[7/21, 11:15 p.m. – I want to thank everyone who has participated in this discussion, especially the creator of the cut-out himself. I did not expect that so many people would have so many different reactions to the image – and to my reaction to the image – and I’ve learned a lot by reading everyone’s opinions. My feeling about the image remains the same, but I understand and respect that others feel differently. No matter where you stand on the issue, I hope you agree that open discourse on challenging subjects is a good thing.]
As I read Grid Chicago’s recent post about event bike parking this morning, I came across the photo on the right. It depicts the Chicago Reader’s bike parking for Pitchfork music festival. As you can see, the Reader chose to mark its bike parking lot with a naked, faceless woman stuck between two Reader banners.
If I were looking for bike parking at Pitchfork and saw this, I would have turned around and kept looking, feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome. Something as relatively minor as this is like a punch in the gut when it catches me off guard.
This sign showcases the sexism that exists in bicycling. And music. And the world.
Of course, not all depictions of the female form are sexist. If a cutout like this had been created as a personal project by a woman to represent the power she felt on her bike, that would be cool. But for someone to create it as a public sign, slap a Reader logo on it, and prop it against a fence on a street corner to draw attention to bike parking is icky and, I’ll say it again, sexist.
This is a classic case of objectification and the fact that it was done by hip, bike-riding, indie music-listening people does not make it okay.
If any women would like to enjoy guaranteed sexism-free zones, feel free to join the women-who-bike happy hour tonight (6-ish, Blue Line Lounge) and the Critical Lass ride tomorrow (6:00, Polish Triangle).