Boycott Knog

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.

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47 Responses to “Boycott Knog”

  1. trio25 Says:

    I’ve found the lights rubbish as well, shame as i would have loved a pink rear light!

    I was less than impressed by the name of the patches as well!

  2. Kirk Says:

    I guess this would be a bad time to say I think a well thought out blog entry is sexy. It’s times like this when I’m reminded that the cycling industry and culture has way too many horny guys in it. Porno Patches, sheesh! Other then a few guns done up in pink and couple spokes-models the U.S. firearms industry has a much less sexist approach to marketing to women, you’d think it would be the opposite. Just to compare two industries trying to sell more product to women who aren’t already enthusiasts.

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      Oh, that’s interesting – and very unexpected. Hmm, and I read an article recently, about gun control laws from a feminist perspective, which pointed out that, by carrying firearms, women effectively level the playing field, so that they can no longer quite so easily be physically overpowered by men – and yes, I totally see their point. Doesn’t mean I’m any the less anti-gun, but it’s a convincing argument.

  3. Bassjunkieuk Says:

    If your looking for some nifty small LED wrap-around lights check out Clas Ohlson in Croydon, £7 for a pair (white and red) of super bright double LED lights. Used mine strapped to the top of my helmet and they lasted through last winter – the only problem was a new set of batteries cost slightly more then buying them new!!

    Excellent article tho btw but I do have to admit there is something rather appealing (trying to find a word other then sexy….) about a women who can handle a bike properly and this can be either the couriers in London laying down some serious speed and cutting an amazing line through the traffic to my female friend who told a story (whilst out on a rather wet social ride at the end of February earlier this year….) once about going to France and hiring a bike to attack some proper Cols. She returned about 8 hours later having covered some 130K much to the amazement of the men!

  4. Exenger of Doom Says:

    knog lights are so fucking shit i’m ashamed to have spent £60 on them.

    and this post reminded me of something i looked at earlier in the week…

    “Ron says:
    March 25, 2010 at 9:27 am

    It’s great to see a woman that’s kinda doing her own thing. I really like the idea of a woman working on her own bike. Keep up the great work. A-L.”

    Patronizing as fuck…

  5. sarra Says:

    ‘I guess this would be a bad time to say I think a well thought out blog entry is sexy.’

    Embarrassingly that’s what I thought too. I then realised that no, actually, I *am* exercising that ingrained habit of ‘things I like’==’sexy’. Think it’s a kind of shortcut for ‘this pleases me’. Lots of points here I’m already chewing on – really thought-provoking & pinpointed a longstanding problematic in my queer side, I think.

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      (Not meaning to pick on you in particular, but:)

      This is just my point – why does something you like automatically have to be ‘sexy’ if a woman did it? Surely a well thought out blog entry (thanks!) is better described as ‘impressive’, or ‘inspiring’, or ‘thought provoking’, or just ‘a well thought out blog entry’? And would you have the same response if this had been written by a man, or your grandmother, or someone whose gender you didn’t know?

      But I’m not trying to blame individuals for this – or even society really. There’s no point trying to work out whose fault it is – far better just to set about changing it.

      And before I get too sanctimonious, let’s remember that I refer to bicycles as ‘sexy’ on a regular basis. 😉

      • sarra Says:

        No, that’s okay – I was actually picking up on & agreeing with your point, but I was slightly drunk at the time of posting so not entirely clear in expression! I thought it was v interesting the way one of my first responses was exactly what you’d been talking about, and stopped to examine that (without explaining the results properly :))

        And you know, with a sober head I can see it’s actually pretty wrong to start off a discussion on prejudice with ‘oh hey, I just had that knee-jerk belittling reaction too!’ – imagine it in an anti-racist debate, even a comment just as well-meaning! Jeez.

        But aye, no guilt and no blame, just get out and get fixing. I don’t mind at all!

        On your bikes note – I tend to refer to linguistics as ‘sexy’, when I really mean ‘so esoteric it’s got a bit of a thrill to it’. Illative, isogloss, deixis, epenthesis!

  6. Bill Says:

    Great post!

  7. Erik Sandblom Says:

    I think sexism is part of our culture and most people are affected by it somehow, including those who think they aren’t. An example:

    If I look at a nice flower, or if I like pretty clothes, I’m gay.

    If I look at a pretty girl, and if I find her sexy, I’m “lecherous”.

  8. Ellie Says:

    Last weekend at urban assault I complained about the costumes dance costume contest….men with mustaches could participate and “girls” who dressed as swiss miss. Ugh! I was glad to see most women in swiss miss costumes didn’t go sexy more like burly bar maids but we should keep the pressure on to question these types of marketing approaches and boycott as needed like the ridculous patches above

  9. shannon Says:

    Great post, I agree 100%. What girl wants to be pushing a pashley, when they could be whizing on a proper bike?

  10. qbg Says:

    I find knog’s excessive use of half-naked skinny ladies on things to be unnecessary and offensive. But in their defense, I once saw a knog ad with two women making out in a laundromat and thought that was awesome (though there is no doubt in my mind that was meant for men, as a dyke it was a nice change. Of course two men would have been way more awesome). I also think that in many knog ads feature women doing “tough” stuff and not just prancing around looking all cute or sexualized. It’s a lot of give and take like anything else in this struggle.

    In terms of women’s space and representation in cycling, I know lots of high-femme people who want to look high femme on their bikes. There is nothing wrong with that and we shouldn’t be defining what kind of bike or style they should be embracing. Stop assuming that anyone who wants to wear make-up and high heels while riding has been brainwashed and give the femmes a little agency here. It takes all types of bikes for all types of women.

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      Sorry – I didn’t mean to imply that there was anything wrong with high-femme people and bicycles. (And if someone actually identifies as femme, then I wouldn’t consider them brainwashed or conformist, since they’ve actually bothered to think things through – but that’s a different can of worms.) I’m just a bit fed up with the way everyone seems to assume that’s all there is. You’re right – it takes all types, and I just wish that, when people talk about women cycling, they didn’t automatically assume we all want to look like that photo of Victoria Pendleton in my post.

      Incidentally, I find VP continally problematic, because I disagree with the way she presents herself, but I know that she’s intelligent, and has put a lot of thought and effort into her public image, and feels empowered by it. And I admire her in lots of ways too. And so I keep reminding myself that I have to respect her decisions, even though I would have made them differently. Sigh… one of the perpetual headaches of feminism: having to accept other people’s choices, even when you don’t like them.

  11. Kim Says:

    excellent post! completely agree with you.

  12. Clare Says:

    Sex sells.
    Though I chose their lights over the other brands because it would be easy to fit to my handlebars and because i could change it to my other bike without having to fit a bracket.

  13. zero Says:

    Hey – my calves are damned sexy and I’m inordinately pleased with that. But yeah, the whole knog thing became very boring very quickly, and their lights were rubbish (seems like a lot of people fell for them), a case of style of content in the end. Let’s just stop buying their shit.

  14. Mike Lelliott Says:

    Mike here from Knog.

    First up – thanks for your write up on Knog.

    Second up – A bit of warranty speak …. We bust our arses to design different, desirable and intelligent accessories for bike. When we get it right, we get it right – when we fuck up – we learn. All the things we make at Knog are covered by a 2 year warranty … If any Knog gear every goes south on you. Drop Shannon – shop@knog.com.au – an email and we’ll get it sorted, fixed, replaced for you – anywhere in the world – anytime.

    Knog is a small crew of designers, artists, writers and sculptors. We ride bikes. The gender balance of the studio down here in Australia is about 50/50.

    At Knog we go about writing our story in words, images and products. At the core of the Knog story is the knowledge that riding a bike in the city is ‘sexy’. – You are right – sexy – is really not the best word – it is both too simplistic and too loaded. For us sexy means so many things, – At 1am slipping through the hot neon streets of Tokyo ‘sexy’ = freedom. Hill climbing at 7am with my main squeeze, and body peaking ‘sexy’ = physicality. Having a beer or three and wobbling home ‘sexy’ = relaxed. … (However, when we have a Knog party – we inevitably end up doing the ‘no pants’ dance – this is not sexy at all … but it is fun.)

    The Porno Patches were designed up by a bunch of us – Libby came up with the name and concept, Paul did all the technical design and I drew all the pictures and wrote the copy. I draw a lot of nude and half nude men and women – (I love the naked human body always have) – I know my drawings are a little thin and all – but i think this is because I am way skinny and way too tall (6′ 7″) – so my physicality comes out in the way i draw. We thought the PP concept was pretty funny at the time, immature but funny.

    As for the future of the Knog products – We’ve learnt a ton about designing bike products over the past few years and the 2011 gear is bang on design and double bang on quality – we have our first locks coming out in the next two months – and a new range of environmentally responsible USB Rechargeable lights (that are also water proof!).

    As for the Knog story – We are obsessed with falling in love – falling in love with our bikes and falling into the arms of our lover … This what we love making images and words about – I don’t know if we will have chicks kissing in future – but we might have guys next time – .

    Cheers!

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      Thanks for your very considered and generous response – I instantly feel a bit bad for encouraging people to boycott you. But I stand by most of what I said. There’s a lot I like about your products, but the branding really puts me off, and I’m aware that at least one bike shop in London (Brixton Cycles, one of the most popular) doesn’t stock your merchandise for the same reason.

      I agree – wholly and wholeheartedly – with everything you said about riding a bike being sexy. Absolutely – it is. That’s one of the many reasons I love it. I think the problem arises when you try to turn that sexiness into an image or a marketing ploy. Because then it just becomes porn. I was reading a book by Alastair Humphreys last night, in which he rips off all his clothes and streaks across the Peruvian salt flats. I’d like to be able to do that whilst racing through the London streets at 2am, out of pure exhilaration, but anyone passing by would just think BOOBS! These things don’t translate awfully well, at least not for women.

      And please stop with the girls kissing. Yes, it’s hot. But lots of gay women are really really tired of people barging in on our sexuality, and using it for their own titillation. I don’t know if you can even understand this. Imagine you’re kissing your girlfriend, and it’s all lovely, and then you realize that some huge hairy bloke is standing right next to you, with a massive hard-on. You feel embarrassed, violated, a bit dirty (in a bad way), there’s nothing you can do about it, because he’s way bigger than you, and the beautiful moment’s been ruined. And to reiterate what I said in the blog, no matter what your intentions, images like this just carry on reinforcing all the tedious stuff that everyone thinks already – that girls are sexy, and that lesbians probably want you to join in.

      (But boys kissing would be amazing. I dare you!)

      Thanks for letting me know about the warranty – I’ll be in touch with Shannon later, when I’m not racing out the door to work.

      And once again, I really do like Knog in many ways, and you seem like a lovely bunch of people. Perhaps that’s why I’m SO annoyed by all the sexiness, because I feel like you’re letting yourselves down.

    • Mike Lelliott Says:

      with long beards!!

  15. Knog Frog lights users - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed Says:

    […] isn't your blog is it? http://thatmessengerchick.wordpress…./boycott-knog/ if not you'd get on =) […]

  16. Dj Says:

    Good piece

    Baffles me why such thngs are made, possibly as you not yourself there is meant to be an irony to the packaging but too easily misconstrued.

    Though odd that you complain about being called babe etc and you then refer to yourself as messenger chick.

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      I know. I really didn’t think the name through at all. It was kind of meant to be ironic, but it’s really not. And now I’m stuck with it. Ah well, reclaim and reappropriate…

      • Bill Says:

        That chick thing. I posted a link to your piece about the Foundry, and instantly got chided for calling you a ‘chick’… For what it’s worth, I think it’s a better name than ‘messenger of doom’ or whatever Lee is calling himself these days!

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      Hah! I’ll tell him you said that. 😛

  17. Steff Says:

    Now I’m rather pissed off at having bought some of their gloves (not so much for the love/hate thing as because they were the cheapest actual-leather mitts I could find). I bet they’re rubbish patches too – the self-adhesive ones are always a short-term expedient in my experience.

  18. nickc Says:

    Whilst i agree with your post, knog advertising does piss me off, the two girls kissing was just an exercise in “look at us, aren’t we daring” and that sort of advertising really gets my goat…But, and it’s a big but, (no pun intended) you’re sort of pushing against thousands of years of evolution here. Men, (and to some extent women too) are hard wired to find each other erm…can I say sexy? without you rolling your eyes at me? That’s why there’s so many of us… Mind you this could all be because a nice looking girl in car told me I had nice looking legs the other day…I could be biased.

    But yeah, the whole ‘concept’* around those patches is lame and degrading.

    *Jesus, how I hate advertising speak…

  19. Joby Says:

    Very well written – thats an un-loaded compliment for you.
    Aside from the puerile (and badly executed) packaging, their name is stupid and those lights look like something swept off Mark Newson’s floor in the mid-nineties. Ends.

  20. Cam Says:

    Western culture is very confused at the moment with sexual identity. What does it mean to be a man or to be a woman? Is chivalry really dead? It should be from your perspective I think.

    Yes, I don’t like aspects of Knog’s branding but I like that they are doing something different and are not afraid to experiment.

    What about all the images of chicks in bib shorts:
    http://assosnucleo.com/fileUpload/images/p168_umaLL.jpg I find this kind of image more sexualised and more damaging. Knog are overtly trying to be edgy where an image like that from Assos is accepted as ‘okay’.

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      Oh, I wish you hadn’t reminded me of the Assos photos! They really wind me up too, and now I feel guilty for ordering some of their shorts yesterday. I am such a hypocrite. 😦

      Oh, and I don’t think lewd compliments on my arse, or constant patronizing comments on my sexiness count as chivalry! But I’m not one of those feminists who gets into a fight every time someone opens a door for her. Of course chivalry’s not dead – but it would be sad if it had to be confined only to men. Can’t I be chivalrous too? And I’m happy to accept chivalry from all genders. 🙂

  21. Rosie Says:

    Great post – I’ve been looking forward to that one!

    On Victoria Pendleton… she’s an incredible cyclist. She’s said some sensible stuff about girls/young women and role models. She is entitled to say and do what she likes.

    But is taking your clothes off for a men’s magazine as a pro cyclist demonstrating strength and empowerment, or is it making things worse for the girls who are acquiring eating disorders, getting bullied for not wearing make up in school at the age of 12 and growing up in a society that’s repeatedly telling them they’re nothing without the approval of men?

    But I do have more against moronic journalists and magazines:
    http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/life_and_style/s/1301457_you_dont_have_to_look_boring_on_your_bike

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      >>“When I won the Olympics I thought, ‘I am going to splash out and buy myself something really lovely,” she giggles coquettishly.

      Ye gods. 😦

      I really want to meet her, and find out if she’s really as much of a dollybird as she’s portrayed. And then sit down with her and ask exactly what the thinking is behind her media image. Because I have a suspicion that I’d agree with her on many things, even though we’ve come to very different conclusions.

  22. skiver Says:

    I think this post spot on; on so many different levels. I hate the argument that we are “hardwired” to think about sex all the time! I could say I was hardwired to enjoy risk-taking and the need to make quick decisions – adrenaline junkie. Do I find it hard to control? Yes. Do I just give up and ride around like a loonie all the time. No – not all the time. That’s the “knowing knowing” bit in Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Cycling needs more confident girls – not just more potential girlfriends or objects of ‘desire’.

  23. Erhhhhh. « Some More Tea For Two Four Tee Says:

    […] « What’s Wrong With These? Erhhhhh. August 20, 2010 I’ve rather enjoyed the fuss Miss Messenger Chick kicked up about the Knog patches and a woman’s place in […]

  24. sarah Says:

    once my chain slipped off as i was cycling to uni, so i took my bike to the nearest repair shop, which was cycleworks or one of those chain stores, and the guy who looked at my bike advised me to leave it at the shop overnight, but i said i would rather take it home as i know a few bike mechanincs, and the guy said “alright, let your boys have a look at it”.

  25. Hypocrite « thatmessengerchick Says:

    […] I may have mentioned at some length, I very much disagree with how Pendleton’s constructed her public image, and the way in which […]

  26. Concetta F. Says:

    http://www.bikebiz.com/news/32837/Knog-marketing-Too-shocking-for-America

  27. pedal Says:

    hey, we are putting together a new bike zine and wondered if you’d be up for submitting this? cheers, nes (nes@pedalmcr.org.uk)

  28. bike-zip Says:

    Love it when you get angry. Its so…..

  29. dxs Says:

    yet you label yourself as ‘themessengerchick’. Chick is quite a loaded word.. so is messenger. But regardless, one’s hypocrisy shouldn’t detract from what they are saying.

    But more on topic, knog shits me. More because of the spectacle they consciously create, and that people buy into. When in reality their products are made in china by people being paid a dollar an hour in shit conditions.

    They have their shop in the trendiest street in Australia. Their advertising has no real objective purpose besides being quirky and alternative.. which people buy into. And pay a premium.

    The value of the ‘porno patch’ is not so much in the patch itself, for the consumer of the patch, but the latent value that is the spectacle produced by knog. They exploit the chinaman and the consumer under the illusion they have created..

    fuck knog

    • thatmessengerchick Says:

      Someone’s already called me out on this (see comment above), and yes, I agree with you. If I had my time again, I wouldn’t call myself thatmessengerchick – but I did, and now I’m stuck with it.

      Hypocrisy is a tricky thing too. I don’t think it can always be avoided – life isn’t black and white, and I know I grow out of opinions all the time, or simply find that my own beliefs directly contradict each other. Don’t you? And if we tried to be perfectly consistent at all times, we’d probably end up saying nothing at all.

      Far better, I think, to speak your mind, acknowledge your hypocrisy, and admit that few arguments are so perfect as not to admit some contradiction.

  30. Chrissy J Says:

    Knog are Australian. I think that explains A LOT.

    Sexism is still a constituent part of the Australian psyche, and before any Ockers reply and tell me I’m talking a load of dingo’s kidneys, I know several Aussies and, to a man, they think my place is at the kitchen sink.

  31. Calling Out Knog Porno Patches | Woman On a Wheel Says:

    […] you’re interested in reading more That Messsenger Chick wrote a critique of this awhile back, and there is a good conversation in the comments […]

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