in defense of the podium girl

tl;dr: Ass-ban not logical response to ass-grab

Historically I’ve limited my rambling on the ponderous subject of Women and Cycling to complaints about butterfly jerseys. But I’m stuck on BART, and Peter Sagan’s troubles have put me in mind of another punchy photograph:

podiumgirls

Photo by Alex Chiu, via … Facebook-stalking, I guess.

Now, my friend and personal hero Joanna (on the top step) appears in podium photos on my newsfeed with the same regularity as cat memes and Instagrammed lattes. But I remember this one specifically, even years after the race. Observe: The podium girls are decoration. The girls on the podium are destroyers. The contrast between the floppy hats and floppy limbs of the former and the strength and the smiles of the latter is delicious.

Thing is, I can admire the spandex without being at all troubled by the sundresses. Like a model or, for that matter, a painter, a podium girl has found a way to monetize people’s interest in looking at pretty things. Her choice to do so does not bother me, but for some reason the Union of Concerned Sports Bloggers thinks it should:

Is the winner taking home a cycling title or an armful of women? It sends the wrong message, especially for young women actually looking to hop on a cycle instead of a cyclist. (The Turnstile)

First of all … gross. Second of all, there’s a real leap of logic required to get from “Some women choose to stand around looking pretty” to My only choice as a woman is to stand around looking pretty” or “Women who choose to stand around looking pretty are capable of nothing else.” It’s not sexist and demeaning to have a podium girls, it’s sexist and demeaning to disregard their own agency, or to believe that men (even this dipshit) can’t be expected to go near one without groping her.

Per usual, the real issue isn’t objectification, it’s equity—in this case easily addressed by encouraging the fledgling practice of the podium boy. My train’s moving again. I leave you with Barb Howe, doing her part.

Photo credit: Les Clarke

Photo by Les Clarke, via Cycling News.

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