A year is a long time to be working towards a goal - espcially when there’s so many individual milestones to be met along the way. In 2018, ...

Oct 17, 2014

Half the Road

I've been looking forward to this documentary since I first heard about it. A reflection of women's cycling and the issues women face struggling to make a living through professional cycling. I was hoping for a thought provoking, introspective look at women's cycling and how to move past the gender inequalities. I know there are plenty, from the number of races to the  quality of the fields as well as the amount professional women are paid to the depth of the prize money. Simply awknowledging the problems is the first step of solving the issues. I was hoping that in addition to revealing the issues, solutions would be presented. And in that, I was disappointed. In my opinion, there was a lot of complaining about things, but no solutions offered. Complaining alone does not provide changes or incite cultural shifts. Getting up on screen demanding things but without the understanding of the cultural and economic challenges in meeting those demands does not help the cause. Neither does ignoring the physiological differences when insisting that the rules are outdated.

In my mind, it again will require a cultural shift to start approaching equality. Women didn't jump into Boston without a fight and it took years to be accepted in running. And even after the marathon was added to the Olympics, it was again years before the major marathons started offering equal prize money. It's not that the women weren't asking for it - but it took years for the culture to shift enough to make it really acceptable. Being a runner was something women could do - and did readily, in numbers now approaching 50% in many marathons. But that took time - and mandating already struggling teams to stretch even further to add a women's program won't help.  

And yes - men and women run the same distance in marathons - unlike in many cycling races. But one of the examples provided in the film about the distance disparity - if the men run a marathon, the women would only be offered a 10k didn't sit well with me. Even in the marathon, the world records are almost 20 minutes apart - and running is a physiologically natural activity - unlike cycling. Look at any major mountain bike race - the gaps between the men's winner and women's winner can be in the hours. And at 24 hour racing, the winning solo men are usually 2 laps or more ahead of the women's solo winner. I'm sure the gaps aren't quite as big on the road. And don't tell me the half of the data that just supports your point. You cannot compare times and speed of races that were not the same length and use that to support having races of equal distance.

So where does that leave the effort for equality in sports? A work in progress for sure, with no easy answers. I have to return to the need for a cultural shift that rewards the efforts of both men and women and encourages women to be active and participate in cycling and mountain biking. Maybe equality isn't the correct goal and a continued push for equality will only hurt women in cycling. Perhaps we should be looking at equity and the development needed for equality will follow 

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