This post continues our series: Top 5 Worst Arguments Against Gender Equality in Pro Cycling. Our first post focused on getting readers up to speed on the fact that gender inequality exists in pro cycling. In this post, we address the burden that has been placed on women to make women’s cycling popular.
Women’s Pro Cycling is Unpopular Because Women Aren’t Fans
(a.k.a. the “Women’s-Cycling-Is-For-Women” defense)
This is an important claim to address because it’s one that all women’s sports must contend with in general—not just unique to cycling. This is the argument where people assert that women are responsible for the popularity of women’s sports.
This doesn’t make sense and all one has to do is look at the fact that women comprise a large portion of the fan base for other popular male-dominated sports (e.g., American football, baseball). So when you think about it, it’s a rather hypocritical stance to have—why is it that women should be expected to be fans of men’s sports and contribute to their popularity, while men can easily ignore women’s sports…oh, and then claim women’s sports are somehow inferior due to lack of fan base?
Following this logic, each sport should then exist in isolation according to gender. While I think that would be horrible in principle alone, it would also detrimentally affect men’s sports if all women decided that only men should care about men’s sports.
On a deeper level, this one is perhaps the most disappointing of all arguments. It continues the outdated thinking that when men are involved then it’s the normal way to go about things. But, once something is seen to have women involved to a large degree, or is designed to help women, it is then suddenly “other” or “different” or “separate” or “additional.” It becomes the exception to the norm, the rarity, the thing that only women are interested in because it’s a “women’s issue.” But is it really…?
More fans = more money. The entire sport of cycling will benefit from increased equality and the promotion of women in racing. In sheer numbers, there will be more fans–something that all cyclists seem to intuitively grasp as important, given that many people supported/defended Lance Armstrong through this whole doping ordeal simply because of how popular he made cycling.
Women’s health. By having more pro women cyclists and a wider fan base that includes women, it is logical to expect that recreational cycling will surge in popularity as well. Translation: Even more women getting around via pedal power. And we all know, whether it’s through individual experience or emerging research findings, that cycling has incredible benefits for health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Did you know that cycling is particularly good for women’s cardiovascular health?
Cycling could be a sport that combats sexism. It’s true that sexism is a problem in every sport, and it was very nice to see comments about that from readers in our last post. On the one hand, it’s good because it’s validating–this IS a problem. On the other, it can make us feel overwhelmed, give us a “that’s just the way it is” attitude. Make us feel like we can’t change it.
I think that cycling can be particularly effective at addressing sexism in sports though, at least in the United States. Here, it’s not all that popular anymore. It has room to grow, to change, to evolve. It’s resurgence in popularity is coming on strong, but still doesn’t have the fanbase that baseball and American football has.
Think of the fantastic benefits to society if cycling can become a sport that actually promotes, advocates, and enacts gender equality? There will be an increase in woman role models for all children. Both boys and girls will see that women can do it–that women are powerful, aggressive, and independent. The stereotypes about women being weak, passive, and incapable of contributing to exciting sports will be contradicted during live stream. Perhaps this could contribute to increased self-esteem and confidence in girls PLUS actually opening doors so they don’t hit the “glass ceiling.” It can also contribute to boys treating girls with more respect and equality, which will in turn contribute to healthier relationships with their partners.
Some readers might still be thinking…Okay, but it still sounds like it’s a “women’s issue.”
So then think of this final point, there is a very important fact that all men must consider. All men have important women in their life! Whether it’s your mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, partner, friend, or neighbor! What is good for them, is good for you, if we are to have a happy and healthy community, that is..
So is this really just a “women’s issue?” Our stance is that it is NOT. It’s an issue for everybody. Pushing equality in racing to the sidelines not only serves to keep women in the margins of society, but it also keeps men from fully participating or benefiting from these improvements (e.g., having an important woman in your life dying prematurely)—so everyone loses one way or another.
We hope that you enjoyed this post and that it sparked some thought. Our next post will focus on the issue of money and sponsorship.