Hey dude

Yeah, I guess she is good looking.  I was actually looking at her bike though. She’s come to a bike race, not to be gawked at.  No, you’re boring, you’re on repeat.  I’m not sure if you’re repeating you, or them, but we are on repeat.

For some reason the same things always happen at bike races.  Well I guess that reason is that bike races are mostly organised and attended by men.  We like to follow the herd, repeat the mindless, sexist drivel over and over again at each race because it lets everyone easily identify with each other.  It’s so boring though, and identifying with boring people doesn’t appeal to me.

Some people that organise small races have always done it fairly.  The major fixed crits have now started treating everyone equally and that is great.  Same rules, same prizes.  Not really something we should be oohing and aahing about but, unfortunately, in the world of cycling it is not the norm.  We could carry that statement over into sport in general, or even broader society, but then I would be digging myself a hole so wide that I wouldn’t be able to see the edges.

Red Hook Crit, Milan 2014.  Photo by Nils Laengner - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nils-Laengner/307020639327810

Red Hook Crit, Milan, 2014.

By Nils Laengner, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nils-Laengner/307020639327810

The sad thing is that even at these exemplary races it seems like a large part of the crowd has come to watch the men race and look at the women.  We live in societies where it has been accepted that women are first to be looked at as a thing, but this is bike racing.  Women are coming out to do battle, bump shoulders, risk eating tarmac and get that burn in their legs, the same as you.  This should be the one place we can forget all the mind programming and look at everyone as racers. Same goals, same hardships, same risks, same rewards.

It’s always easy to ignore a problem when it doesn’t affect you.  You can’t really put yourself in their Sidis, we’ll never know what it’s like, but try to imagine if the roles were reversed.  Cycling is women dominated.
You rolled up to the start of a race and you were one of six men out of a group of sixty cyclists.  Yeah, yeah, it’d be great. Stop thinking with your dickhead for a moment.  Really think about it.  Where are all the other guys?  Is there even going to be a proper a men’s category? Why are all they staring at me?  Am I wearing the wrong gear?  Is this what the after party is going to be like?  How come I’m in all these creepy lady’s photos?  Why do those women keep looking over and laughing?  Should I even have come to this event?  Where are all the other guys?!

It might feel a bit like when you went to your first alleycat, only it’s like that every time.  It’s awkward, most of us would probably stop showing up.  I know when I helped organise the first women’s-only alleycat here in Mexico City about eighty women turned out.  At a normal alleycat there might be ten out of one hundred.  That tells a story.  Women want to race, they like bikes just the same, but they’re just not comfortable with the current atmosphere at races.  It’s intimidating and if they do turn up to race, after all the stupid comments and creepy looks before the race, to end it all off they’re probably going to get gipped at the award ceremony.

Red Hook Crit, Milan, 2014.  By Nils Laengner, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nils-Laengner/307020639327810

Red Hook Crit, Milan, 2014.
By Nils Laengner, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nils-Laengner/307020639327810

Why should you split the money 50-50?  You beat so many more people than they did… They didn’t rig the race so that fewer women would come.  They came out and beat everyone who was willing to race them. Just because there aren’t as many women competing doesn’t mean that they didn’t race as hard and as smart as you.  It’s not their fault there weren’t more women racing.  If anyone’s, it might be partly your fault, that thoughtless attitude isn’t exactly drawing a female crowd in.  How are we going to get more women racing by keeping their prizes and prize money lower than men’s, or by not even recognising they raced?
There has been generation after generation of girls that have grown up, knowledge seeping in to them, that their efforts are of a lower value than that of the other sex’s.  They have to deal with more bullshit than you and still they ride and race. Maybe their racing is purer than ours.  No promise of real recognition or reward, just bike racing.

If you’re organising a race, it is a case of build it and they will come.  Maybe not right away but eventually if enough organisers set a decent example, numbers will rise and more organisers will follow suit.  Screw what the big races and the UCI are up to, those guys have had their heads up their arses since the bicycle was invented.  The whole reason we organise unsanctioned events is so we don’t have to deal with their crap, so we can have fun and we can feel good about cycling.  We can at least make an effort to include everyone and show those in the big time how it should really be, maybe even make them feel a little shame.

If you’re just there to race, chill out.  Try to realise that it’s uncomfortable being a minority.  It’s not that hard not to be a douche.  If you really are not sure how to act, the best advice, which applies to most situations in life, is to just shut up. It’s hard to learn anything with your gums flapping.

Red Hook Crit, Milan, 2014.  By Nils Laengner, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nils-Laengner/307020639327810

Red Hook Crit, Milan, 2014.

By Nils Laengner, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nils-Laengner/307020639327810

I don’t think it’s all bad though.  More and more race organisers are waking up and doing things right.  Atmospheres at races are changing, albeit to slowly. Even in the highest ranks, organisation are being shook awake.  The easiest thing anyone can do is think about their own behaviour.  People don’t like to stand out from the crowd, but if more men start thinking a bit more, and making the scene more welcoming, well, you can do the man maths.

If you’ve been paying attention to the unsanctioned race scene recently, you’ll have noticed that there isn’t much difference between the two fields out on the track.  It should be that way on the sidelines too.

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