiley face. Really annoyed fed up of dealing with this sh*t face.

I know, in the grand scheme of crimes against women, abuses of power and misogyny, this is small potatoes. There are bigger battles out there to be fought and won. But this is so easily fixed, an instance of secondary treatment so easily avoided. The big battles still need to be fought, but the drip drip drip of little actions which treat women as secondary must also be challenged, as they create the background noise, the setting, the social landscape, in which those big issues are the tallest peaks in a mountain range of inequalities, rather than a volcanic remnant in a levelled landscape. Accepting these actions makes ‘men first, women second’ seem normal.

This is an ‘exhibition’ of the event. No rules apply. So just stick everyone in together – women and men. Or find some women and put on a women’s race. But in 2017 ‘let’s see what next year brings’ is just not good enough. Especially at a prestigious event sanctioned by our supposedly governing body. Triathlon manages to deliver equal prize money and competition for women and men. When is cycling going to do the same? The UCI needs to step up and stop allowing women’s events to be treated as a secondary afterthought. All of us need to be calling out this crap and making sure it’s not accepted by riders, fans, viewers, or sponsors.

International Women’s Day. I’ll celebrate when we don’t need one.

Comments (11)

  1. I know what you mean Hannah. I still feel Pinkbike handled today with more class though.
    Linking to some of their coverage of women riding. Maybe you could have done some of that to show how Singletrack is promoting women rather than moaning at the rest of society.
    Lead by example perhaps?

  2. @eddiebaby there was no grand plan here – I was going to write a news story on xc short track and ended up writing a column. It just happened to be IWD when I saw this particular news item. Yes, we could have done a big showcase type thing, but in actual fact I think that Singletrack flies the flag for equality day in day out, and to me that is more important than a one off day of action. I’ve spent most of my working life in the public sector working with an equalities agenda in one form or another, and I can honestly say that Singletrack as an employer, staff body and media outlet is as proactive and courageous on equality issues as any I’ve experienced.

  3. Incredibly well-put Hannah, and I think you’re Bob-on.

    The fact that women’s racing still appears to be an after-thought in 2017 is not good enough.

    And I have to disagree @eddiebaby – today is the perfect day to call out inequality and to draw people’s attention to it. Otherwise indifference only supports the status quo and the inequality it sustains.

    Though I will leave my personal opinion out about Pinkbike and gender equality 🙂

  4. OK Hannah, lets do it.
    Lets see equal coverage for women on the site and mag and I’ll make sure that I give equal credit to gender in my posts. I worked in the watersport press for 20yrs, we covered women a lot and to be honest the response from our few female readers was pretty bland despite having great riders writing for us.
    And singletrackwil… Pinkbike comments rival YouTube for offensiveness againsrt everything (not just women) but the editorial team seem pretty well balanced.
    ST has the advantage of Hannah and before that Jenn in key roles, lets use that to make a change in the sports coverage, maybe a higher ratio of photos of women to men and possibly a discussion with advertisers about more gender neutral advertising campaigns.
    BTW. I’ve been and tried that 15 years ago. Male readers liked the idea but not the reality, they wanted bikini pics. Women were under 1.5% of the readership. Time to decide if you are running a magazine or a campaign?
    I’ll be intrigued to see the next few issues of the mag and see where you take this.
    Disclosure: The two most inspirational people in my life are women. Neither are my mum.

  5. Oh, and maybe start with the ratio of men to women on the cover pics.
    The gallery of past covers isn’t exactly 50/50.
    And yes, as I said in my previous post I’ve been there with the problem of equality in print in a male dominated sport and understand the problems of using stunning images supplied by company paid photographers. Time to put the pressure on them and stand by your principles.

  6. Don’t wait for the UCI. They’re dinosaurs who haven’t heard the latest news from Chicxulub – their time’s up, they just don’t know it yet. In fact, the UCI missed a trick here. Instead of running Short Track XC as a Men’s Elite event to try out the waters, they should have launched it as a Youth event, male & female competing together. If that doesn’t get some **seriously** enthisiastic & wildly partisan support I don’t know what will. & that’s what a new event needs. But then, I guess the one thing we can all agree on is the UCI isn’t capable of organising a Family Fun Day, let alone world cycling. Or, indeed, anything else.

  7. I just read this and I think it highlights some of the issues within cycling more generally around equality (not just female participation).

    I tend to view cycling in general as quite an open, inclusive activity, I think the problems often come when “regulated/governed competitive cycling” rears it’s head.
    Yes there’s certainly greater male participation in cycling (as with almost any sport) but you’d probably find there’s also a few other demographic bias’ involved in cycling participation, not only are men more likely to sling a leg over a bike and race, but those men will probably be disproportionately White and Middleclass… Of course the UCI would be (rightly) lambasted if they actively sought to exclude non-whites or those from poorer backgrounds from any tier of competition, why is it acceptable to exclude women from UCI sanctioned competition then?

    What they’ve done in effect here though is state they’ll test the water on a new format with the “Prime Demographic” and if it sticks we might allow everyone else to have a pop…

    I have to agree with oceandweller, “Short Course XC” sounds like the perfect introduction/gateway format, so why limit it to elite males? it should be targeted squarely at youths and Juniors and certainly include female participants otherwise it has the opposite effect and only serves to deter people from getting into racing in the first place…

    I’m not sure I follow your points eddiebaby are you saying STW needs more “Women specific Content” or that it’s not worth catering for/including women in your audience because there’s not as many taking part?

  8. Anecdotally I’m noticing way more women taking part in events such as the Strathpuffer and all of the female competitors I came across in this year’s event were nailing it around the course. It’s great to see the number of women taking part increase and long may it continue.

  9. Just want to defend Singletrack at @eddiebaby’s comments on equal participation/coverage.

    Singletrack somewhat recently had an all-female design team, (Jorji and myself) and a three-quarters female editorial team (Chipps, Jenn, Jorji and myself). You’d be hard-pressed to find that in any sports publication anywhere. Mag content might not have directly reflected those ratios… but three positions filled by females in a very small, male-dominated industry is something to be proud of.

    *** Despite the screen name, I’m no longer am employed by ST. Opinions my own, not Singletrack’s. ***

  10. I totally agree with Eddiebaby about equal content for cover shots and everything else. If you present mountain biking as an equal sport, women looking at it through the media will start to believe it is, and hence will attract those who would normally shy away from the testosterone filled pot that it currently is. St are very good at equal share, but generally the media is all videos of men shredding it. My daughter has started to believe it’s a men’s sport for this reason (we watch video of the day before her bedtime if it’s suitable)

  11. Ps just wanted to add, I don’t think I agree with Eddiebabys outlook though, I believe we are just starting to see the beginning of more women participating in the sport, you see way more on the trails than you used too. Only when it’s a truly equal sport will it really start to flourish.

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