posted 03/29/14 at 3:44am
on Looking ahead to the Sweet 16
posted by Felicity (Fawkes) Hawksley, a Women Talk Sports blogger
Monday, October 29, 2012 at 8:48pm EDT
About Felicity (Fawkes) Hawksley:
Freelance sports hack, ex-rower, keen cyclist and professional accidenteer. Enjoyer of insane self-made challenges. Proud to wear Dark Blue on Boat Race Day. About to escape the country to follow th...more
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No copyright infringement intended in the use of this photograph.
This picture is the month of April from a calendar sold online by bicycle and bicycle accessories website, Wiggle. My first reaction to products like this is to shake my head and move on. But I'm lately realising that if you move on from the little things, then you'll never be able to tackle the big things. So my policy is now to challenge rank misogyny where I see it. And so I had a little fun first; I composed a silly poem (because these things help with the BURNING RAGE) and then I decided to take a look at where selling an item like this fits into the service ethos of Britain's Number 1 bike shop. News: it doesn't.
Naked Babes, a poem by Vanilla Dream-Shag
You sell bikes, and parts. Sometimes,
April says so.
So many awards
But I do have a vagina
So does April
You say, especially
“We have a women's section”
Can I buy
Oracle Retail Awards
Orifice Retail Awards?
Regular monthly competitions
Can I win
Huge range of products
High quality baps.
45,000 sq ft warehouse
45,000 ft erection
Variety of different
Cash on the nightstand?
Front wheel for
I have highlighted the sentences from your 'Customer Services' page that I take issue with, in the light of your decision to sell this semi-pornographic calendar picturing women with a range of, for some reason, outsized bike parts:
“Being active in the great outdoors is a great way to get people together, create a sense of fulfilment and enjoy life.”
What is fulfilling or enjoyable about this calendar? What about this calendar encourages men to cycle more? What about it encourages women to ride bikes? Are my bib shorts and cleats not enough? Should I be dressed as a honk-tastic perma-babe, so that all the guys I race get debilitating erections? Also, I think you should probably advise people that tiny leather skirts and a bra will not keep you warm in the “great outdoors”.
I know these women are real pro cyclists, and I'm sorry, it doesn't detract from the point I'm making. Sure – it's their choice if they want to get their kit off, but it shouldn't be sold on this website. And honestly, ladies, really? Also, I would like to point out that the majority of the women's pro peloton does not look like this; suggesting that they do is off-putting to women, and also faintly fantastical.
I also get it that the calendar is double-sided (and has pictures "exploring" their professional lives on the reverse). Why the reverse? Why not stock a calendar that only has the professional? And as for branding the "sexy" photoshoot as "tasteful" - are you for real? What's tasteful about this? The saddest thing, of course, is that this kind of calendar gets commissioned in the first place. Before you stock something like this, you should ask yourself why it exists - why there is a space where as a female athlete, you might feel the need, or the pressure, or think it is the norm (or even fun) to do something like this. Think about whether you want to perpetuate a reality in which women are sex objects first and athletes second. It might seem harmless, but I don't see an equivalent men's calendar - and this is from a sporting profession where the men have podium girls and the women ... have podium girls. Seriously.
“Wiggle's aim is to give as many people as possible the choice to access cycling”
Well now. I would say that this calendar sort of suggests that men can just have a wank, hop on a bike and ride off, but women are one of three categories: 1. A smokin' slutty-slut-MILF-model who cycles to stay bouncin' for her “man” (see calendar), 2. A soggy bottomed mum working off those extra pounds for her “man” and needs inspiring 3. A depressed lesbian who's eaten herself to obesity and doesn't cycle, but wants something to look at as she cries and scoffs.
I don't think this is at all encouraging to a good portion of women.
“where at any time we can be stocking over 250,000 products”
Including a calendar that demeans women. A calendar that encourages the continuation of the perception of women in sport as fluffers and suggests that we might as well just wait for our husbands to arrive home. Fab. Why not stock something else? Like posters of Marianne Vos, so that girls who want someone to look up to can buy them. Or maybe just a calendar with actual female cyclists, cycling, (rather than posing on oversized components) on it, so that men can look at that, and say, 'wow', she's a good cyclist, not 'WOWZA, LOOK AT THEM SMASHING PUMPKINS”.
How about you stop being being a bunch of sexist pricks and realise that women aren't accessories that come with your BMC bike (does the BMC legal department know about this picture, I wonder?). Women are cyclists and athletes and worthy of respect.
It's calendars like this that mean when I cycle in London, I am subject to overtly sexual comment from male passers-by and male cyclists. It's calendars like this that make some women uncomfortable with the notion of wearing lycra. It's calendars like this that make some women avoid exercise, because this is what they feel men aspire to, and they know that they will never look like that. And if you think that this calendar is not part of that misogynistic tradition, then you are wrong. It is a cog, a small cog, in the machine that tells women that they are there for the viewing and not much else.
“You have our absolute commitment as fellow active sports enthusiasts … that you'll be satisfied with Wiggle.”
Well I'm not. I'm not satisfied. You're clearly men's sport enthusiasts, not women's. You can't hawk calendars like this, and in the same breath try to say that sport is for everyone to enjoy. I want to know why you thought it was a good idea to sell this. Why you thought it was defensible. Heck – I want to know if you thought at all, or whether it's just so much part of your everyday life, looking at women like this. Don't you think there's enough out there? Porn? Page 3. How about you leave sport alone?
“Ensuring that the product you buy, is exactly what a true sports enthusiast would want.”
What about this product is for the true sports enthusiast? I consider myself to be pretty enthusiastic about a range of sports, but I don't own a semi-pornographic, demeaning calendar. Am I not enthusiastic enough? Is this what you're saying? If so, I want seven, one for every member of my close family (five of whom are female), so that I can demonstrate to them my OVERWHELMING ENTHUSIASM FOR THE SPORT OF SEX...I mean, cycling.
“However we are not just a cycling shop. … as well as having a specialised women's section on the site.”
Erm, OK. So your definition of “just a cycling shop” is really “a men's cycling shop”. Wow. Guys. You outdo yourselves. Well done to you, you have a women's section too?! How fucking inclusive of you, really. What's wrong with the sentence, “we stock men's and women's products”? Nope, not doing it for you? You need to tell women that they're so special, they need a special bit of your special website to themselves. You need to announce it. Next someone will be telling me I can vote, drive, leave my husband! Pssssh, surely not!?
Wiggle, I have three sisters and a brand new niece. We have enough to worry about, for ourselves and for the women of the world: glass ceilings, rape, domestic abuse, Page 3, stalking, genital mutilation, endemic pornography, lower pay – you get the picture. Yes, this isn't on the same scale, but it's certainly part of the bigger picture. Sport is a space for everyone, not just men.
So, this is a testimonial from a “real customer”. (FYI, I prefer my testimonials from fake customers, or at the very least, written by cats or newborns). No doubt you'll think that my complaint is overblown and that I'm making a fuss over something very small. Well, you see, Wiggle, that's just it: it's calendars like this, sold on a leading retail website like yours, that suggest that this is the norm for women.
Wiggle, you should stop selling this calendar. You should sell posters of strong women (and yes, they can be feminine too) who cycle. It's not hard. Sell those posters, and I might buy some. Sell this calendar and you can be sure I won't buy from you again, and nor will a great many people I know.
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