Sexist Cycling Advertisement Has Zero Things To Do With Cycling


A Belgian advertisement for the upcoming 2015 E3 Harelbeke cycling competition released an image of a male biker reaching up to grab a woman’s exposed behind. The tagline: “Who squeezes them in Harelbeke?”

Not only is this ad disgusting, but it says zero about the actual sport and alienates any female cyclists who might want to participate as equals. Sigh.

The design was inspired by previous winner Solvak Peter Sagan, who pinched a woman’s behind at the Tour de Flanders in 2013; an off-putting and clear display of sexism and sexual assault.

Kathryn Bertine, a former professional cyclist and the director of “Half the Road”—a documentary about female racers—denounced the ad saying that it perpetuated the idea that racing is a boy’s club where women are there solely for decoration.

When looking back at previous posters, this advertisement shows somewhat of an improvement. The ad in 2011 had a naked woman on the grass with little bike riders cycling up her butt-crack. Sexy? Another showed a woman riding a bike made out of three other women.

Clearly someone thinks these images are entertaining, but Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sport Business Strategy and Marketing at Coventry University in England, said that these types of images show that E3 is “rather out of the kilter with the way that most people think today.”

Thankfully, the Union Cycliste Internationale requested that the poster be removed and the organizers of the event agreed; even though they still are not aware of the problem.

Marc Claerhout, E3 Harelbeke manager, told CNN, “Personally, no I don’t think it’s sexist. You have a lot of publicity where you see more than some underwear…and we didn’t mean it as sexist.”

Removing the posters have not prevented UCI from missing the point. This ad was one of many in the last few years that have turned women’s bodies into props.

Nicole Cooke, an Olympic road race champion had this to say on the issue:

“Telling the race organizers to remove the posters is not much of a deterrent. A whopping fine and canceling the race would have sent out the strong message that there is no place for sexism in cycling. Instead, the race has received huge publicity.”

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