The Chainlink

How Does Specialized Expect Women to Take Them Seriously When They Don't Take Women Seriously?

Specialized has found itself at the centre of a sexism row after a limited edition Playboy e-bike was unveiled at a Berlin bike show alongside women dressed in Playboy Bunny costumes. 

Monika Zamojska, cycle clothing brand House of Astbury co-founder, spotted the “Playboy Bunnies” at the Berlin Fahrradschau over the weekend, and says she feels the marketing contributes to a gender imbalance in the cycling industry and in the sport.

Zamojska told “These women were there to simply to look pretty next to the bike, and reducing women to just their appearance is what makes it so hard for female customers, athletes and women working in the industry to be treated seriously. We are not here to look pretty, we mean business.

“Women have the right to be represented by the industry in the same way as men do and not to be used as a tool to market products to the male audience.

“It might have been a product and a campaign targeted at the local market, but that does not justify it, especially that it only takes one tweet for the whole world to see it.

Cycling Today

Enough is enough. After a controversial 2015, one would think a bike manufacturer that bothered to invest in women's clothing, gear, and marketing would come to the obvious realization it's better NOT to alienate such a large percentage of its business and potential business. 

This is the description on their women's homepage, "We are for riders. All of you. That’s why we cheer just as loudly for women learning how to ride as we do for the ones racing to win. Because of this, we’re constantly inspired to make the best bikes and equipment for you. Whether you’re a mountain biker or road rider, new to the sport or a seasoned pro, let’s share the bike love and ride."

And they can write all the inspirational copy they want but the fact is that once they put two young women in bunny suits, they just transported us back to the 60s and proved they really aren't taking women seriously. It's all just marketing copy. As a woman, why would I want to contribute to this? Every saddle I own is Specialized and the next time I'm in the market for a new saddle, I plan to research my options again so I can avoid buying another Ruby Pro. This is how strongly I feel.

Specialized needs to start taking women seriously in cycling.

  • Retrain their entire global marketing team and establish what marketing is no longer allowed e.g. bunnies in skimpy outfits and product lines like a Playboy eBike.
  • Change the culture from the top.
  • Elevate women to executive and management positions so they can help guide the company to make better decisions that are not bad for business.
  • Advocate for women in cycling of all forms.
  • Stop alienating women, the largest growing market, with sexist campaigns and products like a Playboy bike. It looks ridiculous.

Here's additional background:

"For Women Cyclists, The Struggle is Real" by Jen Groen

"Things That Make You Go WTF" by Brett Ratner

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Are you kidding? I can't tell if this is a joke or an argument or both. 

If you are kidding/joking, you don't seem to be taking it seriously. That would be a shame. You have a lot of good insight you offer on The Chainlink and I would like for you to take this more seriously. And as David P. said, this is a global issue for women - in the workplace, in the home, everywhere. I have over 20 years digital and technical experience and yet I cannot tell you how many times men assume I am "not technical" and need to mansplain a simple concept like domain extensions to me like I'm a little girl. 

When I went to buy my road bike back in 2012 I wasn't taken seriously - why would I want to buy a carbon road bike with Shimano 105 when I could buy a hybrid with a comfort seat for a fraction of the cost? That carbon road bike with 105 helped me complete my first century months later and RAGBRAI the following year. 

That's just a taste of what I've experienced. As a woman, when you are not taken seriously over and over and over, it can feel defeating and overwhelming. So instead of sitting in a corner and giving up, I'm here as a business owner, trying to make a difference for all cyclists and for women cyclists. There are many topics I'll joke about but this isn't one of them. Take a look at the bike industry related advertising that has cropped up in 2016 (and it's only March):

Why should women be taken seriously? We are a huge part of the market and we are one of the biggest growth areas for the cycling industry.
•Women who bike commute grew 56% (2007-2011)
•Women will ride more with better bike infrastructure i.e. PBLs
•60% of bike owners aged 17-28 are women
Women 37% of the bike market in 2011, spending $2.3 billion
Women are still underrepresented in leadership position in advocacy organizations and the national industry
Professional women racers are grossly underpaid, no minimum set by UCI, not allowed to compete in the same races. 

In men’s cycling, UCI regulations clearly define what a team must pay its athletes: 36,300 euro for WorldTour squad (29,370 euro in case of neo-pros); 30,250 euro for Pro Continental squads (25,300 euro for neo-pros). Top athletes meanwhile make upwards of half a million euros per year. In women’s cycling, with no UCI wage regulations in place, athletes make only a fraction of the men’s minimum wage e.g. $5,000/year and many female athletes compete unpaid.

•Women are objectified in advertising and the media for bicycles and gear
•Two words: podium girls

As with other industries, the bike industry is male-dominated as I experienced at Interbike last year. And as a woman in the media, it is harder to be take seriously. We can do better. 

It's not a counter argument just an extrapolation. Hypersexualization of men hurts women as well.

Male cultural sexuality is as a physically and financially dominating character. Without understanding that you will never eliminate the sexual objectification of women.

Irvin, this is not about men - at all.

I yield! Too hot a topic.

I will say that I was standing and admiring a gorgeous Specialized road bike that was highlighted at the front of Spokes in Wheaton and when I talked to the sales guy he said it was in their line of woman's bikes. BTW that store has(or had) a as one of their best sales people, a woman that was super knowledgeable and a tri-athelete. That store definitely takes women cyclists seriously. I was there when a woman was getting a "pro" fitting on her new road bike.

There are a lot of great, knowledgable women in the industry so I am not surprised. I've been quoted in interviews for The Chainlink expressing how many great local bike shops there are in the Chicago area e.g. Johnny Sprockets, Turin, Boulevard, and more. I am not disputing Specialized's products - as mentioned in the post, I own 4 Ruby Pro saddles. Moving forward, if Specialized doesn't make significant changes, I struggle to buy anything from them, no matter how good, if the company doesn't respect me as a woman and consumer. 

I'm suddenly not so sad my Specialized Rock Hopper got stolen in 1999.

I am still bummed mine was stolen in 2005. It will always bother me but not n early as much as this sad nonsense with heeled bunnies. I have a hard time imagining purchasing a new Specialized. If they want a pretty girl or a pretty boy that girl or boy ought to act like a rider, look like a rider, have a helmet, wear a Specialized kit and perhaps have a little mud, a little blood, outsized quads rather than attention  paid to other areas of their bod, a little bit of the glow people get from riding bikes that makes them beautiful even  when need a shower. They ought to know that bunnies with bikes is pungent.

Well said. Thanks David.

Next stop? Cosmetics, fashion, television and every other major industry!!! Sock it to 'em!!!


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