On silence

If you hadn’t heard, following my email to the Head of Specialized, and his formal apology for “the pink issue” (as I heard it described), Total Rush Cycling followed suit.

What we saw, and objected to, was a small symptom of a societal issue that runs far deeper. One which transcends cycling and sport. But that’s for another day.

Today, we can celebrate because small voices were heard. Some big voices joined in too.  Three members of the Lululemon Specialized Women’s Cycling team; a prominent journalist or two; a Tour de France winner.

But equally, many stayed silent, only joining the conversation after its conclusion.

I received several private messages of congratulations or thanks from prominent voices that stayed silent despite my personal plea to them. Another prominent voice, arguably the most influential female in cycling, initially pledged to contact me. My phone has since stayed silent.

Of course, I can’t pretend to know what private conversations or actions occurred, but in the public arena, silence is often construed as consent. Every interaction creates social norms, and therefore if you disagree, the onus is on you to say so. As Elie Wiesel, political activist and Nobel Prize winner said,

 “We must always take sides…Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

So never be silent. Even if your opinion is different to mine. Because its healthy, constructive dialogue that leads to change.  And because in the words of that great philosopher Dr Seuss,

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” 

Don’t want to stay silent?

The Representation Project

Destroy The Joint

Everyday Sexism Project

Thanks for listening. And watch this space…

Response from Mike Sinyard, Founder & Chair, Specialized Bicycles

Just a few hours after sending the email below to Mike, I received this response:


[Transcription of audio file received at 1.05.AM EST, 12th December, 2013]

Hello Carmen

Mike Sinyard at Specialized. 

Thank you first of all very much for your letter and I appreciate you reaching out to me and all of us at Specialized. 

I just wanted to say I read your piece and I totally agree with you.  

I would say we at Specialized do not support this kind of behaviour and we are embarrassed by it. 

Consider this an official apology. 

I’m going to copy Erin, who is in charge of the women’s category at Specialized, and Simon. 

Simon, I know you well, and you’re a great guy. 

I know you like to put things out there but this is over the top and I think that we need a formal apology on this. 

None of us including Simon and all of us at Specialized intended for anything like this, so again thank you for bringing it to our attention, thank you. 

All due respect from myself as the Founder of Specialized, and the whole team.

Thank you.

Specialized logo

Heartfelt thanks Mike.  Thank you for your swift, affirmative and positive action.  Thank you for once again showing why you and Specialized are pioneers in leading and supporting women in cycling.

Email to Mike Sinyard, Founder & Chair, Specialized Bicycles

11th December, 2013

Dear Mike

How a Melbourne Specialized Reseller Failed Women In Cycling

Please excuse the direct approach, however I wanted to convey my disappointment and concerns over the recent actions of Total Rush Cycling, Melbourne, one of Specialized’s most successful and prominent Australian re-sellers. This letter has been directly supported by 100 female and male cyclists and fans including members of the Specialized Lululemon women’s cycling team (detailed below), but is just a minor representation of the significant negative sentiment Total Rush has garnered across media publications and social media channels in the past week.

As a female cyclist of over 20 years, I have admired the profound impact you and your company have had on women’s cycling.  Specialized has helped support it to become the fastest growing segment in cycling, with passion and authenticity.  You have changed the landscape through the introduction of high-performance women’s road bikes, sponsored the world’s most successful women’s cycling team, and made clear at your last global press launch that you wanted more children and women on bikes.

Last week Total Rush and Specialized Australia staged a brand relaunch and event attended by supporters, customers, and their men’s and women’s cycling teams.  Their homage to the new brand was to feature naked models in heels, save for a thong and pink body paint.  This reportedly caused discomfort to many members of the audience. 

Unsurprisingly the photos they later published, prominently featuring a Specialized frame, resulted in a barrage of criticism on social media.  Their response was, and continues to be to systematically erase and block any negative post, tweet or comment via their channels.  After 48 hours, Total Rush removed the user review functionality from their Facebook site after their average rating crashed from 5 to 1 stars, the lowest possible.  At that point Total Rush also issued a statement, maintaining the stunt was “extremely tasteful” and “not at all sexually offensive”.

The continued criticism of Total Rush across the media and social media channels show that contrarily, a large segment of their female base have been alienated, as illustrated in a comment from a co-signatory to this letter:

I bought my bike at Total Rush and have continued to get it serviced there. I’ve always found the staff and mechanics extremely helpful, friendly and professional. I’m embarrassed on their behalf that they work for an employer who has continued to defend this stunt and refuse to understand why their male and female customers are angry about this. I hope Total Rush will realise how out of step they are with community opinion and that people have had enough of this rubbish and won’t let it be brushed aside and forgotten. I’d also really like to be able to go back to Total Rush to get my bike serviced, but definitely can’t while this is unresolved.

Yet there is clearly goodwill towards Total Rush, evidenced by other co-signatories of this letter:

Total Rush is a great business and supporter of cycling, including women in cycling.  Their antenna was obviously askew on this one occasion.

I am a woman and a cyclist. I find this offensive. I also shop at Total Rush and find the service exceptional so I am VERY shocked and dismayed at this behaviour.

The owner of Total Rush Simon Coffin’s private response several days ago has however been more troubling.  Yesterday, someone involved in cycling for many years who describes themselves as ‘as far from a feminist as possible’ sent Catherine Deveney, a prominent journalist for The Guardian newspaper, a leaked group email from Total Rush’s owner Simon Coffin.  In it, he writes,

“All these people who think what we did was inappropriate are full of shit!! With double standards!  

Fuck the feminist!! If you don’t like it then don’t follow us!”

Just four hours later, Catherine’s website had been viewed 8000 times.

There is no doubt that Total Rush has been a strong advocate for women’s cycling in the past, but refusing to engage in constructive dialogue on the issue, or even acknowledge that their actions were regressive, degrading, and damaging to women in sport is pure folly.  And it hurts.  Because we all end up losers; Total Rush, the Specialized brand, sportsmen and sportswomen.

On a personal note, I have never previously identified as a feminist.  I’m a strong woman, passionate about cycling and the positive identity that I am fortunate enough to share.  Mike, you have been quoted as saying that cycling is the cure for a lot of things in this world.  Let that cure not be muddied by this degradation of the sport.

Yours sincerely,

Carmen Gould

Enc.

1. Published photos from event

2. List of signatories and comments

3. Leaked email from Simon Coffin, Total Rush owner

4. List of Twitter handles for all direct comments (undeleted) with negative sentiment, plus ‘retweets’ and ‘favourited’ tweets from @carmen_gould

5. Media Coverage, 6-11 December, 2013:

The Roar, 1million visits per month

Smartcompany, Australia’s leading independent publisher

Daily Life, 400k unique visits per month

CyclingTips, 25,477 Twitter followers

Catherine Deveney

Sydney Cyclist

Do The Bike Thing

Silobreaker

Bridie O’Donnell, former Olympian, sponsored Total Rush Rider, 4436 Twitter followers, “I told them it was sexist and stupid but they didn’t listen to me”

How the Media (and Melbourne) Failed Women in 2013

If you followed me on Twitter over the weekend, you may have seen me try to make my small voice be heard.

Last week a prominent Melbourne cycling shop held a launch event attended by their equally high-profile and hugely talented women’s cycling team. Their homage to women in sport was to parade naked models in heels, save for a thong and a wash of pink body paint.

Unsurprisingly the photos they later published, replete with leering men in suits, backfired on social media.  Their response was, and continues to be to systematically erase and block any negative post, tweet or comment to their social media channels.  After 48 hours, and a Facebook 5 star review that was trashed overnight, they issued a statement, maintaining the stunt was “extremely tasteful” and “not at all sexually offensive”. This, despite the barrage of criticism from both men and women, which they continue to delete.

There is no doubt that this shop has been a strong advocate for women’s cycling in the past, but refusing to engage in constructive dialogue on the issue, or even acknowledge that their actions were regressive, degrading, and damaging to women in sport is pure folly. And it hurts. Because we all end up losers.

I want to celebrate the dedication and achievements of our strong, beautiful female athletes, not their tits and ass.  I want female cyclists to not have to strip in order to be able to poke their head above the parapet and attract a decent sponsor.  I want cycling manufacturers to understand that when I ride next to my male counterpart, its not for their titillation And I want my local bike store to take 5 minutes to consider whether their next promo might just be as offensive as this.

If you want to follow the conversation, please follow the fearless @catherinedeveney who despite personal attacks from many, many misogynists is still in pursuit.

Then watch this video.  And share.

How the Media Failed Women in 2013

And if you want your voice to be heard add your signature here:

http://chn.ge/1cjAhpd