My Feminine Side is Feeling Patronized

I’m heading to Interbike 2012. Some of the preliminaries have already begun, such as the Outdoor Demo. I’ve never been to that, but apparently it’s held outdoors and you get to ride a bunch of different bikes.

This being my third time to the annual trade show for the American Cycling Industry, I’m getting my system down. My boss, Josh, combs the floor in a systematic way meeting with manufacturers we work with, and ones we may work with in the future. I walk around in an overstimulated daze.

But one thing that I’ve been really watching is how the industry is responding to women. And nothing I’ve seen at Interbike — ever — has impressed me as something that I would like if I were a woman. Of course, I don’t really know what I would be like if I were a woman. Probably it wouldn’t be just the same me, but with lady parts.

But my job is marketing, and I’m supposed to figure this stuff out.

If Apples Were Marketed Like Bikes

In my view, most people in the industry are doing it wrong. And if they’re not, well, it says something really depressing about women.

After last year’s Interbike, I was all fired up to generate a discussion on what I thought was the condescending approach to making cycling products for women. I saw lots of bikes, and bike bags, and cycling clothes that really offered (in my mind) nothing creative or specifically for women cyclists — except on the superficial level: Pretty colors and flowers — oh so many flowers.

Vaude Evas Shopper Rear Pannier
Vaude Evas Shopper Rear Pannier

I began drafting a rant in my head for the next time I could talk to some women cyclists.

When it happened, I was with a couple of women in the shop. We were talking about marketing to women, and evaluating a shopping pannier. It supposedly was designed for women, but what did it really offer them? Big handles. That was it. As far as we could tell, this had nothing but oversize handles that would be embarrassing for a man to lug around.

“Yes!,” I said. “Those big ornamental, superfluous handles designed with the degrading assumption that women are frivolous consumers concerned only with fashion.”

“And,” said one of the women, “why couldn’t they at least put a flower on it?”

“What!? A flower? I could get a Sharpie pen and draw a flower on it!”

An Open Letter to Interbike
The preliminary reports are not encouraging. | Screen Shot:

“It would look nicer, and women would like it.”


Obviously these women were not the allies I had hoped for. It was then that I abandoned my intentions to rally women to express their thoughts about product selection and marketing in the cycling industry.

But last week was the National Women’s Bicycling Summit, and I didn’t go. I wish I could have. My desire to rail against flowers has not diminished.

At Campfire Cycling, we’d like to start selling more products made for women. But I’d rather market to real women, and not merely to stereotypes of women. So until I get some bright ideas, we just plug along selling (mostly) gender-neutral utilitarian products.

I’m hoping that at Interbike this year I’ll meet some women or men who were also at the Women’s Summit.

Maybe they can give me some first-hand accounts of the efforts to take women seriously as cyclists.

Be watching for blog posts, Facebook posts, tweets, etc. from Interbike.

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