A reader pointed out the irony of my waxing nostalgic about the ad with its sexy model on the same day that much of the bicycling blogosphere was foaming at the mouth over some free socks that were given out in the swag bags at this year's Interbike trade show. Quickly dubbed "Sockgate," (why do ALL scandals since Watergate have to end in "gate"? Can't somebody get creative?) the giveaway socks renewed accusations of sexism in the bicycle industry -- even as they claim to be trying to appeal more to women cyclists. To be honest, until the reader mentioned it, I hadn't yet heard about the sock scandal.
|I found the above photo on the Surly Bikes Blog, where Christina Julian, or Jules, makes a strong case against the "Sex Sells" strategy, and even includes some awful examples of the kinds of sexual harassment that she's experienced by some in the industry. It's worth a read. (photo originally from pretty.damned.fast)|
Of course, women have been used in bicycle ads (the word "used" suddenly seems more significant) almost from the beginning. Who can forget this old poster, and the many, many more like it from the turn of the century?
And the images of women appear in all kinds of bicycle ads throughout the century -- and in a lot of favorites from the Bike Boom of the '70s, including the Lambert ad shown above, or this similar Crescent ad from about the same time:
But now the question I ask is, is it the same? Or is there a difference? Is appreciating images in these vintage ads from earlier eras, when things were different, the same as giving out those tacky socks?
Sex is obviously still used in bicycle ads today, but somehow to me it feels different than in those older ads. More crass. And there's a sense that maybe people should know better by now. As a great example of this, do a quick search for Stradali Bicycles, and find tons of images like this one below:
|She isn't going anywhere in those shoes. . . or facing the wrong way. Doesn't matter though --|
the bike doesn't have pedals anyhow. They get worse -- some of the images would probably
qualify as NSFW (Not Safe For Work).
|And to show that a giant like Specialized is not "immune," there's this one from last year. |
Hell, this one doesn't even make much sense.
Even though I like some of the old vintage ads, the newer ads shown here seem worse to me somehow -- and more pointless.
I'm not a woman. But I am a man who tries to be sensitive to the way women think and feel. So, back to my question. Are those tacky socks, or those Stradali ads, et. al. in the same league as the old vintage ads I call attention to so often? Or are they different? I don't really know how many women read The Retrogrouch, but I sure as hell wouldn't want to alienate any of them. Getting some comments from readers on the topic would worthwhile. Any thoughts?