Ebony's Sad Bicycle Wedding

Back in July, in the “He Said, She Said” section, Ebony published an article on wealth management which was accompanied by this lovely illustration by Thomas Pitilli:

Thomas Pitilli Illustration
Screen Shot: Thomas Pitilli Illustration

On first glance, it looks like one of those bicycle wedding graphics that cyclists love to post to Facebook (which is where I first encountered this image; via The League American Bicyclists’ Facebook Page).

Bride Closeup
Oh, the humiliation…

But when you look more closely at the bride, you realize this is not an illustration depicting a whimsical bike-themed wedding. Rather, this image is meant to show financial failure.

I tried to find the article online by searching Ebony. I couldn’t find an online version of any article with this illustration. (But I learned so much about Hip Hop entertainers, reality TV shows, and smartphone apps to spice up my love life.)

On a site called Illo Confidential I found Pitilli’s explanation of the illustration:

The topic had to do with whether a couple should build wealth before marriage, or tough it out for a few years while already married.

Presumably, on instructions from Ebony, Pitilli illustrated a beautiful bride with abject disappointment on her face.

And Pitilli, skilled illustrator that he is, understands that in some contexts the iconography of the bicycle represents whimsy, health, and environmental consciousness. (He has, after all, illustrated for Bicycle Times.) In other contexts, it’s the vehicle of humiliating last resort.

Google Images: bicycle OR bike wedding
Screen shot: Google Images

I was tempted to think that Ebony is just out of touch with its audience. Maybe the editor who commissioned the illustration just has a vestigial anti-cycling attitude.

But a Google Image search of “bicycle wedding” shows the exact opposite of Pitilli’s illustration: image after image of happy weddings — and of mostly white brides and grooms.

African Americans (along with Hispanics, and Asian Americans) make up the fastest growing group to be taking up cycling. Yet there must still be a strong stigma to overcome if — for the audience of Ebony — combining a wedding and a bike is such a potent symbol of financial failure: lower class losers use bikes.

But Ebony isn’t all fluff. Somebody over there ought to know better, and I’m suspecting that person might be “Money Coach” Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, with whom Pitilli consulted for the illustration.

Khalfani-Cox writes columns on financial advice for the readers of Ebony. She ought to know the financial drag that a car represents to many people who could really do without one — even if they can afford one. She ought to know that choosing to drive less — or not at — means more money to invest and spend wisely. She ought to know that a bride on the back of bike has bright prospects.

And maybe she does know all that. I’m going to invite her over to read this article and leave her thoughts.

Be nice, everybody.

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