How Sports Companies Treat Women – An Update

Many people replied to my rant last week about how sports companies treat women, specifically in running and cycling, After some interesting conversations I thought it was probably time for an update, so here it is.

1. The Proliferation of Pink

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Women’s Running section at Nike Store at Swindon Outlet Centre. Disappointing

I took the above photo at the Nike Store at the Outlet Centre in Swindon last week. This is their Women’s Running section. Black, white, pink. Disappointing, Nike. I tweeted them, but have yet to receive a reply.

@LucyLemonLife who blogs over at ww.LucyLemon.net said “The disappointing one for me recently was the Hind range at Sweatshop. Great idea to have an affordable range but nothing that wasn’t black or pink in the winter range and now the summer range. Ugh.” Exactly, Lucy, exactly.

 2. Topless Bib Shorts

Remember how I was upset that @SportPursuit had on offer women’s bibshorts manufactured by Italian firm Giordano, and the photos used to show the shorts featured a topless (female) model? Well Sport Pursuit were obviously not impressed with my arguments about why they shouldn’t use such photographs, because they have another sale of Giordana cycling gear. The topless ladies are there again (sigh), and this time they are joined by topless men. If you want to take a look, here’s the link.

I’m sorry, but adding topless men doesn’t make it okay. However if you loved the film Zoolander you will see a fine array of ‘Blue Steel’ poses. And I’m still wondering how the female models are going to get a bike helmet on over that hairstyle.

3. Trek Bikes and the hidden ‘Best Friends Forever’ sticker

On to my Trek bike, with it’s unexpected frame decoration

This is what kicked off my Rant
This is what kicked off my Rant

Some of the replies I received from Twitter:-

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And then, I had a reply from @TrekBikesUK:-

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Trek’s reply

They also replied:-
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So basically I need to correct my blog about why we have women specific design of bikes. I also need to stress that I have nothing against Trek bikes themselves – I love my new Trek Lexa SL bike and my husband would have his Trek in the bedroom with us given the chance. (No chance!) I am more than happy to believe they spend a shed load of money on research and design.

I was even impressed with the online magazine they pointed me towards. You can see it here  It’s a great read all about  women cycling, pictures of women going down amazing trails on MTB bikes, stories of how the bikes are designed and so on. I was very happy that whoever looks after Trek UK’s Twitter account managed to turn my angry rant into a civilised and fun conversation.

BUT I am still not happy with the ‘Best Friends Forever’ sticker on my bike. I liked Alexa’s suggestion of using white elctrical tape to cover it up until I think of a new slogan. (Still thinking of a new slogan).

I am endebted to @Abradypus, who blogs at Abradypus for pointing me in the direction of this awesome blog post at Total Womens Cycling  Basically Sarah Connelly, the author, showcases the different approaches four companies making women’s cycling clothing have to how their products are advertised. They range from topless bib shorts again (another company, Assos) through to photos of women actually riding in the clothes, looking like they’re working hard, and out with other women having fun. It’s a good read and is basically echoing some of my rants (but written 9 months ago).

The only problem is I am now looking at a great site with fantastic women’s cycling gear, and I can feel my fingers reaching for my credit card …

How Sports Companies Treat Women – A Rant

Be warned. This post is a rant. Maybe not as heated as the great brushetta* rant of 2011 which is still spoken of in hushed tones on the shores of Lake Garda, but a rant never the less. It is also a rant in three parts, so are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Part One. Once I got into running and started buying ‘proper’ running kit (rather than shuffling along in old trainers and jeans hoping anyone seeing me wouldn’t realise I was trying to run) I quickly realised that many companies seem to believe that if a product is designed specifically for Women, it has to be Pink. Pink running tops, pink shorts, pink head bands, pink water bottles, even pink running shoes. When I got home with my latest pair of unfortunately pink Brooks I immediately found a muddy path to run along to try and tone them down.

PINK!
PINK!

Now don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of women who don’t mind pink, and plenty who adore it and the colour alone will sway their purchasing decisions. I would just like sports companies to appreciate that not ALL women want to dress like an overgrown Barbie doll each time they step outside to run.

And so to part two of my rant – cycling. I have been impressed when looking at all types of cycling gear that companies producing the goods haven’t had the “all women want pink” brain washing. Hooray! I thought – a sport where women are treated seriously as sportspeople and consumers!

Then I found SportsPursuit selling a range of ladies bibshorts made by Italian firm Giordana.

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After tweeting tbem, Sport Pursuit told me they were only using the product images supplied by the manufacturer, but after posting the above screen shot on Twitter I know from the responses I got that I wasn’t the only one who was shocked and disappointed.

“I’m a red-blooded hetro male and I’m appalled. How is women’s cycling ever going to be taken seriously with ads like that?!”

“that’s pretty poor. And totally unnecessary. Also not appealing to target market!”

“Is this really how women (let alone women in sport) are seen?”

“Jaw-drop moment! Utterly amazed.”

“Oh wow. That’s not right.”

” So insulting to your female customers. Try telling them that’s not acceptable in the UK”

You get the general idea of the tone of the tweets I received. We were ranting in unison. As you might have guessed, I didn’t buy that particular brand of shorts, but instead a fantastically comfortable pair in black with blue stitching, although the padding inside was still PINK. Sigh.

And so to part three, my new bike. Having tried my husband’s bike I was interested ina bike designed more for the female anatomy (our body length to leg length ratio are different, and women are generally narrower across the shoulders). I was delighted that of the two women’s bikes I looked at, neither of them had any pink on them. Both were full of the same technical features as the men’s version, both were light, and the man in the shop assured me I would be fast on them. We eventually chose a Trek Lexa SL, in white with green ‘go faster’ strips on.

Me on my lovely Trek Lexa
Me on my lovely Trek Lexa

My husband also has a Trek bike and has been extremely happy with it. When he was out in the garage ‘fettling’ the other day, he called me out and said “Have you seen underneath your bike?”

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Best Friends Forever. What is this – Hello Kitty?

Best Friends Forever? BEST FRIENDS FOREVER?!! What is this – a ‘Hello Kitty’ bike? Does Jens Voigt** have a bike with “BFF” on? I doubt it. I suspect his bike has the phrase that is on my husband’s Trek bike “Power Transfer Construction“. Slightly more grown up.

Power Transfer Construction
Power Transfer Construction

Give me a minute to calm down again.

And breathe. I’m in my happy place. It’s not pink in here.

So – rant over. in fact, 3 rants all rolled up into one. Why can’t sports manufacturers & companies treat women like sports people. Like athletes. In the same way that they treat men. We’re not children, we’re not simple, our bike is NOT necessarily our best friend, we have brains. We also have wallets and credit cards so ladies, let’s use our consumer power to show these companies what we want, and what we won’t put up with.

If you have any more examples of how women are treated different to men when buying sporting products, please do share with me and feel free to join in my rant!

* “It’s just stuff on toast!!! Why does it take 45 minutes to produce stuff on toast” is a precis of what was a very long rant on a hot and hungry day.

** My all-time favourite pro-cyclist who coined the phrase “Shut up, legs!”, who goes geocaching, who has 6 children, who tweeted my son after his arm breaking bike crash saying he hoped he healed quickly, and who just seems like an all-round good guy. He currently rides for the pro team Trek Factory Racing. I need to ask him what is written on his bike.

“May the Force be with you”

So a race that took me several times longer to get dressed for than to actually run it. A race that I was more nervous about what I, and everybody else, would be wearing than usual. A race where the safety briefing ends with “and may the Force be with you. 3 2 1 GO!”

Yes it was May the Fourth, and it was the Sci-fi 5k. Fortunately the race didn’t start until 11.30am so I had plenty of time to get ready. A whole packet of hair pins, a can of hair spray and my carefully made costume later, I dragged my photographer (teenaged son) out with me and off we went. I suddenly realised as I was driving that I was getting some funny looks from drivers in other cars, but maybe they didn’t realise Princess Leia drove a large muddy Toyota.

We reached the car park, and I was expecting to see streams of runners in fancy dress heading to Race HQ. No, only families going to the park. Just as I was silently wondering if I’d come to the right place and at the right time, my normally unflappable son asked if we’d come on the right day. “Well, what’s the date?” I asked him. “May the Fourth!” he replied, smiling.

Race HQ was in a Wetherspoon’s pub and add I collected my number I was assured there were other people in costume. As we moved outside to the start area, in the park, we did finally see another couple of Leias, a rebel pilot, Obi Wan Kenobi (who seemed to have come in his dressing gown), and someone that I though was Captain Jack from Doctor Who & Torchwood, but who apparently was Han Solo.

Exterminate!
Exterminate! Photo – John Sidaway
Han Solo, Obi Wan and a Rebel Pilot
Han Solo, Obi Wan and a Rebel Pilot. Photo by John Sidaway
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Princess Leia – me! – at the start

As we set off, the weather had warmed up and It was beautifully sunny. I was already feeling warm in my long sleeved top and long skirt, but I kept thinking I couldn’t be as hot as the Dalek!

The course wound through some housing estates and then back through some parkland. It was all pretty flat and on another day, in a galaxy far, far away, in another outfit this would be a great PB race. I ran with a lady in a red Star Trek dress for a while and we consoled each other about running in a dress.

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Photo by Warren Wade
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Photo by John Sidaway

My blaster hand was sticky and slippy now and I was seriously considering ditching it. However my son had had his eye on it so I tried passing it from hand to hand just for a change.

Eventually we headed back into the park and could hear people applauding and see the finish line. I looked out for my son, the official photographer, but couldn’t see him anywhere. I received my medal and a bottle of water and found a shady area by a tree to wait for him. He sauntered over 5 minutes later having waited back at the car and underestimating how long it would take him to walk back. Sigh. Fortunately there were plenty of other people with cameras who then shared their photos on Facebook. Thanks John and Warren.
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At the End. Still holding that blaster!

I almost forgot to mention the race super was Darth Vader. Well if he was behind me, I’d run too!
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It was a good race, the organisers had obviously enjoyed branding it as a ‘Sci fi’ 5k, the weather was beautiful and the support was great. It was just a shame there were so few people in costume. My only regret (and I feel a little grumpy saying this) was that I didn’t win the award for the best fancy dress. I know it was for fun, and that as long as I was happy with my outfit that’s what matters. but I really would have liked to win!

Is that okay to say that??

If a thing’s worth doing …

… it’s worth doing properly. That’s what I thought when I entered the 5k race on May the 4th, in Trowbridge, called the ‘Sci-fi 5k’*. I talked about entering it here.

If I was going to do this race ‘properly’ then of course I had to do it in fancy dress. Being old school (or just old) I always think of films 4, 5 and 6 as the real Star Wars, so I decided to chose a character from these films. Hmm – a recognisable female from these films? Of course, Princess Leia.

The iconic Princess Leia pose

It’ll be easy to make and run in a Princess Leia costume, I thought. I ignored the many people who suggested Princess Leia in her bikini, and also my children’s many helpful suggestions which included Jar Jar Binks.

Jar Jar Binks. Thanks, kids

Several weeks later (and only a week until the race) this arrived in the post :-

Piles of white and silver fabric
Piles of white and silver fabric

After several days of pondering about quite how I was make the costume, I finally dived in.

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Going for it

I then went shopping for ‘accessories’.

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Water gun ‘blaster’, blaster paint, ‘boots’ (football socks) and lots of hair accessories

Of course, the most iconic feature of Princess Leia’s appearance is her hair. Her ‘space buns’ as I like to call them. Unfortunately I don’t have long, dark brown hair so the pile of stuff above includes brown wool and I also bought matching hair dye. Yes, I was the mad woman in Superdry matching the hair colours to a ball of wool.**

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First attempt at ‘Space Buns’

I just about have a costume now, and I need to have a dress rehersal. Mr B&T won’t be at the race on Sunday so has told me that I need to have a trial run (literally) so that he can laugh see me running in my costume. I just can’t bring myself to step outside my front door wearing this outfit and run. I live in a small village. Word would get around.

Anyone else think I should have a trial run?

* as in ‘May the Fourth be with you’

** I have since seen that Carrie Fisher is to appear in the new Star Wars film, so maybe I should skip the hair dye and just say I’m Princess Leia from film 7, when she’s old and grey?

Running for the Empire, or the Rebel Alliance?

In a fit of enthusiasm I’ve just entered the Trowbridge “Sci-Fi” 5K to be held next month.

 

Sci-Fi_bannerWhy is it the Sci-Fi 5K? Well, apart from the hopefully ace medal, it’s held on May the 4th, of course. I’m already loving this race – of all the questions I’ve been asked on previous race entry forms (age, address, medical details etc) I have never before been asked if I want to run for The Empire, or the Rebel Alliance. Tough decision, eh?

I’ve also noticed there’s a prize for the runner with the best fancy dress. I’m feeling inspired after watching the Great British Sewing Bee so am off to search for technical fabrics by the metre. I may be some time …

On being too enthusiastic

Last week’s thought process any something like this:-
Hooray my niggle seems to have finally cleared up.
Fab I’m enjoying my running again.
Yay I’ve found a plan in a magazine to crack 2 hours in a half marathon.
Whoop I’ve run three times in three days.

Damn, my shin is sore.

On a lighter note, Tuesday’s run was in awful weather, incredibly windy with rain lashing down. A mile in, with hail battering my face I actually stopped in the middle of a field and considered turning around and going straight back home. It was only the thought that the second half would be more sheltered than the first that kept me going.

I was right -it was more sheltered, and as I stopped to grab my breath I took a quick selfie to see how wet I was. Not my most attractive photo ever, I think you’ll have to agree.

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Update -I made it home safely and discovered the rain was so heavy it had even made it through my best ever running jacket. Boo!

The Power of Hi-Viz

Much as I love my running gear, there’s one piece of kit that I always sneer at when I find it in my ‘lycra’ drawer whilst rummaging for something more exciting. My bright yellow safety gilet. I’ve never felt comfortable wearing it, as I dislike wearing such bright colours when running. When I run through fields, up footpaths and down bridleways I like to feel that I’m blending in, that I’m part of the environment, that I am able to get closer to wildlife than I would if I was in a car or even on a bike. Hard to do that when you look like a Health and Safety inspector. I also know (from discussions on the Run Mummy Run Facebook page) that I’m not the only runner to have discovered a huge drawback of wearing hi-viz if you’re ‘caught short’ in this season of bare branches and lack of foliage. Hem hem.

Despite all of these reasons to shun the 90’s rave style fluro, I reluctantly put on my yellow hi-viz gilet yesterday when I went running. I was all ready to set off on yet another dingy, dismal day, wearing black running tights and top. As I was planning on running on some roads (as opposed to my usual quiet lanes), I decided I’d better put on my hated hi-viz as well.

Running past one of those mirrors people put in hedges to help them pull out of their drives I was struck by how invisible I was, apart from my gilet.

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Spot the Runner – that small flash in the middle

Can you see me?  Or just my gilet? Seeing as this section of road is twisty and turny, has no pavements and has people driving along at high speed, perhaps I’ll wear it more often in future.

Janathon Day 30. The Day of the Hi-viz Michelin Man

Cycling capri length trousers. Old running tights that have gone baggy* over the top. A long sleeved running top. A merino wool thin jumper. A fleece jacket. A waterproof running jacket. A bright yellow hi-viz running gilet. Oldest running socks. Muddiest old trainers. Husband’s best cycling gloves.

This was me, dressed to go out on my bike today. Think ‘hi viz Michelin Man’ and that’s the look I was going for. Getting all those clothes on took so much effort it should count as a Janathon exercise in itself, however I didn’t think I’d manage to persuade the Janathon community of this so I waddled out to my built. I realised it was a while since I’d done any outdoor exercise when I picked up my Garmin and it looked like this:-

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No Battery

Setting off to B&Q without thinking, I automatically cycled the route I would normally drive, the fastest along the main road. This was somewhat hairy on a bike. At one roundabout where I had to get into the right hand lane whilst being overtaken by lorries I recorded a big heart rate spike, purely through adrenaline. Needless to say I chose a more cycle-friendly route home.

I think I definitely scored hardcore points today!

* Think 1980’s PE teacher’s tights

Product Review – Panache Sports Bra

Living in a fairly rural part of the country as I do, I end up doing a fair bit of online shopping, and so the various courier drivers are getting to know me quite well. I was still surprised though, when I opened the door to collect a packet from UPS to see the driver giving me a very big smile and a wave as he left. “How very friendly!” I thought. Then I noticed the package was marked as ‘Lingerie’, and the sender was “Panache Lingerie”, which explained everything. If he’d been imagining delicate little lacey nothings, however, he’d have been disappointed when he saw the package’s contents.

When I learnt that Panache were looking for people to review their new sports bra I instantly applied,  as I love getting new gear.  I was also keen to try a sports bra that wasn’t of the compression ‘squash everything down’ type. Being a smaller chested lady my sports bras have always resembled a cut off vest as much as anything. The Panache Sports Bra is designed for ladies much more ‘ample’ than myself (it goes up to cup size H)  and as such is a very different beast. I initially thought it wouldn’t fit me, but I was advised if I went down a band size I could go up a cup size, so this is what I did.

 

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Panache Sports Bra, in Coral

The first thing to say about this bra is how fantastically bright and colourful it is.  The second is how beautifully padded it is. The straps especially are wide and soft and didn’t cut into my shoulders at all. The underband is also wide which means it doesn’t ride up or wrinkle. I had been worried about how the wires in an underwired sports bra would feel, but I am happy to report I couldn’t feel them at all. I fastened the bra on its loosest setting, and as advised it was a great fit. Come the summer when everything expands it might feel a bit tight, but in January it feels great.

I wore it whilst I did a workout DVD (hello Jillian Michaels and her 30 day shred!) which involves jumping jacks and other leaping up and down exercises, as well as bending up and down whilst lifting weights exercises. I am happy to report the bra felt great throughout, didn’t move or shift, held everything in place it was supposed to and sadly it didn’t manage to distract me from the workout (I could have done with some!)

Whilst the Panache Sports bra, and their entire range, seems to be aimed at the larger busted woman, I am very pleased to say it is still appropriate and downright comfortable for us women at the other end of the bra-size-spectrum. In fact I just have one problem with this bra. I looked at the washing instructions to see it said “wash similar colours together” and realised I don’t have anything in my wardrobe in similar colours to this bra!

Panache’s website, and this sports bra can be seen here.

This bra was sent to me by Panache for me to try, and to write an honest review of it. I received no payment for this review.

You’re a Winner!

Winning at Christmas usually means that you get to keep the small plastic toy in your half of the cracker. If you’re lucky it could be a mis-spelling of ‘wining’, which usually goes with ‘dining’, both of which I heartily approve of.  If you’re less lucky it could be a misprunt of ‘whining’ which I can never condone. Fortunately for me I must have been a good girl last year because I really was a winner in a competition run by the lovely Jog Blog. Jog Blog (aka “She who must be obeyed as the organiser of Janathon and Junathon”, aka Cathy aka Planet Veggie) had reviewed a snazzy pair of running tights from a website called ‘Zalando’, and had a voucher worth £25 to give away. Enter Lucky Lucy!

I finally got around to spending this voucher recently and put it towards a new,  warm,  winter coat.  It arrived and was excited unwrapped,  and then was disappointedly re-wrapped because it was too small.  (I know, I know,  I ordered my usual size but then wanted to wear a winter jumper underneath and still be able to move my arms. Some people are just so demanding).

I ordered a different coat ( in the next size up) and it finally arrived today. I can fit more than just my underwear beneath this coat, it feels lovely and warm (and showerproof) and with the enormous fluffy-edged hood up I feel like Kenny from Southpark. What’s not to like?

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