An Open Letter
As soon as Lizzy Armistead crossed the line to take silver in an exciting finish to the Women’s Olympic Road Race (more exciting that the men’s may I add!), she didn’t jump at the opportunity to gush about a life-achievement, but to express the disappointing reality at lack of support in women’s cycling to an international audience. She wasn’t only standing on the podium to collect her medal, but to represent a sport that is very under-valued.
Every week since Lizzy stood-up to sexism, there have been multiple articles across various national media outlets on the topic from others in the sport – both women and men alike. However, one sad reality is that the media that matters, the focused cycling magazines which prize themselves on attracting and supporting amateurs in the sport, haven’t changed their stance at all.
Walk in to your local newsagent (they do still exist right?) and you’ll notice that the covers of the magazines are still adourned with the ‘role-model male cyclist’. You’d be lucky to find a column about Marianne Vos winning the BrainWash Ladies Tour at the beginning of September or tailored training and nutritional advice for women. So, what’s the deal publishers? The girls want to read and be more involved, and the boys are interested too (who wouldn’t want to see a picture of Lizzy, Emma or Vicky in lycra?!)
And so, I leave you with this – an open letter to Cycling Plus from a passionate reader. Karen posted this letter to Cycling Plus on September 1st after reading a highly sexist article. To date, she hasn’t had a reply and it’s unlikely they’ll respond in print… Seems they’ve lost what used to be a regular subscriber. Read on to find out what’s upset Karen most…
Dear Cycling Plus
Having been involved in a cycling accident, my husband bought me the September copy of Cycling Plus to read during my enforced immobilisation.
I used to buy your magazine every few months but stopped doing so because I felt that it was geared to male cyclists. However, this month you have excelled yourselves in this respect. My blood pressure started to rise when I read The Hub article on page 32 entitled ‘An old man’s game’ (my emphasis – alarm bells start to ring…). The article bemoans the lack of youngsters in cycling.
Apart from one mention of Victoria Pendleton’s name towards the end, women and girls were ignored, and even specifically excluded, despite the achievements of female cyclists this year. The opening paragraph lists the laurels of GB’s male road cyclists, including Chris Froome’s Olympic bronze, but, unbelievably, no mention of Lizzie Armistead’s well-earned silver medal in the road race.
But the real punch came later. A TT in Teesside is used to illustrate the problem of lack of youngsters; “out of…90 riders, there were only 17 male riders under 40…” (my emphasis). It then accounts for a further 50 –55 older (male?) riders leaving about 20 riders unaccounted for. Presumably these are the female riders. I make that coming on for 20% of the field who are not even deemed worthy of consideration in the statistics. With attitudes like this permeating throughout the cycling community, it is no wonder that women and girls feel like second class cyclists; no wonder that funding is withdrawn from women’s professional cycling; no wonder that Australian pro., Chloe Hosking, felt compelled to call Pat McQuaid “a bit of a dick” for his lack of support for equality in pay!
I accept the fact that there are fewer female than male cyclists, but please, please encourage women in cycling. My experience as a teacher has shown me that male and female pupils work together and respect each other much more than when I was at school – the sexism displayed in your magazine is an anachronism and I suspect that younger male riders are put off by it almost as much as younger female riders.Take a leaf from the climbing and mountaineering press – young, fit and accomplished female climbers feature, in equality with men, in every issue, often being the focus of cover photos and technical articles. Consequently, or co-incidentally, there is no lack of talented girls coming up through the ranks with the lads in climbing walls throughout the country. Respect, recognition and coverage of women and their achievements will only encourage younger people of whichever sex, it doesn’t matter, into our sport.
And think of this, a lot of your male readers may actually like to see photos of young, fit and accomplished female riders in your mag. – may even sell a few more copies…