Top 5 Worst Reasons Against Promoting Gender Equality in Pro Cycling: Stage One Denial


Written by: Ashley & Jason

So far we have written two pieces on the issue of women’s racing and prize money.  We received a number of comments on these posts and have read several other articles about this issue, and felt it was time to write up a response to some of the worst arguments we have heard about gender inequity in professional cycling.  This is the first time we’ve ever co-written a piece, so we hope that you all like it.

In our first post, we make the case that there is a gender disparity in professional cycling. (Oh, and this post might be useful as a background read)

Reason #1: There Isn’t a Gender Disparity

(a.k.a., the “Allow-Me-To-Point-To-A-Token-Example” defense)

We are starting with this because there are apparently people out there who are in denial that there is a problem with gender inequality in sports. So we wanted to first clear the air and point to some of the problems that highlight this inequality.

Come on, even I can see the inequality!

Come on, even I can see the inequality!

Many will point to the fact that there women’s Pro teams exist as evidence that (a) there isn’t a problem, or (b) that enough is already being done to address the problem and, therefore, nothing more really needs to be done.

Yes, manufacturers and sponsors have some women’s teams. We do not dispute this. In fact, if you look at this page, Ashley started to highlight a few of these companies. And, yes, bicycle manufacturers will provide equipment to both women’s and men’s teams. So progress is being made. But, it’s important to look beyond token examples, and to search for the details. Search between the lines.

One example is that manufacturers often support multiple men’s teams while supporting a single women’s team.  Also, support for the women’s team is often much less extensive than what men’s ProTour teams receive.

Also, we aren’t sure if you have noticed, but when there are races under threat of cancellation, it’s often the women’s race and not the men’s that are at risk for being cancelled.  For example: The women’s version of the Giro was under threat, but the thought of canceling the men’s Giro would be sacrilege (See Here)

Plus, there are some historical issues. Such as women being excluded from racing at all, and the gender gap in prize money, with women’s prizes being significantly less than men’s (we address the UCI’s recent decision in an upcoming post)

We could even look to a recent UCI-sanctioned event to see it demonstrated gender inequalities in racing, in a very subtle way.

Gender Inequality in the Cyclocross World Championships. 

Luckily, this event streamed live—yay for those of us who couldn’t make it to Kentucky! The woman’s Elite race was streamed (and yes, we watched it) and so was the Elite men’s race. Fantastic!

Did you notice, however, that they also streamed the men’s Junior and U23 race…but the women’s versions were excluded?

Did you also notice that the U23 men’s race was held at a more prominent time than the Elite women’s race? (Note: This is akin to saying that the “minor league” men’s race is more important than the “major league” women’s race).

So even when the UCI are streaming their own events online, they exclude more women’s events than men’s events.

It is important to look at this because since women’s racing was at least covered, it can be easy to buy into the defense of, “But we streamed the women’s race!” It’s the token gesture to make them appear to be strong advocates about women’s racing and gender equality in the sport. It’s subtle details like these that are most important for identifying inequalities, yet they often go unnoticed.

Conclusion

So, hopefully we can all agree that there is at least a gender disparity in pro cycling and/or that there is room for improvement.

"Hi, my name is the Sport of Cycling, and we have a problem with gender equality"  (source)

“Hi, my name is the Sport of Cycling, and I have a problem with gender equality.” (source)

In our next post, we address the common argument (that someone specifically left as a comment in Ashley’s earlier post) about why women’s cycling ins’t popular.

Stay tuned!

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13 responses to “Top 5 Worst Reasons Against Promoting Gender Equality in Pro Cycling: Stage One Denial

  1. Good post. Unfortunately it’s problematic across the board in virtually all sports, and the issues are multi-faceted. From cycling to basketball to golf.

  2. It’s ALWAYS all about the money. I think people are just used to the status quo. A priority should be to show people that women’s sports can be just as entertaining as men’s. Once that happens, people will spend just as much money to see women compete and the problems will dissapear.

  3. When the men’s and women’s races were covered on the olympics, I actually enjoyed the women’s race a lot more than the men’s race. It was more entertaining and it seemed more aggressive. Based on this, I wish there were more women’s races, so that we can see something that is entertaining.

  4. Until I read this, I actually hadn’t thought much about gender issues in sports. Growing up, I played Soccer in an area where Football was the priority sport, so I was used to both male and female Soccer teams coming second to Football. I never really gave a thought to the gender dynamics behind other sports as an adult, but now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a broadcast of a female cycling race other than the Olympics. How sad.

    • thank you so much for reading and sharing this thoughtful comment! I’m glad that this was a good post to stimulate that thought. it is sad, but i always like to be as hopeful as i can. and we will end this series with things that people can do to combat this!

  5. Money is part of it for sure, as others have commented, but success is just as important. An example is the Women’s Basketball program at Tennessee – inredibly popular, and many say more exciting than the men’s games … And they WIN! UConn, another example. Another problem is how many people watch a sport …. Soccer and cycling are just two examples of sports that the “mainstream” folks just don’t watch – unless an individual or team is winning (as opposed to football, bball, NASCAR) and of course that circles back to advertising /money.

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