An Image(s) Problem
After deciding that 2018 will be the year in which I get into road racing, I have been making use of the British Cycling online training plans. These are great. They are free to download. The include lots of detail. They have links to all the sessions in handy one-page print outs. They make you feel like you are being coached by experts. Wonderful.
After six weeks in which this went pretty well, it went a bit to pot. I got a cold. I had to take a couple of weeks off. My focus slipped somewhat.
Nevermind. Onwards and upwards. I am now getting my focus back.
Part of my refocusing involved deciding whether to continue with the 8-week pre-season training plan which I have been following, or switch to a different plan. The reasons are dull so I won’t go into them, but I decided to switch to the in-season training plan.
But something else struck me while I was looking at the various training plans on the British Cycling website. The images on the pages describing the training plans.
There are just so many men.
The impression that I was left with was that the vast majority of the images on the training plan pages were of men.
British Cycling has had something of a tough time in the press in recent years for a number of reasons. The issue of sexism has been somewhat overshadowed by the issue of doping (or not doping). However, Nicole Cooke’s comments of ‘a sport run by men, for men’ are echoed by Jess Varnish and others.
I do believe that British Cycling is trying to move forward. I believe that they have made big moves towards promoting cycling for women as well as men.
But, I believe that there is still a very long way to go. I think there is still a massive shift in image to be made by British Cycling. In my opinion, one of the ways they need to consider their image is by considering their images. I decided to consider the training plan images for them:
British Cycling Training Plans
|8-Week Sofa to 50k||Female|
|12-Week Off Season Base Builder||Female|
|8-Week Pre-Season Plan||Male|
|In Season Training Plan||Male|
|Improvers Modular Plan||Male|
|6-Week Panic Plan||Male|
There are also discipline specific plans available on the website:
Discipline Specific Plans
|Cyclo-Cross||Female (I think!)|
So it does seem that there are an awful lot of images of men.
From here, I started looking at the Race Smart video clips on the British Cycling website. These are also really helpful, free resources. They are short videos covering lots of aspects of bike racing. If you are just starting out at road racing, they are well worth watching. I watched them all and I picked up all sorts of tips in doing so. But I was also left with the lingering impression that they did not really apply to me. One of the groups of riders shown in several of the videos does include two or three women. But other than that, it is men all the way:
Race Smart Videos
|Race Smart Clip Name||Front Picture||Male Presenters||Female Presenters||Notes|
|What is Race Smart?||Male||5||1|
|How to get into Road Racing||Male||1||0||No images of women at all in this video|
|How to Check Your Bike is Race Ready||None||1||0|
|How to Pack Your Kit Bag for a Race||Male||1||0|
|How to Communicate With Signals in a Bunch||Male||1||0||One brief image of 2 women|
|How to Cope With Contact||Male||1||0|
|How to Corner in a Bunch||Male||1||0||2 women in one bunch|
|How to Descend||Male||1||0||No women in video|
|How to Corner in a Line of Riders||Male||1||0||2 women are seen for about 5 seconds|
|How to Ride Through and Off||Male||1||0||A couple of women in a bunch. One clear shot of a female rider|
|How to Choose the Right Time to Attack||Male||1||0|
|How to Eat and Drink in a Race||Male||1||0||No women in video|
|How to Position Yourself for a Sprint||Male||1||0||No women in video|
|How to Hold Your Position in a Bunch||Male||1||0||2 women in a bunch|
|How to Sprint||Male||1||0||No women in video|
|How to Set up a Breakaway||Male||1||0|
|How to Chase Down a Breakaway||Male and female||1||0||2 women in a bunch|
|How to Race in a Bunch||Male||1||0||2 women in a bunch|
|How to Race in Strong Winds||Male||1||0||No women in video|
|How to Move up in a Bunch||Male||1||0||2 women in a bunch|
What really irritated me about the lack of images of women in these videos is when the videos were made. According to the website, they were published towards the end of 2014. Yet British Cycling launched its Women’s Strategy in 2013.
As I said, the videos are very helpful. But I am not sure that they will encourage more women to have a go at racing. As someone who is getting into road racing this year, they actually put me off a bit. This was not just due to the lack of female images. In all the videos, the riders look like pros. The speed and ferocity in the videos makes me a little nervous. The mention of looking after your £5000 bike also makes me wonder if I really should be entering at all – I have a decent bike, but I do not have a £5000 bike.
I feel that I should also say that there are many images of women on the British Cycling website. I think that the organisation has started to look at this. But the pace of change needs to be upped. The sections of the website that I looked at left me feeling “but what does any of that have to do with me?” I am a British Cycling member. I am a cyclist. I am a qualified coach. I am racing this year. I am a Breeze Champion. It should have everything to do with me.
I suppose an argument could be made that cycling is still heavily male dominated. This inevitably means that British Cycling’s membership is still heavily male dominated. So perhaps the images on the British Cycling website should be male dominated in order to reflect their membership?
Personally, I do not think that this argument is acceptable. To me it comes back to clearing the snow from footpaths. I believe that, if you want to see change, you have to live that change. You have to behave as if that change has already happened. You have to show equal images of men and women cycling in all its forms if you ever want to see equal numbers of men and women cycling in all its forms.
And the thing is, there are now far more women cycling than in the past. British Cycling has done some great work with the Breeze programme. There are far more women racing than in the past. This weekend I was on a coaching course on which five of the six participants were women. The sport is changing. Yet British Cycling, through this section of its website, does not yet appear to be reflecting reality through its images, much less reflecting an aspiration.
Interestingly, I just passed this post to Mr Mummysgoneacycle for an opinion. He asked how many images there were in those pages of men or women who were not white. This is a very good question and it is not one I can answer because it was not what I focused on. I have to say that I certainly have a distinct impression of images of white men throughout. Perhaps I should look again. My impression could be wrong.
Over to you, British Cycling.