For many reasons, but mainly this:
The packaging says “A lab test revealed that if you give these kinky self-adhesive patches to girls they’ll fix their bike puncture quick smart and ride away with a bike as sexy on the inside as the outside, and that if you give them to boys they’ll stick them on their nipples.”
And it has a naked woman on it, and looks a bit like a condom.
I am just fed up of all the sexism in cycling, and Knog should bloody well know better. When I bought some of their gloves, a couple of years ago, they came with a picture of two girls snogging, for no reason other than decoration and titillation. And where the hell is it written than woman’s purpose is to be decorative and titillating?
Sure, if you read it the right way, the text on the packaging could imply that girls are practical, and capable of fixing their own punctures (and that boys are silly and infantile – but I’ll leave someone else to get worked up about that). But why all this ‘sexiness’? Why call them Porno Patches? Why the nudity?
I find, day after day, postroom guy after postroom guy, that it’s very difficult for men to be friendly to women (and friendliness involves giving an indication that you like someone – hence why blokes call each other ‘mate’, i.e. “I want to be your friend”) without paying them some sort of compliment, which almost inevitably means a reference to their attractiveness or desirability. It’s why people call me love-babe-darling-sweetie-honey all the time – implying that they like me, and therefore wish I was their love-babe-darling-sweetie-honey. It winds me up no end, but I do realize they have the best of intentions. I just wish there was a way for them to be friendly without using terms of endearment I’d prefer only to hear in the privacy of my personal relationships.
And in the cycling world it gets even worse. If you want to express approval of something a girl does, you call it sexy. If it’s not obviously or particularly sexy to start with, redefine sexy.
You ride a Pashley in a summer dress? Well sexy.
You ride a brakeless fixie in baggy jeans? Umm… OK, that’s well sexy too.
You can’t fix a puncture? That’s OK, I’ll be all manly and do it for you. Helplessness is so sexy.
You fix your own punctures and built your own bike? Phwoar, capability is also sexy.
You ride faster than me? <gulp> Wow. Check out those glistening thighs.
You’re a courier? That’s hot!
You smell a bit ripe at the end of the day? Erm, that’s OK, I like my women au naturel.
…and so on, and so forth, and so exasperating.
And it works the other way round too. If I do something to annoy a driver, there’s a good chance he’ll lean out of his window and tell me how fat or ugly I am. Because, if the only way to compliment a woman is to refer to her physical desirability, then the only way to insult her is to imply that you wouldn’t bone her if she was the last chick on earth. Well thank god for that.
And don’t think I’m just blaming men for this. I’m blaming everyone, women included. Look at all those initiatives and companies and labels that have sprung up in the past few years, designed to get women out on bikes. I can’t think of a single one that, at some point, hasn’t assured women that, yes, they will still be pretty and glamorous and desirable whilst cycling, and look, here’s a skirt guard, and a pink helmet, and floral lycra to help you on your way. I have a lot of time for some of these companies, but nonetheless, I and several other female cyclists I know are continually fed up with the suggestion that all we want is to cruise around town at 5mph, looking adorable on a Pashley – or that any speed and skill we might achieve on our road bikes will always take second place to how good our hair looks, and whether our shorts are unflattering.
And people like Victoria Pendleton aren’t helping, with all her fuss about how you can be the fastest woman in the world, and yet not have lost your femininity, and still be seen in dresses and make-up, and still pose half-naked for FHM – implying that merely winning an Olympic gold isn’t enough; you’re not really successful unless you show that you’re a proper woman (by batting your eyelids and flashing your cleavage).
Can’t we just leave gender out of cycling altogether? I have so much more in common with the lycra louts than I do with the Pashley posse (apart from the small matter of a Y chromosome, which no one can see anyway when you’re wearing baggy shorts). I don’t care about looking pretty on the bike – in fact, I’d rather not, if it means people would leave me alone. And I’m much more concerned with how my kit performs than whether it makes my arse look smaller.
Or, if you simply must compliment someone in passing (and is there really any need? – compliments from friends I like; compliments from strangers I find unnerving), then try to say something they’ll actually find flattering. You only need to look at me (ripped shorts, baggy jumpers, hairy legs) to tell that I’m not the least bit interested in projecting my feminine charms. The only compliment I’ve ever really appreciated from a man was when a chap pulled up alongside me on Piccadilly and remarked “nice calves!” I was rather pleased. He didn’t sound lecherous at all, and I’ve put a lot of work into my calves (as oppose to my hairstyle, say), so it was nice to have them appreciated.
In fact (and I know I share this tendency with lots of other cyclists, male and female, straight and queer), I like a nice pair of calves myself. I’ve often followed someone for several minutes, totally mesmerised by the musculature of their lower legs. It makes no difference whether they’re male or female – because I’m not ogling them as an object of desire, I’m just admiring (and perhaps also slightly envying) their prowess as a cyclist, and the awesome effect this has had on their body. So when the chap commented on my calves, I like to think that he was complimenting me as a cyclist, rather than as a woman-on-a-bike.
So yes. This is why I think Knog have it wrong. They’re not saying that women are weaker cyclists or crap mechanics. They’re implying that the opposite is true, but that this strength and competence makes women sexy. Well, it doesn’t. It just makes them quick on two wheels and handy with a spanner. Sex – and gender, and that whole can of worms – doesn’t need to come into it at all.
And also – those really cool wraparound lights they do?
I really wanted to like them – they’re so well designed – but mine stopped working after just a couple of months of London winter. And the stitching came undone on my love/hate gloves. And since then I’ve been spending my money elsewhere.
And so should you.