Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Specialized's 'Special' Form Of Empowerment


It's been a bit since Specialized's epic faux pas at the German bike show took place, and in the ensuing social media outrage, there has been lots said about sexism, objectification, blame and a reluctant 'apology'.

As someone who has publicly and vocally backed Specialized's rebranding of their feelings towards women and their support of female athletes (because they haven't always been so informed about combining women and bikes...), this recent nonsense was particularly painful to watch. I gleefully bragged about their new women-specific softgoods line and spoke candidly to media outlets about Specialized's efforts to both bring more women into biking and to re-introduce themselves to current industry members who have been searching for a company who gives a damn. Speciliazed's sponsorship of some really kickass female riders and their products presented at Interbike and Sea Otter last year gave me a lot of hope: the level of technology finally being marketed within 'womens products' was almost on par with the offerings for men. I suppose that's why I'm disappointed to be writing writing this... I chose to openly support a company who would stoop this low.

If it had been a different brand making an extremely blase apology and playing the scapegoat game, it may have been a bit more digestible. But as the company whose industry chatter awareness prompted them to sue a small-time bike shop over the use of a French town name that Spesh doesn't own, the whole "We were unaware of this collaboration" falsehood falls on deaf ears. An excuse offered up by Specialized that's remarkably similar to the one released by Maxxis a few short months ago is both below their standard of bullshit and unimpressive in its laziness. When I wrote about the Maxxis problem, I was frustrated and disheartened at the issue, especially after finding the Maxxis babe Facebook page up and running. The problem here is that the two apologies are so similar in their insincerity that they could have been written by the same damage-control PR firm. I've written more than a few of them for companies around the globe, and I know that blueprint a little too well... Which is probably why it chaps my ass.

"Specialized stands strong with female riders and we do not support the objectification of women in any way, in any region."... was released after they were reminded that the internet existed, where they seemed to be proud and excited beforehand: "When the opportunity to a product collaboration with Playboy showed we were immediately hooked! Two premium brands – a joint project. The Turbo S Edition combines Playboy lifestyle, innovative technology and pure joy of cycling. We are proud of the 40 unique bikes.

Two quotes, both from Specialized. From a consumer standpoint, only one statement is inconsistent with their branding from the past and it's not the sexist, objectifying one that doesn't fit. One might chalk this up to growing pains from a company rapidly trying to change their MO. But for a company so hell-bent on suing everyone under the sun, getting their branding and internal culture in line would seem to be the more exigent concern.

My estimation is that Specialized probably weighed out the pros and cons of both not releasing the bike versus releasing it and including an apology, and they went with the latter. Why? Because, as some brilliant idiot at Specialized assumed, "biology + capitalism = sales". Unfortunately for this person, they were wrong. Studies have shown that sex doesn't sell. Many, many, many studies. 

What selling sex does accomplish, however, is that it allows the folks in marketing to go home at 5pm and stop thinking about how to market a shitty product with very little appeal. Which is why people use sex to sell stuff no one wants... Companies can't come up with a better reason for their market to buy said pointless, non-demand items. They use sex to sell because they're lazy motherfuckers* with no big-picture thought patterns, no understanding of sport sustainability and zero respect for the gender they're so apathetically objectifying and dehumanizing. Marketing departments use sex to sell stuff because they have little respect for themselves and absolutely no respect for their audience; there is no art, no creativity, no meaningful engagement. And why should there be? When so much of their non-buying audience stands up and defends such useless marketing across social media and impugns the people questioning it, that means that specialized (and Maxxis and 661 and Colnago and Sidi) don't have to. These companies have mindless consumer drones doing the PR for them.

The biggest irony here? Specialized partnered with a company who recently announced their decision to do away with naked women on their magazine and website. Not as an end to stop objectifying women, of course, but because sex only sells when it's free. It's quite simple, though: due to the proliferation of online porn and free amateur web sites, no one wants to pay for sexual stimulation. So why, in the age of such cheap (aka, free) thrills, would Specialize choose to associate their brand with a rapidly-deteriorating skin mag? It can't possibly be that they're planning on a widely-selling bike. Specialized only produced a limited-run of 40 collaboration bikes to be sold in Germany, which they've now discontinued and won't be selling at all. So what was it that inspired the outrageous PR stunt that Spesh corporate claims they didn't know about (which is increasingly difficult to believe seeing as how someone in their Euro department managed to get their hands on 40 bikes to paint, market and sell, as well as what I'm assuming was signing a contract with Playboy to use their logo as well.)? It can't possibly be that they expect people who aren't even paying for a skin magazine to buy bikes associated with said skin magazine, can it?

I don't think we'll ever get the long and short of it, to be frank, but the entire premise of their corporate innocence requires more suspension of belief than a Quentin Tarantino movie, less artfully. It's also downright insulting for Specialized to expect the entire cycling industry to buy into such a transparent and lazy lie. Then again, a company okay enough to market this garbage in the face of such convincingly opposing research is one to be very, very wary of as they obviously expect to get away with the bare minimum.

* This one is for all of the tone police who came out of the woodwork to scold me for my use of the word 'motherfucker' in my Instagram post about 661's knee pads.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Yes, I AM Angry

I am allegedly an 'angry' woman. I've been called lots of names with 'bitter', 'angry', 'enraged' being the most commonly used adjectives. 

But here's the thing: It's true. 

I am angry. I'm so fucking pissed off that it's not even funny. Actually, some days it sort of is, like when I can channel my rage into mocking an entire company for their lazy-ass 'marketing'. But most of the time, I'm just bitter. I'm sour. I'm furious. 

Then again, if most people could operate on anything more than a 'coping-with-daily-life' level, they probably would be mighty outraged, too. Folks on the Internet blame my despair on a 'victim complex' or 'boredom'. My therapist blames complex critical thinking skills. My friends blame it on me being too attuned to the issues. I blame it on a deep commitment to being informed and knowing what the fuck I'm talking about... But most of it's probably due to the simple fact that I was born with a vagina. 

So I'm angry. 

But wouldn't you be? 

If you started working at an outdoor company the same day as a male colleague, worked more hours and were a professional athlete in your field who happened to earn nearly $2 an hour less than this male colleague (despite having more education and experience in your field), wouldn't you be?

If you walked down the street and constantly had strangers shout at you, follow you and/or make remarks to your companions about your body, wouldn't you be a tad upset? 

If the print, television, Internet, sports and mainstream media constantly portrayed you as a sexual object with zero value beyond your appearance or sexual skill and talked down to members of your gender despite their expertise and education, wouldn't you be a bit jaded about how you were portrayed? 

If you constantly had to tell people where you were going, who you would be with, double check what you're wearing and make sure you have an object that will serve as a useable weapon or defense (keys, mace, whistle) every single time you leave your house because one in five women will be sexually assaulted, wouldn't you be a bit tired? 

If someone tracked you down and sent you threats of violence and messages of hate every time you wrote your opinion online (on your own media, website or in the columns/pieces you were hired to write), wouldn't you be just a bit upset? 

If politicians were telling you that a cluster of cells in your body was more valuable than your life and existence and that you weren't allowed to do anything with or to your body without political interference, wouldn't you be a tad taken aback by the premise of freedom? 

If every single time you raised any of these concerns, someone called you 'crazy', you might be pretty upset, too. (

So... Yeah, I'm fucking angry. I am sick and tired of being a second-class citizen. I'm really upset that my vast set of skills, my education and my work ethic are superseded by my fucking plumbing or dismissed by someone who might feel threatened by my understanding of my value. I'm pissed that some jackass can sexually assault me, but MY sexual history is put on trial while he has the presumption of innocence. I'm angry that I get labeled as someone with a 'victim complex' when I raise these issues and my success despite them. I'm not a victim. I'm a fucking survivor and I'm pissed about it. I'm pissed that little girls all over the world face these very same issues, without recourse or support.

And I'm sorry that my anger bleeds over into a sport where gender, age, appearance or sexual orientation shouldn't matter... But where it does. Where 'professional' photographers sift through google results and various Instagram accounts to find material with which to discredit my OPINION that isn't affecting them... So they can prove that sexism doesn't exist. Or to prove that I am a sexual being who happens to possess an ass (Or a sense of humor)? I'm upset that my 'fuckability' is more important than my ability to get up and finish a race with three compressed vertebrae, but the SECOND I show a little duality, I'm a sinner? Come the fuck on.

I'm sorry that my rage bleeds into contract negotiations when companies talk about my 'marketability', but not my podium finishes or my speed or my injuries or my toughness, or how I'm valuable because of my complexity as a person. I'm so sorry about that. 

I'm sorry that my anger about my lack of human value or control over my own life offends your sensitivities and inconveniences your ignorant existence.

Yeah. I'm fucking angry.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Exhaustion Takes Over

Fuck this shit. At some point, there has to be a sign that reads 'The End', right? Like in the Bugs Bunny skits we watched as kids, I can just stop blah-ging and discontinue this ever-pressing search for valuable content? 

As it turns out, riding bikes (and life) is more fun when you're out doing it instead of talking about it on the Internet. Besides. Nobody cares. Not even a smidgen. So.

There's that. 

I guess bikes is really the answer. 

(And yes, I'm aware that 'bikes is' happens to be grammatically incorrect as hell, but... Fuck off. This is my blog.)