Last night I joined the panel at a London Bike Kitchen WaG event to discuss the ways in which women are portrayed in the cycling media. This isn’t actually us, but it is a great way to get your attention.
It was a privilege to sit alongside eloquent and informed speakers Jools Walker (cycling blogger and presenter), Laura Laker (cycling journalist) and Chris Garrison (cycling marketing expert) on the stage (which was actually a very wide window sill!) in front of a packed room of cyclists at Look Mum No Hands! What followed was a truly inspiring debate. Here’s a quick summary of some of the key points I put forward (not because I’m more fascinating than everyone else – clearly I’m not – but because I’d be here all night if I included everything that was said!), followed by a link to an excellent post about the whole event which highlights more of the topics we discussed.
First, I’m as passionate about the media as I am about cycling. I’ve been a magazine journalist for most of my career and it’s been fantastically rewarding work. Because my background is in women’s magazines – where women are the focus of everything that’s written – I’d like to see women represented more widely in the cycling media too. I’m not used to being an afterthought!!
“It’s not women’s cycling, it’s cycling”.
I’d like to believe we can reach a point where we no longer feel the need to discuss ‘women’s cycling’ in the media as if it is something separate from general cycling. Unfortunately our cycling media, on the whole, currently feels like it is an exclusive men’s club. This may not be deliberate editioral or marketing policy, but it is still the case.
“For me, mountain biking is about freedom, joy and mini adventures…”
Imagery or copywriting that objectifies women has no place in cycling either. I’ve written about this before for Singletrack World, when I wrote an open letter to Maxxis in response to some of their more sexist advertising. As a mountain biker and road cyclist, I’d prefer to see brands use their marketing material to reflect how it is out there on the trails/roads where, in my experience, cycling is largely a friendly, supportive and inclusive community of people having fun. It would be great to see that celebrated across the media instead.
“Focus on the good…”
If we see media coverage that we like then acknowledge it, share it, talk about it and reward the brands with our hard-earned cash! Which brings me on to the fabulous advert for Look Mum No Hands! podium pants (above). It is fun and it works – brands take note, the pants sold out off the back of this ad. And then there is this film, below, by Sealskinz about the power of mountain biking: a beautiful and moving acknowledgement of the fact that we all ride for different reasons. Both ads are a refreshing, exciting glimpse of what our cycling media could become.
“Ordinary women doing extraordinary things”
Women cyclists are not all the same: we don’t share the same levels of participation, experience or areas of interest within cycling. We don’t all want to read the same blog posts (one woman will want to know about getting started, another about training for ultra cycling) nor buy the same kit. What we do want is to celebrate our diversity by sharing our stories. We don’t have to be world champion to have a great story to tell.
“Onwards and upwards…”
I’m glad to report that the audience in the room last night were as informed and empowered as the panel!! There was a wonderful energy and a shared passion for cycling. I came home to read a huge number of supportive comments on social media. This is such an exciting time for women who cycle and it is a joy to be part of the discussions to move it forward in the media.
Thanks for inviting me, London Bike Kitchen!
You can see and read more about the event here.