11th December, 2013
How a Melbourne Specialized Reseller Failed Women In Cycling
Please excuse the direct approach, however I wanted to convey my disappointment and concerns over the recent actions of Total Rush Cycling, Melbourne, one of Specialized’s most successful and prominent Australian re-sellers. This letter has been directly supported by 100 female and male cyclists and fans including members of the Specialized Lululemon women’s cycling team (detailed below), but is just a minor representation of the significant negative sentiment Total Rush has garnered across media publications and social media channels in the past week.
As a female cyclist of over 20 years, I have admired the profound impact you and your company have had on women’s cycling. Specialized has helped support it to become the fastest growing segment in cycling, with passion and authenticity. You have changed the landscape through the introduction of high-performance women’s road bikes, sponsored the world’s most successful women’s cycling team, and made clear at your last global press launch that you wanted more children and women on bikes.
Last week Total Rush and Specialized Australia staged a brand relaunch and event attended by supporters, customers, and their men’s and women’s cycling teams. Their homage to the new brand was to feature naked models in heels, save for a thong and pink body paint. This reportedly caused discomfort to many members of the audience.
Unsurprisingly the photos they later published, prominently featuring a Specialized frame, resulted in a barrage of criticism on social media. Their response was, and continues to be to systematically erase and block any negative post, tweet or comment via their channels. After 48 hours, Total Rush removed the user review functionality from their Facebook site after their average rating crashed from 5 to 1 stars, the lowest possible. At that point Total Rush also issued a statement, maintaining the stunt was “extremely tasteful” and “not at all sexually offensive”.
The continued criticism of Total Rush across the media and social media channels show that contrarily, a large segment of their female base have been alienated, as illustrated in a comment from a co-signatory to this letter:
I bought my bike at Total Rush and have continued to get it serviced there. I’ve always found the staff and mechanics extremely helpful, friendly and professional. I’m embarrassed on their behalf that they work for an employer who has continued to defend this stunt and refuse to understand why their male and female customers are angry about this. I hope Total Rush will realise how out of step they are with community opinion and that people have had enough of this rubbish and won’t let it be brushed aside and forgotten. I’d also really like to be able to go back to Total Rush to get my bike serviced, but definitely can’t while this is unresolved.
Yet there is clearly goodwill towards Total Rush, evidenced by other co-signatories of this letter:
Total Rush is a great business and supporter of cycling, including women in cycling. Their antenna was obviously askew on this one occasion.
I am a woman and a cyclist. I find this offensive. I also shop at Total Rush and find the service exceptional so I am VERY shocked and dismayed at this behaviour.
The owner of Total Rush Simon Coffin’s private response several days ago has however been more troubling. Yesterday, someone involved in cycling for many years who describes themselves as ‘as far from a feminist as possible’ sent Catherine Deveney, a prominent journalist for The Guardian newspaper, a leaked group email from Total Rush’s owner Simon Coffin. In it, he writes,
“All these people who think what we did was inappropriate are full of shit!! With double standards!
Fuck the feminist!! If you don’t like it then don’t follow us!”
Just four hours later, Catherine’s website had been viewed 8000 times.
There is no doubt that Total Rush has been a strong advocate for women’s cycling in the past, but refusing to engage in constructive dialogue on the issue, or even acknowledge that their actions were regressive, degrading, and damaging to women in sport is pure folly. And it hurts. Because we all end up losers; Total Rush, the Specialized brand, sportsmen and sportswomen.
On a personal note, I have never previously identified as a feminist. I’m a strong woman, passionate about cycling and the positive identity that I am fortunate enough to share. Mike, you have been quoted as saying that cycling is the cure for a lot of things in this world. Let that cure not be muddied by this degradation of the sport.
1. Published photos from event
2. List of signatories and comments
3. Leaked email from Simon Coffin, Total Rush owner
4. List of Twitter handles for all direct comments (undeleted) with negative sentiment, plus ‘retweets’ and ‘favourited’ tweets from @carmen_gould
5. Media Coverage, 6-11 December, 2013: