” This event is about being inclusive. We are not arguing that some of these things aren’t juvenile, but the goal isn’t to be sexist, it’s to be equally silly to everyone.”
— Dani Dance, PDX Singlespeed Collective
Hundreds of racers from all over the country will descend on Portland this weekend for the “officially unofficial” 10th annual Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships (SSCXWC) — but some fans have decided not to attend and one of its sponsors has pulled out. They say the marketing of the event has been blatantly sexist and objectifies women.
SSCXWC, which got its start in Portland in 2007 and will be held this year at Kruger’s Farm on Sauvie Island, is legendary for its irreverent and debaucherous approach to cyclocross racing. Beer, mandatory tattoos for the winners, crazy costumes, severe heckling, and even strippers are expected elements of the race atmosphere. As the weekend approaches, it feels like everyone in the local bike racing scene is buzzing about it. Registration has been sold out for weeks as organizers have teased out details of Saturday’s main event as part of an elaborate and creative marketing strategy.
But some people feel like the promotion of the event has crossed a line from edgy humor to outright sexism — a behavior the bike industry on the whole has struggled with for many years.
Portlander Hazel Gross had registered for the event but no longer plans to attend. On Tuesday she shared on her private Facebook page that the race’s official social media posts were sexist in their treatment of women.
Specifically, Gross — and many others who have since spoken out in support of her — are offended by the inclusion of live strippers at the event (organizers say there will be both male and female strippers) and two Instagram posts from @sscxwcpdx: one that included a photo of a bikini and another that featured a photo of Ammon Bundy and the words, “You just gotta grab your host housing by the pussy.” Both of the images have since been deleted by the event organizers, a group named the PDX Singlespeed Collective.
Gross’s Facebook post received dozens of supportive comments. Her feelings were also validated when local bike company Ruckus Composites decided to pull their sponsorship of the event.
In a statement yesterday Ruckus said, “Recently, the SSWCXPDX race has come into criticism for sexism and misogyny… Our organization simply cannot support events that degrade from our working passion or marginalize groups of individuals, whether unknowingly or unwittingly.” “We at Ruckus speak through actions,” their statement continued, “and participation in this [event] means complicit connection with every aspect of it. It is for such reasons that we will not be involved in SSWCXPDX.”
Dani Dance, one of the event organizers, responded to the concerns yesterday. “We have never intended for our posts to be sexist and I apologize,” she said via an Instagram post that featured the iconic bikini and men’s shorts that have been part of the event’s tradition for years. Here’s the rest of Dance’s statement:
“I take full responsibility. It is very important to me that this event is equal in all things. For example the golden bikini is just the other half of the golden speedo… both genders get silly swimsuits, both genders fill them up. They have for ten years (going back to 2007) and I guess we were assuming that everyone knew the history of the swimsuits. It was not intended to sound like a swimsuit competition or a “podium girl” outfit that only the ladies wear.
Strippers will be male and female (which is not part of the course), equal pay out men and women, if we are making fun of the culture it’s not from a gender angle. This event is about being inclusive. We are not arguing that some of these things aren’t juvenile, but the goal isn’t to be sexist, it’s to be equally silly to everyone. When I started this race ten years ago , my main goal was, even if there were only 17 women, that they would receive equal prizes (including the golden bikini), same course, same qualifier, equal everything. I am super proud that we have over 150 women competing this weekend… we are pretty sure this is the largest ladies race in history. This is huge! We are proud of that and we want to welcome our ladies and show them a super silly fun amazing time. We really just want to have everyone race their bikes and have a great time doing it. Social media can be a blessing and a curse. We are still real people that can make mistakes, but we are also open to a dialogue about them so that we may all learn and move forward.”
Dance’s post also received many supportive comments.
If you do plan to attend, there are three days of racing and get-togethers in the works, starting with a party in southeast Portland Friday night. Saturday is the main event and the fun and games are set to begin at 10:00 am. There will be qualifying heats every 20 minutes, lots of great food and drinks available, and plenty of shenanigans to take part in. If singlespeed isn’t your thing, there are geared races on Sunday. Roll over to the Kenton Club (2025 N Kilpatrick) for after-parties and live music after the racing on both days.
(NOTE: I have edited this post to remove quotes from Hazel Gross that were made on her private Facebook page. I thought they were public and I now regret using them without her permission and have apologized to her for the mistake.)
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org