The past week or so has been rife with social activity regarding the hilarious-yet-pathetic and pretty blatantly sexist mountain bike web page from a Euro brand called SUPERIOR.
If you happened to be on a holiday in China or moving to Siberia while this was going on, here is the original text on their website under their MTB Lady web page: Understandably, a rather large uproar ensued whereby women from all over the world unanimously and ferociously deployed Operation 'Me Doing Sick Jumps And Other Awesome Sh*t’, much like this: SUPERIOR apologised. Or, should we say, he (Jan Skřička – Marketing Manager) released a statement that contained the word “apologise”. They also re-worded the original text to read: “Our bikes in the MODO category are designed for women who want to enjoy the time spent in nature on their bike, having fun with their friends.
Our MODO models offer a mix a balanced qualities which make them the perfect match for all women looking for safe, easy to ride and, of course, stylish bikes with natural handling. Superior MODO bikes ride briskly on asphalt surfaces and are reliable even in a more rugged terrain. They can easily be mounted and safely dismounted at any time... Allow us to introduce our MODO collection, specially designed by women for women.”
However you felt about the original text, the revised text and the apology itself, here is why this is important: This is the text from the SUPERIOR MTB Sport (the men’s bike). "Great", you say. "Who cares?" Because it's the SAME BIKE AS THE WOMEN'S. Yep. Same spec. Same RRP. Same. Bike. Read through the above description again. I challenge you to identify one single word, including a pronoun, which would be unsuitable for a woman's bike.
The Problematic Part
The problem isn’t the fact that women may or may not want different things than men. Some men want different things than other men and some women want different things than other women. Our diversity in choice of bike and riding style is not the issue at hand. In fact, it's not an issue at all! The problem is that, like for like, the bike industry WRONGLY ASSUMES they understand women's desires, and then PROJECTS them and IMPOSES them on us. Almost everywhere we look we are being pigeonholed, generalised and, on top of that, demeaned. The problem here - the REAL problem - is that women are misunderstood by the bike industry.
The Scary Part
Instead of using the exact same text (less time to produce, a reduction in workload for everyone involved and a completely gender-neutral approach), think about what SUPERIOR did.
- They actively decided that the text for the men wasn't suitable for women.
- They listed what women want, look for and prefer in their mountain bike.
- They wrote an entirely different piece of text.
For the same bike. All based on what they genuinely THOUGHT we want to hear. And a reminder of the end result of this high-octane brainstorming session: “Female cyclists do not generally need to push their limits, race against time and increase their adrenaline when riding rough downhill trails. They just want to enjoy the time spent in nature on the bike, and their expectations from the bike are completely different than men’s. They look mainly for safe, easy and, of course, stylish bikes that have good and natural handling. Bikes that can briskly ride on asphalt surfaces and are reliable even in a more rugged terrain. Bikes that can be easily mounted and safely dismounted at any time… allow us to introduce our MODO collection, specifically designed by women for women.”
The Sad Part
The MTB Sport was created for men for whom competing isn’t their primary aim which translates into less aggressive geometry and wallet-friendly specs. With the men’s text, however, you will see that while men still have “high requirements” of their bike – “lightweight, durable and perfectly controllable” and “comfort and confidence in difficult terrain”, they actively decided women don't want those things but INSTEAD WANT “safe, easy to ride and, of course, stylish bikes with natural handling”, which is why these words survive the edit into the revised wording.
And let's not forget the infamous “They can easily be mounted and safely dismounted at any time” line which brought us this beauty of a comment on our Facebook feed: What can you say when something like this happens... Oooops?!