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Wiggle Cycle Store: Men and Sluts Only!

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


O, Wiggle.

You sell bikes, and parts. Sometimes,

Parts.

Lady parts?

April says so.


See above.


O, Wiggle.

So many awards

Eighteen

I have

No awards

But I do have a vagina

So does April


See above.


O, Wiggle.

You say, especially

“We have a women's section”

Can I buy

April there?


See above.


O, Wiggle.

You say

Bike nuts

Sluts? Bung!

You say

Oracle Retail Awards

Orifice Retail Awards?

Regular monthly competitions

Can I win

April?


See above


O, Wiggle.

Huge range of products

Huge bazongas

Huge collection

High quality baps.

April's baps?


See above.


O, Wiggle.

45,000 sq ft warehouse

45,000 ft erection

Passionate service.

From April?


See above.


O, Wiggle

Variety of different

Payment methods

Cash on the nightstand?

Front wheel for

April?


See above.


O Wiggle.

YOU DOUCHEBAGS.


Dear Wiggle,

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.


Sincerely,


Felicity Hawksley

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There are 5 comments on this post. Join the discussion!

BikeDibley.com says:

You certainly learned alot about Wiggle when writing this. Could it not be argued that a product like this is just a bit of fun? There is no nakedness in the calendar and although it's provocative, it is still all about bikes.

Sure it's a calendar for which will benefit men the most, but picture a workshop or garage with pictures on the wall. Would you rather your man have the last 12 months of The Sun's page 3's pinned up where there really is a woman who is semi-naked (top half) or a calendar with female cyclists (they aren't just models) adding some spice to the sport they calendar owner is passionate about?

There are far easier and more comprehensive ways of a man finding a source of adult amusement than buying a calendar.

OK OK, so I'm a man and probably don't understand where you're coming fro, but at the end of the day this is a product sold in bike shops accross the country and bought by many.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 5:27am EDT

Felicity (Fawkes) Hawksley says:

I appreciate your comment, and I understand that your position on the calendar - that it's not really doing much harm, is one that's held by a great many people. It's an easy position to adopt, and one I used to adopt myself - until I realised that the small things matter.

I have to say, I don't think it's about choosing what kind of demeaning pictures I'd rather envisage! I'd rather have neither page 3, nor this calendar, and I really don't think that women should have to see or be subject to either.

The overarching point of this piece questions the socially conditioned need and desire for calendars like these - a "need" or "desire" that leads to such products becoming the norm on a site that claims to retail bicycles and bicycle accessories.

The notion that these things are "a bit of fun" is false. Yes, the subjects of the photography may have had fun - but to what end? And why did they feel the need to do it? Photographs like these are a direct result of the way women are spoken about, considered and treated in sport and in life. And so they begin to consider and validate themselves in this way too.

At the end of the day, the facts stand: Wiggle are not offering a calendar with half naked men, posing in an overtly sexual manner. I can only surmise that this is because men do not need to be viewed as attractive in order to be accepted as a successful athlete. At the very least, this calendar should not be retailed by Wiggle, a site that claims to promote inclusivity and boasts of its awards. This is top shelf material and should be retailed elsewhere, if at all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 5:51am EDT

Crimson says:

While I don't mean to interrupt the channeling of your inner Dworkin a few observations seem to be in order.

It's your right to be offended by the calendar photos but that doesn't mean they offend all women nor do you speak for all women. In fact a person doesn't have to look far in feminist literature to find the position that many women not only aspire to that type of exposure but they find it empowering at some level. You may not agree with them, but their opinion is no less valid than yours. This woman obviously participated in this activity on a voluntary basis and likely was paid for her efforts. She may well have felt empowered in doing so.

As a private business Wiggle can market however they like within the bounds of the law. They've done so with this calendar. If they felt selling calendars with half naked men would support their business I'm sure they'd consider putting one one out. They don't have to entertain, accept or react to your frantic socio-political rants in any case. Trust me when I say that the loss of you and your friends business won't drop them into insolvency.

By the way that "sexist prick" line is pretty unimpressive. You pick that up at Oxford?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 10:36am EDT

Felicity (Fawkes) Hawksley says:

In response:

When you write, often you adopt a position of hyperbole to make a lesser point. As you can see, some of the above post is not entirely serious.

I understand that Wiggle are a private company and can market anything, within the law - I am rather suggesting that their opinion of themselves, and their self-stated ethos (on the Customer Service section of their website) does not tally with the product that they are selling here.

Further, I know that I do not represent the opinion of all women. I would be worried if I did. This, again, is what's known as taking a position.

And of course Wiggle won't miss my business. But if we all sat back and decided that our single contributions were redundant then very little would get done.

Pleased to see that you couldn't resist the obligatory witty Oxford comment - people never can!

Sincerely. A Dworkin (?!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 10:49am EDT

Crimson says:

What you've most likely accomplished here is offered up to the Wiggle's management people a welcome opportunity for some comic relief before they get back to the business of selling bikes to people that are more interested in riding than ranting.

I'm thinking that if you weren't so eager to call attention to your privileged elitist white feminist pedigree by constantly referencing your matriculation at Oxford in your writing you wouldn't have to worry about responding to comments on the subject.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 11:25am EDT

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