Monday, February 14, 2005

Second Raleigh Impression

More of my thoughts on the Raleigh catalog and sexist, sexy biking images:

1. The catalog.
I looked through the rest of the catalog and have a much less favorable opinion than I expressed after seeing just p. 34. Many of the pictures do just look like the woman is decoration instead of rider. (Ex. p. 24: Strapless mini-dress and Mtn-biking--that would be an inevitable 'wardrobe malfunction'--she does appear to wear clipless shoes though.)

I think Raleigh is trying to continue the retro theme with a pin-up style display of women and bikes. The campaign seems weird to me, and just doesn't work--even ignoring the skin.

What actually bothers me more is in the text towards the end of the catalog, starting at page 61:

"Excuse our bad attitude.......Basic, black and bitchin', the Special takes no prisoners and moves over for no one. Ladies get one too, in a cool blue hue."These bikes have the same basic styling: the men's is stealth black--even the rims are black, but the 'ladies'' is powder blue with whitewall tires--bitchin' it is not, nor is it black. Weird--this tag line reads very much as if men are norm and women are some 'other.'

The 'Youth' lines are really where the sexist action is though:

Pg. 63. Raleigh girls bikes....... have plenty of style for the softer side of your brood. We've even accessorized with nice touches such as handlebar streamers and matching handbag. They're sure to be a hit in the neighborhood style parade.

Pg. 64. Raleigh boys bikes are designed to provide miles of trouble free fun. Aggressive looks and durable parts are sure to please the tastes and stand up to the rigors of your little rippers.

Aw....how sweet. Delicate little girls can play dress up as they ride safely in the 'neighborhood style parade' while tough energetic little boys rigorously rip mile after mile. fuckity fuc fuk fuck. I am so sick of little girls being portrayed as passive while their brothers are active. Pay attention to print ads for kids clothing. The girls are often posed with flowers or kittens or dolls while the boys are often in active shots: running, jumping, moving.

Perhaps we should send Raleigh this discussion thread and have Cycling Sisters sign it along with our individual stats (years bicycling, miles per year, primary riding type, longest ride, number of bikes, competitive status.....).

2. Sexist imagery.

Now on to more general issues of cycling imagery--a bicyclist is usually male. There is an interesting article that touches on this here: http://www.bicyclinglife.com/NewsAndViews/TowardTheFold.htm

So many of the common bicyclist stereotypes are men: Racer, mtn biker, messenger, 'crazy bike riding college professor' -- these all bring to mind men. Pay attention to the advertising in spring/summer bike season. I can almost guarantee the most prevalent image will be an aggressive, mud-splattered young guy going down a challenging mtn bike path (flatland Chicago). Then there will be aggressive young guys on road bikes. Next, a male/female couple taking a leisurely ride along a recreational, car-restricted path. Finally, there may be a family picture--these people aren't usually riding though--they are just holding their bikes and wearing helmets in wholesome poses.What you won't see are shots of women riding fast or aggressively (racing, mtn or messenger-style). You also probably won't see images of women riding alone, riding in traffic or getting dirty. Additionally you won't see women riding as a means of transportation (although men aren't usually depicted this way either). Nor will you see an image of a solitary guy just leisurely pedalling along. These are what I consider to be very real problems with sexist imagery. I personally would love to see an image of a commuting girl (fenders, lights, rack....) raising her middle finger to a cab as she takes a lane in downtown traffic. Or a girl jumping a pothole in alley with a messenger bag on her back. Or any girl, with her shoulder and arm muscles flexed, jaw clenched, wearing a "take no prisoners" look that the boy bikers usually sport. Hell yeah--I want to see biking girls who rock instead of just blandly smiling at the camera.

I agree with Gin--biking is damn sexy for men and women. For most people, biking is also a warm weather activity--therefore skin will show and spandex will hug curves and muscles. Also, just a general principle of advertising dictates that we won't see dumpy, ugly people of either gender hawking bikes. The common images of male cyclists aren't devoid of sex appeal--they are damn hot. Women are not the only riders depicted in a sexual manner. The problem that I see is similar to what Gin expressed: these women aren't using their bodies or bikes--they are just displaying them together.

Basically, I want to see more images of women riders and better portrayals of women riders. I want to see tough women, independant women, sweating women, dare-devil women working their bodies. The way many of us do every single day.

As a final note--I don't agree with the nasty stereotyping of men that pops up from time to time on this list. There are many, many, many great guys in the Chicago cycling community. In fact this thread was initiated by a man taking offense at the depiction of women in the Raleigh catalog.

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