“Mamil is an irreverant and sometimes hilarious romp through the secret world of men and masculinity.”
Last night I went to the world premier of the movie MAMIL with my partner. As the (soon-to-be) wife of a Mamil as well as a cyclist myself, I knew the outing would shape up to be a pretty interesting evening.
And it really was. I laughed a lot, I teared up a few times and it certainly brought a lot of issues that we deal with at CWRB to the forefront, but from a different point of view.
Here are my thoughts.
Top notch writing, directing and producing
Whatever you think of the subject matter, the work itself by Eleanor Sharpe and Nickolas Bird was technically brilliant. It is a funny doco style film following the journeys of several cyclists and their families around the world to create this 90 minute glimpse into the life of MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra).
It’s a great length, the camera work is fantastic and the blend of interview style vs action shots makes for an entertaining and easy to watch film.
Men have no idea why women don’t ride
Given our entire business is built on the fact that female participation rates in cycling have been low, we can’t argue the numbers, but what was interesting to see in the movie was that men actually have NFI why women don’t ride. There was a lot of banter in the movie about how it’s because men are just so competitive that it must be offputting for women to experience the surge of testosterone in male pelotons (vom, but also fair point).
There are a few scenes in the film where the Mamil In Question has a partner that rides and that shares their passion (including one heartwarming story of a couple where the husband is in a wheelchair and uses a handcycle), but mainly the thinking is that women ‘just aren’t competitive’.
NB: For those interested, other barriers besides the overwhelming river of testosterone include childcare, home duties, lack of safe infrastructure, inexperience purchasing necessary equipment, lack of shower and locker facilities at work and discomfort on the bike.
Men think about masculinity (more than women do)
There’s no denying it, MAMIL was a humorous look into the inexplicable need men have to compare everything they do to hunting deer as cavemen.
It was so funny watching this movie as a female – I honestly had no idea how much men think about masculinity: what it is, how it’s displayed, how it changes over time. For god’s sake, there was ACTUALLY a university professor of Mamil Research (hopefully that wasn’t a spoof), whose job, presumably, was solely to look into this particular group of men to better understand them.
Most of the MAMILs featured in the film relished in their newfound hobby and finding ways to compare it to a cheetah hunting a gazelle.
I’m not sure about other chicks out there, but I spend precisely zero minutes per day thinking about what masculinity is and how my husband/father/brother/friends embody it. Whether it was its intended consequence or not, this movie certainly did make me wonder how the men in my life perceive masculinity and what effect it has on them.
His goals are ‘family goals’
As with any stereotyped group, there is always a range of personalities on display. In MAMIL, one of the best scenes imho was a 40-something husband who was a star cyclist ‘back in his day’. As he sits on the couch with his wife, he talks about the fact that he has picked up competitive cycling again, describing his competitive aspirations as a shared goal within the family. To the audience’s amusement, the wife looks at him quizzically and says, “I wouldn’t exactly call it a family goal…”
Cue every woman making *knowing eye contact* with one another in the cinema.
As much as I think each partner in a relationship should have equal opportunity to pursue personal passion, and support the other by assisting with home and children duties, it’s fair to say that the ability to prioritise one partner’s personal pursuits over the other falls into the husband’s court.
Just an observation.
The Secretive Aspect to Obsession
This is a tough one for me to talk about because my partner and I are both into bikes – meaning we both have packages from Wiggle at the doorstep and neither of us have any money… but another aspect of the film was the MAMIL’s obsession with cycling impacting his, err, transparency with bike-related purchases. You heard the story of one wife who went through the bank statement to check her husband’s purchases, and then a bike shop owner who said how common it is for MAMILs to pay for items with cash and card (so they can tell their partners they only spent what was on the card).
Obviously every couple is different and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to managing finances in a family, but I had no idea how much of a bone of contention this could possibly be. Particularly if money is tight or you have young children, it’s a real extension of the sense of entitlement MAMILs have for ‘me time’. Now there’s not only me TIME, but there’s me MONEY.
Again, just an observation.
What was great to see was that MAMIL did touch on some of the less jokey but equally blokey themes of depression and suicide, fear of ageing, mateship, and drama with family dynamics – a rarity when making a doco on men and sport.
It was actually really touching to see men sharing their feelings, baring their souls and telling their stories on the big screen. One particular story about an Australian man who said cycling literally saved his life (he was contemplating suicide) was a stark reminder of the high rate of depression and suicide men have, and the importance of spreading the “it ain’t weak to speak” mentality.
I never really considered that a fear of ageing was a thing for men. Women are basically flat out told that we’re going to be irrelevant after 45, but I always assumed male privilege exempted men from feeling the pressure of ageing. It was a real eye opener to hear men talking about the fact that they DO want to stay in shape, and they DO want to be able to do all of these things with their family.
A different angle on Body Image
Part of the humour, not only in the movie, but in pop culture in general, of MAMILs is that a middle aged man in lycra is, well, portly. During one of the rides captured in the film, one man says “I’ve lost 12 kgs from riding!”, to which his friend replies “Really? Geez, you must have been fat before!”
What was comforting, for lack of a better word, was that men do think about what they look like in lycra (like an overstuffed sausage casing). But what was even better, and – dare I say it – INSPIRING, was that THEY DON’T GIVE A SHIT. I loved the fact that men are more than happy to prioritise their health, their wellbeing and their enjoyment over any discomfort they may have about their bodies.
The synopsis for the film says it touches on ‘body image issues’, to which I would say I wish any body image issues women have are trumped by her desire to do whatever the fuck she wants.
Myth: Mateship is for Dudes
One element of the film (and whether this was a result of the editing or because of how attuned my ears are for gender equality in cycling, I’m not sure) that did rub me up the wrong way was men talking about mateship and the need for camaraderie and close knit friendship circles as a Male Need. Like, dude, your wife needs a break from work, you and the kids once in a while too.
A takeaway message from this is it’s even more important for women to find time for themselves and prioritise your need to see friends and be social. The MAMILs in the film seemed to do it so easily, as if it were just something else he needs to survive like food, water, or sex. It would be nice to see women feeling equally as entitled to me time.
All in all, MAMIL is a fantastic look into the world that is cycling, and in particular a first-hand account of the good, the bad, and the ugly. From injuries and disagreements, to overseas trips and adventures, Waterbyrd Filmz, Head Gear Films, Film Victoria and Screen Australia have done a fantastic job of putting this masterpiece together.
Highly recommend. Check out the trailer below!