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.
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.
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.
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.