Is Pink Such a Problem?
Recently a friend came to stay with me, a fellow snowboarder and (lapsed) skateboarder and during a lovely long walk across Dartmoor in the rain, the subject turned to women in sport, as it often does when I have anything to do with it.
I was telling this friend how I admire the diverse style and fashion sense amongst the current crop of female skateboarders, and how refreshing I found it that some ladies wholeheartedly embrace their girlishness rather than hiding away any aspect of femininity, whilst others shave their heads and dress entirely in black.
Back in the day when I was a pro-snowboarder, it felt different. Struggling to find your place in a new, male-dominated sport, it often seemed easier to abandon your femininity in order to be part of the gang, because the only gangs were almost entirely male. Being girly was definitely NOT COOL because it was seen as silly and weak, and if you wanted to win your place in the crew you had to be tough. By being androgynous and almost asexual, by being ‘one of the lads.’ you could gain more respect and acceptance. But of course you couldn’t be too masculine either, because that automatically meant you were a lesbian.
I feel like things have moved on a bit since then, partly because it was ages ago but also because the mood has shifted somewhat. Looking at the female skaters’ Instagram accounts and videos, what strikes me is that they’ve chosen to be women first, and skateboarders second, rather than allowing the fact they like skateboarding to dictate how they should appear, like we did on our snowboards. Yes, they still get judged (as all women AND men do) but at least they are doing things their way, with their personalities shining through and each as different as the one before. Being ‘girly’ seems more OK than it used to be, as does not conforming to a traditional gender role.
So how about the bike industry? Are we as enlightened?
Maybe not quite. One of the things that springs to mind when I think of women’s cycling fashion and style is people’s howling, desperate objections to anything made in pink, or anything remotely girly. Some women get absolutely furious at the sight of anything vaguely (traditionally) feminine, saying it’s demeaning. I understand how annoying it is when pink is the only choice, or when the women’s range is a badly considered afterthought, but I really dislike the negative connotations surrounding traditional femininity. Being feminine isn’t weak or stupid.
Wanting to wear make up under your fullface helmet, doesn’t mean you’re any less serious about mountain biking than someone who doesn’t care for mascara. You shouldn’t need to jettison the glitter should you wish to prove your worth. Being a girl is many, many things, and none of them have anything to do with sport! Some women like pink, some like black. Some both.
So let’s let girls be girls. Whatever that means.