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Women's Corner - July 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A group of us women were talking about the Back Road century. One of us mentioned the new jersey. Oh. What did it look like? What animals were on it this year? The cows are my favorite. Oh boy! Yep, definitely Oh boy! – no women on that jersey. Seriously. It’s 2017 and no one thought to include anyone but males on the jersey? Did no one question that decision? I can easily see the design team wanting to put some cyclists on the jersey and then not thinking about the ramifications of what the people on the jersey represent. They represent our club and that’s the best we can do? Three males? No females? (I’m not going into the implications for other groups, since I’m writing a women’s column, but the implications are similar). The picture on the BRC webpage has one woman rider and three male riders on it. That’s about the same ratio as you see portrayed in the media. Well, it turns out that the jersey might have a women on it. When we had the discussion, the picture we saw had no females on it. And the picture on the website looks like all the riders are male. So, my basic premise still holds.

On the other hand the complete website is better. There are very few cyclist’s pictures to start with, but women are represented in them.The picture by the membership button is a group of women. The Carlisle weekend is a woman rider. The Back Roads Century on the home page has a female rider. The Shenandoah weekend picture has a group of riders whose genders are obscure. I like that choice. It includes everyone.

So it’s a mixed bag. We could get into a debate about implicit bias versus overt sexism. The former is part of being human, understandable and hard to fight. The latter is not part of being human, inexcusable and more straightforward to fight. We could debate whether women should even be annoyed at the jersey design. But dismissing people’s feelings doesn’t get us very far. Women would not have any of the rights they have now if they didn’t take those hurt feelings and do something about it. So if the exclusion of women in any part of our world offends you, say something or do something. We could look at other public representations like this one in the Washington Post. Only men are used to represent business people. But saying they’re worse than we are ignores any problems we may have.

What I’d like to suggest is that we become aware. We have to be aware of what type of club we are presenting to the public in each situation. Are we consistently showing the club from one point of view? What other points of view can we bring in? Do we think other points of view are valid? Are we even aware that our behaviors can be affected by our implicit biases? Are we aware that how we present the club affects who joins us? A complete stranger counted the number of women and men at our rest stop and mentioned that there were only 2 women and 7 men. People notice and form impressions of us even if we’re not aware of it. There’s nothing wrong with thinking before we act, or changing our behaviors when they cause us problems or speaking out when something is poorly portrayed. People who have been under-represented notice and appreciate it when they are included. People who speak out remind us to do better. Most of the world’s problems might be solved if people would think before they act. Stopping and thinking before we present our club to the public costs very little and can reap large benefits.

- Deborah Turton, Women's Ride Coordinator

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